Negotiating theory : problems of value in literary study, critical theory and educational politics.
This dissertation is an attempt to map contradictions faced by the
student in his/her experience of literary study. These contradictions
coalesce around an apparent struggle between proponents of difference in
critical theory and forces of regulation in educational politics. In mapping
the tensions arising from the ideological struggle between differing
cultural values, which are both represented in and conditioning forces
around literatures and forms of study and assessment, this dissertation
locates the interests and values most effective In defining the identity of
literary studies at the present time. Through this, the possibility for
different understandings of the practice and experience of literary studies
The Introduction asks the preliminary question, "what is the
function of theory in literary study? " and surveys a range of responses
to establish the debate in which this project participates. In Part One,
Chapter One, theories of deconstruction are explored as both powerfully
influential in the field of literary study, and suggesting the possibility for
an open-ended process of reading as distinct from more determinately
organised forms of study. Chapter Two and Chapter Three theorise an
Idea of the individual as a located subject through theories of
postmodernity and subjectivity, in order to develop this understanding of
reading in relation to other important theories and as an effective
Part Two addresses the cultural context within which these
theoretical concerns are located, and resultant ideological tensions.
Chapter Four deals with the specific location and practice of literary
studies In the educational establishment, and moves towards a
consideration of the larger questions of the political regulation of
education in Chapter Five.
Part Thre4 Chapter Sb4 places in tension the issues dealt with in
Parts One and Two. The conclusions explore this situation in terms of the
possibility for forms of literary study which activate the radical potential
of critical theory in an increasingly rationalised environment, to provoke
readings of critical value for students.