Theorizing Literature: Modern Developments and Pitfalls

人物 Michael Steppat 
日期 2022年05月19日(周四)
时间 15:30 - 17:00
地点 腾讯会议,会议号:771-608-994,会议密码:0519
主办 英语学院
语言 英语 English

A growing number of people believe that modern theories are indispensable when we try to gain an understanding of literature in relation to culture. Why is that so? And is the belief justified?

In order to clarify these questions, we should first inquire what we mean when we use the term “literature”. We will soon find that we need a dynamic concept, which emphasizes motion. There is simultaneous presence and absence of the imaginary in relation to the real; their interplay should engage our attention.

It turns out that modern theories do not just refer to remote ideas and objects somewhere “out there”—they are no less about the recipient, about ourselves, since we re-inscribe literary works in the process of reception. Any statements we venture about literary culture reveal something about us, our own predispositions. The lecture will appeal to participants to find their own position in regard to the claims of theory.

To lend substance to this, we will discuss the logic of especially influential modern theories: structuralism, post-structuralism, with implications for feminism and psychoanalysis—all the way to the impact of post-humanism. They are on the move, with mutual connections, while each theory has weaknesses. They have resulted in a counter-movement, against theorizing.

Does the range of modern theories deepen and expand our understanding of imaginative literature? Or do they divert us away from it, block our understanding rather than opening it? Is there any added value, at all, that we could gain from investigating works in light of key theories? Or are there built-in pitfalls, so that theories only pretend to be dynamic and mobile? These questions deserve intensive discussion.... and they deserve YOUR responses.


Michael Steppat

Michael STEPPAT is Professor of Literature in English at the University of Bayreuth (Germany), and an international faculty member at SISU in Shanghai (School of English Studies). He has published several books on Interculturality and Literature, as well as volumes on American studies (Discourses of Exception, Exclusion, Exchange) and on Cross-cultural Representations of Honor Cultures and Face Cultures. Michael Steppat was formerly a Professor at Arizona State University and the University of Texas (Austin), and he is a research fellow at the John Kluge Center of the Library of Congress (Washington DC).