Ten Lessons in Theory An Introduction to Theoretical Writing

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2013-08-01
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

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An introduction to literary theory unlike any other, Ten Lessons in Theory engages its readers with three fundamental premises. The first premise is that a genuinely productive understanding of theory depends upon a considerably more sustained encounter with the foundational writings of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud than any reader is likely to get from the introductions to theory that are currently available. The second premise involves what Fredric Jameson describes as "the conviction that of all the writing called theoretical, Lacan's is the richest." Entertaining this conviction, the book pays more (and more careful) attention to the richness of Lacan's writing than does any other introduction to literary theory. The third and most distinctive premise of the book is that literary theory isn't simply theory "about" literature, but that theory fundamentally is literature, after all.

Ten Lessons in Theory argues, and even demonstrates, that "theoretical writing" is nothing if not a specific genre of "creative writing," a particular way of engaging in the art of the sentence, the art of making sentences that make trouble—sentences that make, or desire to make, radical changes in the very fabric of social reality.

As its title indicates, the book proceeds in the form of ten "lessons," each based on an axiomatic sentence selected from the canon of theoretical writing. Each lesson works by creatively unpacking its featured sentence and exploring the sentence's conditions of possibility and most radical implications. In the course of exploring the conditions and consequences of these troubling sentences, the ten lessons work and play together to articulate the most basic assumptions and motivations supporting theoretical writing, from its earliest stirrings to its most current turbulences.

Provided in each lesson is a working glossary: specific critical keywords are boldfaced on their first appearance and defined either in the text or in a footnote. But while each lesson constitutes a precise explication of the working terms and core tenets of theoretical writing, each also attempts to exemplify theory as a "practice of creativity" (Foucault) in itself.

Author Biography

Calvin Thomas is Professor of English and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Georgia State University in Atlanta, USA. He is the author of Masculinity, Psychoanalysis, Straight Queer Theory: Essays on Abjection in Literature, Mass Culture, and Film (Palgrave Macmillan 2008) and Male Matters: Masculinity, Anxiety, and the Male Body on the Line (University of Illinois Press, 1996). He is the editor of Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality (University of Illinois Press, 2000).

Table of Contents

Lesson 1: "The world must be made to mean"—or, in(tro)ducing the subject of human reality

Lesson 2: "Meaning is the polite word for pleasure"—or, how the beast in the nursery learns to read

Lesson 3: "Language is by nature fictional"—or, why the word for moonlight can't be moonlight

Lesson 4: "Desire must be taken literally"—a few words on death, sex, and interpretation

Lesson 5: "You are not yourself"—or, I (think, therefore I) is an other

Lesson 6: "This restlessness is us"—or, the least that can be said about Hegel

Lesson 7: "There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism"—or, the fates of literary formalism

Lesson 8: "The unconscious is structured like a language"—or, invasions of the signifier

Lesson 9: "There is nothing outside the text"—or, fear of the proliferation of meaning

Lesson 10: "One is not born a woman"—on making the world queerer than ever

Coda: Theory is (not—) forever



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