Lit Theory minus the Snobbery

Thinking about study, I've gone back to an introductory book that I bought in my first year of university. This is a really refreshing and engaging little book about, let's be honest a pretty dull topic. Well I find it facinating, but I definately think I'm in the minority - you don't hear too many people raving about Lit Theory.

Anyway, if it is your cup of tea, or you're looking to start a Literature course, I highly recommend this book for the following reasons:

1. It's very very short (handy for those of us whose handbags, or manbags, are groaning as it is).

2. Culler writes incredibly concisely and is easy to understand despite the fact that he is explaining quite challenging ideas.

3. Culler has a great way of building on knowledge chapter by chapter.

4. Culler uses really simple examples - literary, pop culture or everyday language - to explain complex theories.

5. There are great resources at the back of the book, designed to explain differing schools of thought and terminolody and to inspire further reading.

Now saying all this, I did not get through this entire book when I was actually in first year. But this is due to the fact that I got by on an absolute minimal amount of effort in those days (quite shameful really). My second attempt at reading this book has been far more successful and rewarding.

Are you interested in Literary theory? How do you think Lit Theory helps writers? Also, out of interest, which novels do you consider to be literary? 


  1. I haven't read this book on Literary Theory. I have got a few other titles about the subject from my first year at university though.
    Do I think Lit Theory helps writing? Hmm, I'm not sure. It is so ingrained from study that maybe the knowledge is used automaically.
    Kind of makes me want to read my uni books again to see if it's true. :)

  2. I'm one of those rare fiction writers who LOVE theory. It's generally inaccessible and couched in jargon, though, which makes finding a book like Culler's a breath of fresh air. I think theory can help give writers a thematic direction, but most of all I think reading theory is just a good exercise for the brain. The problem, though, is when you let theory become a rigid formula rather than just another tool in the bag. Theory to writing is like psychoanalysis to life- it should be a tool, not a template.

  3. I'm not really a lit theory girl. Interesting though.

  4. Not a huge fan of lit theory, but you do make it sound interesting.

  5. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Travis, I feel the same about theory helping with thematic direction - although, perhaps you could say the same of simply reading more books in the genres/areas that appeal to you? I think my lit theory classes helped me most by introducing me to important and challenging texts that ordinarily I would never have touched. I guess I enjoy it because I find the constant rethinking and questioning of "commmon sense", identities or norms really challenging/exciting/frustrating!

  6. Hello zz. Thanks for your comment on my blog. As an editor, I find your blog most interesting - I'll be sure to add you to my Google Reader!