Peter Barry
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Theory after ‘Theory’
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This chapter mentions four general shifts or 'settlements' in the intellectual landscape of theory itself. Firstly, theory has become less willing than hitherto to suspend disbelief in the face of vast and speculative intellectual claims. Secondly, there is evidence of a turning away from the dominant materialism epitomised by British cultural materialism and American new historicism. Thirdly, there has been a marked shift away from the 'linguistic sublime'. Finally, a new kind of cultural critique has arisen in response to extreme events such as 9/11, and the global pessimism which is the product of apparently intractable problems such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the spread of religious fundamentalism, and the relentless progress of environmental deterioration. The chapter looks at five areas of development which beginning-theorists might usefully be aware of: presentism, new aestheticism, cognitive poetics, consilience and 'conciliatory' approaches to literary studies, and posthumanism.

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Beginning theory (fourth edition)

An introduction to literary and cultural theory

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