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(2011) Teaching theory, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

From theory to practice

literary studies in the classroom

Katherine Byrne

pp. 111-126

It seems to me impossible that we should teach literature at university level without also teaching the theory behind the subject. It is not my purpose in this chapter to defend theory against the humanist questions which inevitably accompany any discussion of its value to teaching: it is important to bear in mind the epistemological complexities posited by theory's undermining of the foundations of traditional literary study, but to consider that any university syllabus could not engage to acquaint its students with an understanding of theory is reductive, given the events of the last fifty years of scholarship. We can and should continue to debate the value of theory to literary studies, but in the meantime students need to be made aware of the critical thinking which has informed the study of their subject in particular and our understanding of our culture in general. For the student, the gains in understanding outweigh the difficulties posed by the process of learning such a problematic topic. They may not be convinced by every aspect or conclusion of the theory they are taught but the process of learning theory is to interrogate and examine aspects of our society, understanding and perception which may otherwise be overlooked and taken for granted.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/9780230304727_8

Full citation:

Byrne, K. (2011)., From theory to practice: literary studies in the classroom, in R. Bradford (ed.), Teaching theory, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 111-126.

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