Professor: Literary Theory Needs Reform

Literary theory, argues one scholar, has got it all wrong. “Literary study, he argues, has been a random, unsystematic affair. For any given period, scholars focus on a select group of a mere few hundred texts: the canon. As a result, they have allowed a narrow, distorting slice of literary history to pass for the total picture. A canon of 200 novels, for instance, sounds very large for 19th-century Britain (and is much larger than the current one), but is still less than 1 per cent of the novels that were actually published: 20,000, 30, more, no one really knows — and close reading won’t help here, a novel a day every day of the year would take a century or so.” So what should replace it?