In the section entitled ?What is Literary Theory? in Contemporary Literary Criticism, the authors present five essays dealing with literary theory. The first two essays discuss the grounds of theory while the others discuss the historical activity of theory. In their discussions of theory, the critics examine different definitions of theory and literature and different methods of reading.
In ?The Resistance to Theory,? Paul de Man acknowledges the ?impossibility? of defining literary theory. However, he gives a notion of theory when he explains that literary theory? can be said to come into being when the approach to literary texts is no longer based on non-linguistic, that is to say historical and aesthetic considerations.? He then poses the question of why literary theory provokes such strong resistance. He explains that the resistance to theory is a resistance to the use of language about language (similar to Barthe?s ?discourse upon a discourse). This resistance to language is due to the uncertainty and hence unreliability of language. He then concludes that nothing ?can overcome the resistance to theory since theory is itself this resistance? and the language it speaks is the language of resistance.
J. Hillis Miller also discusses the grounds of theory by
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