Theory into Practice
Ann b. Dobie
Practicing literary criticism used to be easier. Not too many years ago it involved working from three or four established perspectives, all of them well within a student’s (and a teacher’s) intellectual comfort zone. Then the ground shifted, and one difficult to grasp literary theory followed another in quick succession, each one demanding difficult mental gymnastics and many of them seeming to be only vaguely related to literature as readers had known it. When it became clear that the emerging theories were here to stay and the literary world was not going to return to its traditional ways of reading and understanding, it also became evident that students were going to need some strong support in learning how to use the new ideas. That recognition led to the appearance of the first edition of Theory into Practice. Its purpose was to provide clear explanations of complex theoretical material in a manner that did not corrupt the original ideas by over simplifying them. It tried to honor the principles of each critical theory while making it possible for novice critics to understand and use them.