There was a time when the interpretation of literary texts andÃÂ literary theory seemed two different and almost unrelatedÃÂ things. Interpretation was about the actual meaning of a poem,ÃÂ a novel, or a play, while theory seemed alien to what the study ofÃÂ literature was really about because its generalizations couldÃÂ never do justice to individual texts. In the last thirty years,ÃÂ however, interpretation and theory have moved closer and closerÃÂ to each other. In fact, for many contemporary critics and theoristsÃÂ interpretation and theory cannot be separated at all. TheyÃÂ would argue that when we interpret a text we always do soÃÂ from a theoretical perspective, whether we are aware of it orÃÂ not, and they would also argue that theory cannot do withoutÃÂ interpretation.
The premise of Literary Theory: The Basics is that literaryÃÂ theory and literary practice Ã¢ÂÂ the practice of interpretation Ã¢ÂÂ canÃÂ indeed not very well be separated and certainly not at the moreÃÂ advanced level of academic literary studies. One of its aims,ÃÂ then, is to show how theory and practice are inevitablyÃÂ connected and have always been connected. The emphasis is onÃÂ the 1970s and after, but important earlier views of literature getÃÂ their full share of attention. This is not merely a historicalÃÂ exercise. A good understanding of, for instance, the NewÃÂ Criticism that dominated literary criticism in the United States.