There was a time when the interpretation of literary texts andÂ literary theory seemed two different and almost unrelatedÂ things. Interpretation was about the actual meaning of a poem,Â a novel, or a play, while theory seemed alien to what the study ofÂ literature was really about because its generalizations couldÂ never do justice to individual texts. In the last thirty years,Â however, interpretation and theory have moved closer and closerÂ to each other. In fact, for many contemporary critics and theoristsÂ interpretation and theory cannot be separated at all. TheyÂ would argue that when we interpret a text we always do soÂ from a theoretical perspective, whether we are aware of it orÂ not, and they would also argue that theory cannot do withoutÂ interpretation.
The premise of Literary Theory: The Basics is that literaryÂ theory and literary practice â the practice of interpretation â canÂ indeed not very well be separated and certainly not at the moreÂ advanced level of academic literary studies. One of its aims,Â then, is to show how theory and practice are inevitablyÂ connected and have always been connected. The emphasis is onÂ the 1970s and after, but important earlier views of literature getÂ their full share of attention. This is not merely a historicalÂ exercise. A good understanding of, for instance, the NewÂ Criticism that dominated literary criticism in the United States.