Reading in theory: towards a thematic stylistics in Joyce studies
Horton, James David
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This thesis presents an account of the relationship between literary Theory and close reading in Joyce studies. Throughout, 'Theory' is understood not in a general, conceptual sense, but as a word we use to refer to certain specified intellectual developments in the literary academy that have taken place over roughly the last half-century. Working from the basis that little can be deduced regarding the contentious relationship between Theory and close reading as long as the issue remains an abstract one, the thesis works towards a description of that relationship based upon scrutiny of key works in the field. To that end, it performs a series of case studies of some of the more significant attempts to combine a deep Theoretical commitment with rigorous textual analysis. The argument developed is that in a significant number of cases a commitment to reading 'Theoretically' has led the critic into an erroneous reading of the literary text under discussion. The possibility of such error is defined with reference to a set of standards which, the author hopes, will be accepted by most scholars working in the field. Alongside this primary concern, the thesis sets out a technique of close reading designed to minimise the chances of such errors occurring. This technique is referred to as Thematic Stylistics. Requiring both broad and deep engagement with literary texts, it aims to encourage both fidelity and sensitivity when put into practice, and thereby to act as a balance to the suggested tendencies of Theoretical reading. This technique is not left as a set of bare principles, but is exemplified in alternate chapters with reference to errors discussed during the critique described above. Together, the critique of Theory and the outline of Thematic Stylistics are taken to provide a constructive suggestion for the future of the academy.