Theoryocracy: Literary Criticism & Theory


Welcome to my literary theory and criticism home page. This site offers more than 2,000 questions on the 149+ authors included in Vincent B. Leitch et al.’s Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (3rd ed., 2018). This collection is the product of many years of teaching experience in literary criticism and theory surveys at CSU Fullerton and Chapman U in Orange, California. I also benefited greatly from the keen insights of my professors as a graduate student in English at UC Irvine (1989-1997).

My Goal: I hope college students and teachers will find this material valuable as they engage with the philosophers, critics, and theorists covered. Above all, I have tried to write questions that will serve as a springboard for further reflection.

One Tip: Encourage students to “talk back” to the material as if they were in a spirited conversation with it. Too often, students feel overawed by the brilliant likes of Plato, Kant, or Foucault, and they may suppose that because they don’t understand everything about the selections they read, they understand nothing. Remind students that we learn difficult material through successive encounters, not upon first acquaintance!

Legal matters: All questions on this site are Copyright © 2021 by Alfred J. Drake. All rights reserved. The material on this site is offered “as-is,” with no express or implied guarantee of accuracy, interpretive correctness, or exhaustiveness. W. W. Norton’s endorsement is in no way claimed or implied for any of the material on this site. All that said, you are welcome to use and adapt these questions for your own non-profit, educational purposes, with due attribution and (if called for) notice of alteration.

Note on locating passages: (“Lorem ipsum…”) indicates text that begins a paragraph; rarely, (“… Lorem ipsum…”) indicates text beginning within a paragraph. Find the end of relevant passages by noting the beginning text for the next question.

Terminology: I have left the definition of key terms to students and instructors. Terms such as antinomy, presentation, binary logic, chora, discourse, essentialism, reification, rhetoric, social constructivism, synchronic, etc. deserve careful attention when they appear in the selections and in the questions. These terms often have specific meanings in relation to particular authors and critical approaches.