Literature, Theory, and Common Sense
In the late twentieth century, the common sense approach to literature was deemed na´ve. Roland Barthes proclaimed the death of the author, and Hillis Miller declared that all interpretation is theoretical. In many a literature department, graduate students spent far more time on Derrida and Foucault than on Shakespeare and Milton. Despite this, common sense approaches to literature--including the belief that literature represents reality and authorial intentions matter--have resisted theory with tenacity. As a result, argues Antoine Compagnon, theorists have gone to extremes, boxed themselves into paradoxes, and distanced others from their ideas. Eloquently assessing the accomplishments and failings of literary theory, Compagnon ultimately defends the methods and goals of a theoretical commitment tempered by the wisdom of common sense.