literary and cultural theory
literary and cultural theorythe analytical study of literature and related works of art (e.g. plays, films, televised drama).
Two approaches to the study of literature can be distinguished:
- the analytical study of literature considered part of élite culture, e.g. in Britain, the school of critics associated with F. R. Leavis, which emphasized the importance of teaching and upholding the canon of English literature;
- later, more radical approaches, which emphasize links with social theory, including sociology, and seek to break down the distinction between élite and MASS CULTURE, while critically appraising both.
An exceptionally clear student guide to the considerable complexity of this second strand of literary and cultural theory, which draws inspiration especially from POST-STRUCTURALISM, is provided by A. Easthope and K. McGowan (1992). Compare CULTURAL STUDIES; see also POPULAR CULTURE.