Language, Literature, and Critical Practice: Ways of Analysing Text

By David Birch | Go to book overview

Preface

A book neither begins nor ends: at most it pretends to. (Derrida, 'Living on' in Deconstruction and Criticism, pp. 96-7)

I am acutely aware of the lack of fit that can exist very often between the progress of linguistic and literary theorists as intellectuals, and the curriculum and classroom practices they, and others influenced by them, are institutionally involved in. This book is an attempt to show to students, who are usually powerless in the institutional decisions and practices of teaching literary text analysis, the development of a critical practice/textual analysis that is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, intertextual, historically and socially aware, and politically motivated-a critical practice that draws from a number of related and competing theoretical and methodological positions, and that questions those positions as part of its practice.

Language, Literature and Critical Practice foregrounds a number of these competing positions to demonstrate, in particular, that any form of textual analysis is grounded in theory and informed by ideology. More often than not books which cover the analysis of text do so as if the methodology of analysis exists in a theoryless vacuum, and techniques of analysis are presented without questioning the philosophical and ideological assumptions 'behind' the techniques (e.g. Cummings and Simmons 1983). In writing this book, I have tried to present a wide-ranging survey of textual analyses that is informed at all times by a social, historical, political, theoretical, and ideological awareness of 'where' the analysis 'is coming from'.

To that extent, then, this is not a traditional survey book written by someone who stands back from the work and comments 'objectively' on the 'progress' of a discipline. I have a distinct thesis that argues for an understanding of the history of textual analysis this century in terms of whether it is theoretically based in an idealized world or in an actual world. By actual, or real

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