Veering: A Theory of Literature

Veering: A Theory of Literature

Veering: A Theory of Literature

Veering: A Theory of Literature


'Reading Veering generates the intense joy of veering. An exuberantly successful medium, Royle calls up swarms of passages from literature and elsewhere where the word or concept "veering" is salient. On this basis he creates new theories of literature and of creative writing's place in criticism. Royle's best book yet.'

J. Hillis Miller, Distinguished Research Professor of Comparative Literature and English, University of California, Irvine

'Nicholas Royle is one of the most interesting, inventive, and provocative thinkers of literary language currently writing in English, and he has done something truly extraordinary here. By allowing a theory of literature to emerge right from the traces of the veering movements of fiction and poetry, he has thoroughly renewed the possibility of thinking in the wake of our literary encounters. Veering issues a general license to read, once again, with all the wonder, generosity, and freedom it calls forth on every page.'

Professor Peggy Kamuf, University of Southern California

'Every genre, every great work has its way of veering. This fascinating, richly compendious, necessary book shows the way forward for literary studies. Nicholas Royle's twisty key opens and magically re-opens the wonders of the canon and beyond. The spiralling pleasure he takes in doing so lightens, refreshes, instructs and inspires. Royle is a wonderful communicator about literature and theory and a uniquely powerful, original critical voice. This is his most exciting and widely relevant work so far.'

Sarah Wood, University of Kent

Reflections on the figure of veering form the basis for a new theory of literature

Exploring images of swerving, loss of control, digressing and deviating, Veering provides new critical perspectives on all major literary genres: the novel, poetry, drama, the short story and the essay, as well as 'creative writing'. Royleworks with insights from Lewis Carroll, Freud, Adorno, Raymond Williams, Edward Said, Deleuze, Cixous and Derrida. With wit and irony he investigates 'veering' in the writings of Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Melville, Hardy, Proust, Lawrence, Bowen, J.H. Prynne and many others. Contrary to a widespread sense that literature has become increasingly irrelevant to our culture and everyday life, Royle brilliantly traces a strange but compelling 'literary turn'.


Since its inception, Theory has been concerned with its own limits, ends and afterlife. It would be an illusion to imagine that the academy is no longer resistant to Theory but a significant consensus has been established and it can be said that Theory has now entered the mainstream of the humanities. Reaction against Theory is now a minority view and new generations of scholars have grown up with Theory. This leaves so-called Theory in an interesting position which its own procedures of auto-critique need to consider: what is the nature of this mainstream Theory and what is the relation of Theory to philosophy and the other disciplines which inform it? What is the history of its construction and what processes of amnesia and the repression of difference have taken place to establish this thing called Theory? Is Theory still the site of a more-than-critical affirmation of a negotiation with thought, which thinks thought’s own limits?

‘Theory’ is a name that traps by an aberrant nominal effect the transformative critique which seeks to reinscribe the conditions of thought in an inaugural founding gesture that is without ground or precedent: as a ‘name’, a word and a concept, Theory arrests or misprisions such thinking. To imagine the frontiers of Theory is not to dismiss or to abandon Theory (on the contrary, one must always insist on the it-is-necessary of Theory even if one has given up belief in theories of all kinds). Rather, this series is concerned with the presentation of work which challenges complacency and continues the transformative work of critical thinking. It seeks to offer the very best of contemporary theoretical practice in the humanities, work which continues to push ever further the frontiers of what is accepted, including the name of Theory. in particular, it is interested in that work which involves the necessary endeavour of crossing disciplinary frontiers without dissolving the specificity of disciplines. Published by Edinburgh University Press, in the city of Enlightenment, this series promotes a certain closeness to that spirit: the continued . . .

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