Is the bar lower for literary theory? Is argumentation a lot less demanding, i.e. it needn't be as convincing?

I mean literary criticism as it is informed by its underlying principles (formalism, new criticism, structuralism, etc.)

"Literary theory" is the body of ideas and methods we use in the practical reading of literature. By literary theory we refer not to the meaning of a work of literature but to the theories that reveal what literature can mean.

Or is this doing of literary theory just as demanding of rational argument?

  • Have you read Derrida? It is by no means easy. – Canyon Jun 12 '17 at 21:06
  • @Canyon reading Derrida? being Derrida? in fact i meant arguing as soundly as Derrida (et al) – user25714 Jun 12 '17 at 21:07
  • My point is that the ideas he is dealing with are by no means trivial. In fact his analyses are incredibly rigorous and detailed. – Canyon Jun 12 '17 at 22:25
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    @Canyon ok then demonstrate his rigour -- in an answer. please do ! – user25714 Jun 12 '17 at 22:26
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    A lot of literary theory is more continental than analytic (especially looking at the last century's literary criticism/continental philosophy as a whole, e.g. marxism, post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, etc.) and I don't think its controversial to say that continental philosophy is less rigorous than analytic philosophy. The line between the styles is very blurry with regards to contemporary (post turn of the century) work, a lot of the analytic schools' rigor made it into discussions about continental work. This is seen in literary criticism as well. – Not_Here Jun 13 '17 at 6:55

Someone like Kuhn might argue that "the bar is lower" for all pre- or inter-paradigmatic sciences. The reasons that we can demand compliance with a standard is there is an understood and accepted standard.

Clinical Psychology is a parallel example. One can look at Freud and shake one's head at his strange evasiveness, which made for a science so weak it prompted people to put up walls against considering it science. But without Freud, a lot of later people would never have said things that are genuinely useful.

Philology and therefore Literary Criticism is, unfortunately or otherwise, a domain that borrows paradigms until they come to mean something, and when they do not pay off, it moves on. So there is no paradigm, unless one chooses one. Subdisciplines of the field do have paradigms. If you choose to work in a paradigm, one should hold oneself to the standards already set by earlier contributors.

(On that basis, one might say that it is just as demanding unless you want to innovate. Being caught up in the paradigm of the day may actually be a form of laziness. It be something that makes literary analysis worse, if a different lens would suit the author better.)

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    Hopefully you will get some from somewhere closer to your mark than the philosophy of science. But thanks. – user9166 Jun 12 '17 at 22:07
  • Not good answer, imo. Can you put up some evidence that literary theorists play with paradigms until they get bored? – Canyon Jun 12 '17 at 22:16
  • @Canyon Literary Marxism. Critical Theory itself. The fascination with psychoanalytic techniques. All of these just rose and fell, mostly because folks in the domain don't like being constrained. On the other hand, there are deep, traditional schools of criticism that are still alive -- see New Criterion, etc. – user9166 Jun 12 '17 at 22:18
  • hyperbole. we can say "gets bored" of anyone who abandons an allegedly principled position (Adorno) @Canyon – user25714 Jun 12 '17 at 22:19
  • @Canyon. Hyperbole requires a moderate position exists. Is there some milder way of saying this that is not just lying? Adorno stayed within his paradigm, even when his central references changed, so he is a very odd exemplar of whatever position you think applies here. – user9166 Jun 12 '17 at 22:20

I think if one is making an argument that assumes there is common sense, and it is basically clear and distinct, i.e., scientific, then it follows that all arguments that won't work on an intelligent but stubborn elderly fellow, ought to be thrown out, then there are either good arguments or ones that don't convince.

On the other hand, once one assumes that there is a question about common sense, all kinds of opacity follows. And anything can be justified on this basis, so that the matter of distinguishing serious from frivolous becomes a matter of special ability. Just as not anyone can make sound judgments about music or other issues, basically objective (as a sense is, not as the sciences are), but requiring talent. Thus, elitism becomes a great charge, and many other charges come in due to various forms difficulty, both in the current system of training, the universities, and for reasons intrinsic to an activity which at the peak, only a very few are competent to judge.

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  • i'm voting down because your answer is pretty vacuous TO ME if not meant simply to disparage the character / intelligence of the question. which is just dull IN THE EXTREME – user25714 Jun 12 '17 at 21:54
  • Perhaps you don't understand what is at issue with common sense; what that would mean? For instance that antebellum Southerners would be more likely to hold that Slavery is justified. Or, that men in the past held the earth stood quite still. Or, that Hume challenges the common sense notion of causality. – user26700 Jun 12 '17 at 21:59
  • i don't really feel inclined to talk about it. are you saying that your careerist interpretation of such things as truth is especially privileged cos it's idiosyncratic ? – user25714 Jun 12 '17 at 22:01
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    Literary Theory isn't about literature mainly, but the world. It's just a name for a specific kind of philosophy. – user26700 Jun 12 '17 at 22:14
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    Literary Theorists, e.g., Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, are philosophers. But the difference is, largely, they have been impressed by certain developments in philosophy that those more impressed by the sciences have not been. I think your question is somewhat misguided. – user26700 Jun 12 '17 at 22:25

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