Theory

The word “theory” appears in Raymond Williams’s original Keywords (1976). He traces its origins back to the Greek theoros, meaning “spectator,” with its root in thea, for “sight,” which also gave us “theater.” As more recent commentators put it, “[T]he literal sense of looking has then been metaphorized to that of contemplating or speculating” (Wolfreys et al. 2006). The term became increasingly opposed to “practice,” not only as something removed from the everyday, but also as something involved in attempts to explain and model the everyday. Although the title of Williams’s work—Keywords—implicitly underwrites the importance of language, his own humanistic approach became more and more at odds with the “linguistic turn” in literary and cultural studies.

Regardless of the recent shift toward making it more explicit, theory has always been present both in discussions of literary texts and in the texts themselves, even if an awareness …

This essay may be found on page 213 of the printed volume.

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