In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry takes on Knapp and Michaels's influential article, "Against Theory." The historical context of the piece is given and key aspects of the theorists' critical orientations, specifically their neo-pragmatism, are defined. A lengthy discussion of the relationships between, on the one hand, intention and meaning and, on the other hand, language and speech follows with reference to Saussure, deconstruction, and Russian formalism. Knapp and Michaels's use of Wordsworth's "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal" to explore the limits of meaning and intention is examined in depth. Ultimately, the case is made, using issues subject to dispute in Knapp and Michaels, that theory is a useful and necessary tool in literary studies.
Knapp, Steven and Walter Benn Michaels. "Against Theory." In Against Theory: Literary Studies and the New Pragmatism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press Journals, 1985
In this course, Prof. Paul H. Fry gives 26 video lectures on Theory of Literature. This is a survey of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. Lectures will provide background for the readings and explicate them where appropriate, while attempting to develop a coherent overall context that incorporates philosophical and social perspectives on the recurrent questions: what is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?