J. Hillis Miller | The Act of Reading Literature as Disconfirmation of Theory


Literary theory is ancillary to literature. Its value is its testable ability to account for meaning and form in specific literary texts. Literary theory, like scientific hypotheses, must be capable of disproof. An example is the claim made by many scolars that certain distinctive features charactarize postmodern literary works. Juxtaposed reading of Pynchon’s “The Secret Integration and Cervante’s “The Dogs’ Colloqoy” show that all the features said to be distinctive of postmodern literature are already present in Cervantes’s story. This disproves claims that postmodern literature is distinctive in theme and form, at least in the ways proposed.

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