Literary Theory

RELATED TERMS: Narratology; Reception theory and reader response criticism

Literary theory is the study and analysis of literature in general. Narratology can be considered a branch of literary theory.

The difference between more recent literary theory and earlier critical approaches, for example, Russian Formalism, New Criticism and French structuralist narratology of the 1960s, is a shift in emphasis towards the reader in the former. In both reception theory, Rezeptionsästhetik, which has had its greatest impact in Germany, and reader-response criticism, associated mainly with American criticism, the role of the reader is seen as crucial. Continuity between these two strands of literary theory can be found through the work of Wolfgang Iser, who is commonly cited in both.


Newton, K. M. (ed.) (1997) Twentieth-century literary theory: a reader. 2nd edn. New York, NY: Macmillan Education.