Literary Theory

What is literary theory?

If literature helps us to make sense of the worlds we live in, then literary theory allows readers to delve more deeply into the structures and social beliefs that underpin and shape our worlds.

Literary theory is a term used to refer to the different critical lenses that can be applied to reading a text. Whilst at GCSE level you may have studied an individual text, literary theory helps critics to make connections between texts, and to explore patterns and the evolution of thought over time.

For example, have you ever thought about how writers represent female characters? Have you considered how these characters are often stereotyped, marginalised, and silenced within patriarchal power structures? Then you have been using ideas from feminist literary theory – perhaps without realising it.

Below is information on three key literary theories – Marxism, Feminism, and Post-Colonialism. Use the links to find out more.

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