Theoretical Approaches

  • J. A. Bull


The previous chapter identified some of the main features in a model of fiction seen as communication. Specific data relating to some of these features (such as the nature of the readership) have been gathered by scholars in a continuous process since the academic study of literature began; it provides a core of factual material which will be drawn on in relation to the texts used as examples in this book. The present chapter by contrast deals with a more subjective and controversial aspect of the socio-cultural approach; it summarises a number of theories which attempt to account for the characteristics of given novels in terms of the social composition of the society in which they were written. Since most of the theories refer to literature in general a specific application to fiction has been assumed.


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  1. 1.
    Rene Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism (Jonathan Cape, 1955), vol. 1, summarises the work of Herder and refers to one or two writers prior to him who interested themselves in the social origins of literature.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The original statements of Leavis’s theory can be found in F. R. Leavis and Denys Thompson, Culture and Environment (Chatto and Windus, 1933) and later in Leavis’s Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture (Chatto and Windus, 1943) and Education and the University (Chatto and Windus, 1948).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Plekhanov’s work is summarised in Peter Demetz, Marx, Engels and the Poets (University of Chicago Press, 1967) and also discussed in Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 80.Google Scholar

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© J. A. Bull 1988

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