In theory 2

October 14, 2005

As a part-time mature student, I completed an English literature degree this year at a university priding itself on its position at the cutting-edge of the critical theory scene.

I felt uneasy about the assumptions being made from the beginning of the course and, after compulsory work in the first year, avoided "theory" modules. I discovered the importance of assessing lecturers' attitudes and learnt to bypass, if possible, those for whom any critical pre-1960s view was anathema. The jewels in the crown, for me, were those who put the complexity, appreciation and enjoyment of the text in paramount position.

I was convinced that much critical theory was an academic example of the emperor's new clothes, but it was nevertheless difficult to challenge those whose careers and reputations depended on it.

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