Analysis of Barbara Christian's Literary Theory Analytical Essay by SaraT

Analysis of Barbara Christian's Literary Theory
This paper explores the way in which Barbara Christian argues that theory has devolved into what she calls "A Race for Theory."
# 5339 | 2,916 words | 6 sources | MLA | 2002 | US

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This paper refutes Christian's attacks on French feminism, Marxism, and post-structuralists, as well as her complaints that modern theories prevent third world literature from entering the literary canon.

From the Paper:

"Barbara Christian argues that theory has devolved into what she calls "A Race for Theory." In this "race" to produce theories, critics are more concerned with creating new philosophical strategies for analysis than with actually analyzing new texts. She feels that critics are spending more energy reading and responding to other critics, which is an egocentric attempt at self-advancement. "The critic yearning for attention has displaced the writer and has conceived of himself as the center" (Christian, 225). These critics form an exclusive group that controls the academic advancement of other writers. Thus, the academic elite continually perpetuates itself by controlling what is read. Christian opposes this hegemony of thought, saying: "Literature is not an occasion for discourse among critics but is necessary nourishment for their people and one way by which they come to understand their lives better" (Christian, 227). Christian argues that elitists have established a literary hierarchy that is trapped in classic texts, and which uses jargon and to "mystify rather than clarify" (Christian, 229). Specifically, Christian attacks post-modernist Marxists and French Feminists for diverting critics from a "reclamation and discussion of past and present Third World Literatures" (Christian, 230). Christian's concern that important texts are being lost or overlooked is understandable, but her language indicates a paranoid suspicion of modern theory that is not entirely valid. Although she is addressing a problem that conceivably should apply to any type of literature, she continually stresses her own agenda, which she refers to as Third World Literature. Christian obviously feels a bias towards her specific area of study, but she also implies that discussion of her genre is being consciously suppressed by post-modern critics. She accuses these theorists of using exclusionary language to try and control the critical scene. She adds: "That language surfaced, interestingly enough, just when the literature of peoples of color, of black women, of Latin Americans, of Africans, began to move to "the center"" (Christian, 229). This statement implies that post-modernist critics deliberately tried to disrupt a natural process of emergence."

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"Analysis of Barbara Christian's Literary Theory" 11 February 2003. Web. 26 May. 2020. <>