The Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory

Literary theory is the practice of theoretical, methodological, and sociological reflection that accompanies the reading and interpretation of literary texts; it investigates the conceptual foundations of textual scholarship, the dynamics of textuality, the relations between literary and other texts, and the categories and social conditions through which our engagement with texts is organized. If the study of literary texts produces a kind of knowledge, it asks what kind of knowledge that is and on what grounds its claim to authority and distinctiveness might be based.

Since around the turn of the century literary studies has turned against the “high theory” moment of the previous three decades, and more generally against its privileged model of textuality or of cultural or linguistic mediation. It has also been marked by a structural reaction against the dominance of the US academy and toward a recognition of “world” literature. The effect of these shifts has been the development of new forms of engagement with theory: a new pragmatism; ethical criticism; affect theory; the critique of critique; the “new materialism”; the rise of ever more fine-grained forms of identity politics; the rise of new models of formalism and new models of political engagement; and a return to or reinvention of poetics or rhetoric.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory will illuminate the dynamic and constantly-developing aspects that have made literary theory an indispensable tool for thinking about how texts (whether written, iconic, or socio-cultural) are read. This ambitious project will promote a global and trans-disciplinary approach to fields as varied as literature, history, cultural studies, linguistics, philosophy, psychoanalysis, sociology, and the social sciences. All of the articles will appear online as part of the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.

Volume Editor

John Frow, The University of Sydney

Associate Editors

Mark Byron, The University of Sydney

Pelagia Goulimari, University of Oxford

Sean Pryor, The University of New South Wales Sydney

Julie Rak, The University of Alberta



Formal Concepts





Actor–Network Theory (T. Hugh Crawford)
Affect Studies (Patrick Colm Hogan)
Afterlife (Alice Bennett)
Aisthesis (David Vichnar, Louis Armand)
Allegory (Jonathan Morton)
Animal (Christopher Peterson)
Anonymity (Robert J. Griffin)
Anthology (Ben Grant)
Apostrophe (Denis Flannery)
Appropriation (Julie Sanders)
Archive and Library (Marlene Manoff)
Authorship (John Frow)
Beauty (Jennifer A. McMahon)
Biblical Criticism (Richard Briggs)
Canon and Classic (Trevor Ross)
Celebrity (Lorraine York)
Censorship (Nicole Moore)
The Chapter (Nicholas Dames)
Character (Julian Murphet)
Class (Benjamin Balthaser)
Classical Criticism (Andrew Ford)
Cliché (Tom Grimwood)
Close Reading (Mark Byron)
Codex (Michelle P. Brown)
Cognitive Poetics (Ellen Spolsky)
Comedy (Yi-hsin Hsu)
Copyright (Kim Treiger-Bar-Am)
Creolization (Ben Etherington)
Critique (Charlie Blake)
Daemonic (Angus Nicholls)
Deconstruction (Jemma Deer)
Deixis (Mary Galbraith)
Description (Joanna Stalnaker)
Diaspora (Smaro Kamboureli)
Digital Humanities (Simon Burrows, Michael Falk)
Digital Textuality (John Lavagnino)
Disability Studies (Robert McRuer)
Discipline (Peter Hitchcock)
Discourse Analysis (Andrea Macrae)
Dispositif (Ricky Crano)
Ecocriticism (Cheryl Lousley)
Ekphrasis (Gabriele Rippl)
Enchantment (Michael Saler)
Enunciation (Russell Smith)
Epic (Herbert Tucker)
E-text (Niels Ole Finnemann)
Ethics of Reading (Matthew Garrett)
Ethology: The Narrative Turn (Dominique Lestel)
Everyday (William Galperin)
Feminist Theory (Pelagia Goulimari)
Fictionality (Simona Zetterberg-Nielsen, Henrik Zetterberg-Nielsen)
Form and Formalism (Stephen Cohen)
Free Indirect Discourse (Daniel P. Gunn)
Genders (Pelagia Goulimari)
Genealogy (Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson, Amy Nigh)
Geo-locations (Peta Mitchell)
Gloss (Rachel Stenner)
Grotesque (Rune Graulund)
Hermeneutics (Georgia Warnke)
Heteroglossia (Ken Hirschkop)
Historical Poetics (Sean Pryor)
Historicities (Andrew Kalaidjian)
Hybridity (David Huddart)
Hypertext Theory (Astrid Ensslin)
Identification (James Purdon)
Identity Technologies (Anna Poletti)
Impersonation (Laura Browder)
Indigenous Studies: Brazil (Tracy Devine Guzmán)
Indigenous Studies in the United States and Canada (Aubrey Jean Hanson, Sam McKegney)
Information and Meaning (Wendy Wheeler)
Infrastructure (Russell Coldicutt)
Intention (Mark Vareschi)
Interdisciplinarity (Julie Thompson Klein)
Intertextuality (Graham Allen)
Irony (Claire Colebrook)
Laughter (Anca Parvulescu)
Lesbian Poetics (Judith Roof)
Life Writing (Craig Howes)
Literacy (Lee Morrissey)
Literary Prize Culture (Stevie Marsden)
Literary Stylistics (Michael Toolan)
Literary Translation (Anthony Pym)
Literature and Science (Michael Whitworth)
Love of Literature (Deidre Lynch)
Lyric Poetry and Poetics (Daniel Tiffany)
Mathesis (Baylee Brits)
Medium (David Trotter)
Melodrama (Monique Rooney)
Midrash (Carol Bakhos)
Minor Literature (Salah El Moncef)
Modern Manuscripts (Dirk Van Hulle)
Mourning and Melancholia (Tanya Dalziell)
Narrative Theory (Didier Coste)
Narrative Time (Stephanie Nelson, Barry Spence)
Narratology (Gerald Prince)
Narratology of the Moment (Peter J. Rabinowitz)
Networks (Patrick Jagoda)
New Materialisms (Liedeke Plate)
Orality (John D. Niles)
Parody and pastiche (Leonard Diepeveen)
Pastoral (Katherine Little)
Pedagogy (Philip Mead, Brenton Doecke)
Performativity (Julie Rak)
Phenomenology (Horst Ruthrof)
Philology (Harry Lönnroth)
Poetic Cognition (Marshall Brown)
Poetics (Jonathan Culler)
Poiesis (Thomas Martin)
Pornography (April Alliston)
Possible Worlds (Ruth Ronen)
The Postcolonial (Mary N. Layoun)
Postcolonial Theory (Vijay Mishra)
Posthuman (Daniele Rugo)
Prose (Garrett Stewart)
Prosody (Meredith Martin)
Psychoanalytic Theory (Marshall Alcorn)
Queer (Octavio González, Todd G. Nordgren)
Queer Theory (Lilith Acadia)
Race and Ethnicity (Amritjit Singh, Aaron Babcock)
Reading (Stephen Watt)
Realisms (Alison Shonkwiler)
Reception in the Digital Era (DeNel Rehberg Sedo)
Reception Theory (Ika Willis)
Reference (Satya P. Mohanty)
Remediation (Adam Hammond)
Repetition (Catherine Pickstock)
Rhetoric (Thomas H. Ford, Joe Hughes)
Rhizome (Claire Colebrook)
Rhythm (Laura Marcus)
Romance (Cyrus Mulready)
Sanskrit Literary Theory (Chettiarthodi Rajendran)
Satire (Emmett Stinson)
Scandal (Tarek El-Ariss)
Semiotics (Bob Hodge)
Sentiment (James Chandler)
Sexualities (Stephanie Clare)
Singularity (Derek Attridge)
Song (Stephanie Burt, Jenn Lewin)
Space (Eric Prieto)
Spectacle (McKenzie Wark)
Speculation (Graham Harman)
Style (Daniel Hartley)
Sublime (Ian Balfour)
Surface (Shiamin Kwa)
Sympathy and Empathy (Rae Greiner)
Technology (Eleonora Lima)
Tekhne (Ian James)
Temporality (Theodore Martin)
Textuality (Rossana De Angelis)
Textual Studies (Mark Byron)
The Institutional Turn (Jeremy Rosen)
The Matter of Drafts (Jani Scandura)
Theorizing the Subject (Sidonie Smith)
Theory of the Novel (Jesse Rosenthal)
Thing (Woosung Kang)
Tragedy (Alberto Toscano)
Trans (Quinn Eades)
Transnational (Paul Jay)
Value (Joshua Clover, Christopher Nealon)
Virtual Identities (Zara Dinnen)
Voice (David Nowell Smith)
World (Jen Hui Bon Hoa)