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




Afterlife (Alice Bennett)
Animal (Christopher Peterson)
Appropriation (Julie Sanders)
Archive and Library (Marlene Manoff)
Canon and Classic (Trevor Ross)
Carl Schmitt's Literary Criticism (Peter Uwe Hohendahl)
Character (Julian Murphet)
Ekphrasis (Gabriele Rippl)
E-text (Niels Ole Finnemann)
Figures of/for Voice (David Nowell Smith)
Free Indirect Discourse (Daniel P. Gunn)
Grotesque (Rune Graulund)
Intertextuality (Graham Allen)
Laughter and Literature (Anca Parvulescu)
Lesbian Poetics (Judith Roof)
Narratology (Gerald Prince)
Prose (Garrett Stewart)
Satire (Emmett Stinson)
Space (Eric Prieto)
Tekhne (Ian James)