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This is a significant work of original thought - addressing the interface between literature and theory. In the interview that begins "Acts of Literature", Jacques Derrida responds to a question concerning the difference between literature and theory by arguing that despite its institutional status, part of its 'institution' is the right of literature to say anything. Additionally, "Literature" gathers into itself numerous traits of other discourses, other cultures and other histories: autobiographical, theoretical, linguistic, philosophical, economic, scientific and journalistic, amongst others. As a result, we might argue that literature cannot be defined as such, and as soon as one seeks to produce a reading of the literary, complications arise through the difference, as Derrida has it, 'between literatures', and 'between the literary and non-literary'. 'Theory', so-called, is also a matter of difference and differences. Despite its institutional significance, 'theory' remains something many wish would go away, and which, for others, is still not read, is misread, and remains to be read.
In examining closely how 'theory' and 'literature' are concepts and names for what we barely perceive, but which touch on one other in complex ways, "Literature, in Theory", seeks to move, with patience and attentiveness, to the beginning of an understanding of their intersections and differences. Examining a wide range of authors, from Dickens to Joyce, and engaging directly with a number of major theorists - including Derrida, Miller, Bloom, Heidegger, Agamben - Wolfreys takes the reader on a journey through the issues and ideas involved in reading literature, in theory.
Julian Wolfreys is a Professor of Modern Literature and Culture with the Department of English and Drama at Loughborough University, UK. The author and editor of numerous books and articles, his most recent publications are Writing London III: Inventions of the City (Palgrave) and Transgression: Identity, Place, Time (Palgrave).