The Theory Or No Theory?

Decent Essays

Theory or No Theory? Every discourse, even a poetic or oracular sentence, carries with it a system of rules for producing analogous things and thus an outline of methodology (Derrida 1).There are fields that have authentic theories of understanding information, such as psychology or biology. American Studies, although being an interdisciplinary field, has it’s own set of theories. There are some that feel that due to the nature of American Studies, approaches are not all encompassing for understanding America. Where there are several theories within the field, myth and symbol along with contextualism have been the primary focus of study. Theories like myth and symbol and contextualism have been used since the inception of the …show more content…

In Kuklick 74). The image of the west was the road to new discovery and the ability to begin anew in America. Along with Leo Marx, Smith spoke of the common themes in America as “collective images” (Kuklick 73). The images and symbols generated an explanation of the reason people in America behave the way they do. For example, Mark Twain’s writings reflected the culture in the era that he wrote them. As Smith remarked on Twain’s writing, “to what extent they were actually (as he often maintained) imposed by culture” (Smith 2). To understand Twain’s works, one must also understand the cultural themes that were existent during the time in which he created them. Writers can be impeded by the society in which they live. Additionally in Marx, The Machine and the Garden, Marx was reflecting on the themes and ideas that came about due to industrialization and how Americans felt about the changing of the landscape affected their lives. The premises of myth and symbol is to ascertain how written “value-laden”(Lipsitz 317) are understood within the culture. As recurrent themes and symbols invade literature and history, thus an understanding of the culture outside of the writing can be understood. On the other side of the theory of the myth and symbol theory, also known as humanists, is the criticism that it is limited in its assumptions. One assumption is that images and symbols are in reference to the external world. Bruce Kuklick remarks that the theory “is not one to

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