So, this is actually the (slightly modified) conclusion of an essay I've been working on this weekend. I'm currently enrolled in Humanities 350 - A Study of Theory and Criticism. Thus far, we've mostly been reading the wafflings of a bunch of old dudes who have way too much time to analyze everything & detrimentally huge vocabularies. However, we did read this gloss on The Cat in the Hat which was hilarious, enlightening, bizarre, and disturbing all at the same time. (Gloss, in this sense, is a fancy theorist word that means "interpretation or analysis.") Read it, but be warned, you'll never look at children's books quite the same way again; they may seem innocent. . . but no.
Anyway, theory. It's real. Though I mock it & sometimes/usually abhor Marx, Derrida, & Foucault, I thought I'd share my little "ah-ha moment" with y'all.
Actually, I'm not really sure why I decided to post this... it's not that interesting. Oh, well.
Last night, I was talking with a friend of mine, complaining about living in the library so much, and analyzing our latest bizarre dreams. Then I had an epiphany. The way we were talking about dreams, examining them from different angles, looking for possible symbolism – that is theory.
When you take that step beyond the surface meaning, that’s theory. When you look at each word, feel out its implications, study its history, and show that every word can make a difference, that’s theory. When you study everyday life, common occurrences, fashions, fads, and trends and somehow find significance in all of those little things, that’s theory. “Today it is generally recognized that everyday life is quite as intricate, unfathomable, obscure and occasionally tedious as Wagner, and thus eminently worth investigating” (Eagleton “After Theory” 4).
It is hard to give a concrete definition for theory because theory itself is not concrete; it is always changing to fit society’s new ideal, or at least to avoid the things that society holds in contempt. “…Knowledge is always open to further interpretation and criticism,…understanding is always susceptible to further correction and realization” (Gunn “Interdisciplinary Studies” 255).
Theory finds significance in the seemingly insignificant. Theory crosses boundaries, bringing the ideals and techniques from one area of study to analyze the works of another field. Theory often blows my mind or leaves me wondering why it matters at all.
Theory asks little questions. Theory asks big questions. Theory questions the questions. And all this questioning changes the way in which we view things, alters our understanding, and helps us to make a work our own. When we analyze something and wrestle with its layers of potential meaning, we grasp it in an entirely new way. Theory makes connections.