Against materialism in literary theory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


‘Materialism’ has been a shibboleth in cultural analysis for three hundred years. If we discard the word itself and concentrate instead on its various, shifting significances, it has been a major bone of contention in philosophy and aesthetics for three thousand. In fact, materialism predates theoretical thought altogether, and there seems a distinct possibility that it will also postdate such thought. Because of its invariably pivotal position in humanistic discourse, a survey of materialism’s historical vicissitudes illuminates the progress taken by abstract thought in general. It also suggests some explanations for materialism’s increasing prominence today in the field of literary theory. For although that field is as riven by contention as it has ever been, it is close to unanimous in one regard. The vast majority of today’s literary theorists, like the overwhelming majority of Western intellectuals as a whole, share a methodological commitment to materialism. In fact, this commitment is often so deep as to be unconscious.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Return of Theory in Early Modern English Studies
Subtitle of host publicationTarrying with the Subjunctive
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780230299986
ISBN (Print)9780230235496
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Against materialism in literary theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this