Preface to the 2018 Edition

Welcome to the The Student Theorist! More than a “textbook” or a “handbook,” this text is an open access, digitally published, ongoing, annotatable collection of Critical Theory explorations, brought to you in a neat little package by past students. Featuring mini-essays, blog posts, and cultural analyses selected and edited by students, The Student Theorist provides fresh and personal insights into pertinent theories that can all too often end up explicated in dried-up and complex ways. It includes introductions to concepts such as Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny” and Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity, as well as essays on topics ranging from Spongebob’s Oedipus Complex to ecotheoretical critiques of Earth Jam. The purpose of this handbook is to provide accessible introductions to theoretically robust debates and concepts, while also revealing the enduring and urgent relevance of theory in our world.

Throughout this course, we explored the following questions: What is the purpose of literary studies? What do English majors DO and why? Why are we called English majors instead of Literature majors? Theory allows us to begin to answer those questions in compelling and unexpected ways. In this course, we explore theories applicable to contemporary texts and situations. Critical theory is useful in many different types of media, such as texts, films, ads, and even events, which many of us showed through our Critical Theory in the Community analyses. The goal of the course at large is to create theory-fluent writers and this handbook begins to show how that can be achieved.

At times, the content addressed in this course seemed inaccessible. Theories that challenged our previously-unnoticed, everyday thoughts and actions often made us uncomfortable and confused. This handbook is intended to help future students through this discomfort by celebrating and explaining theory in a cohesive and comprehensible manner. Joining the ride with previous classes will bring some perspective to your own journey through critical theory.

Although this handbook was created by college students in a college classroom, the blog posts aim to work through these complicated theories in a way that is accessible to any person looking to learn something new. They attempt to eliminate some of the collegiate pretentiousness that theories such as ideology or feminism tend to be associated with. We’re no Judith Butler or Louis Althusser! Moreover, supplementing these abstract theories with real-world current issues and occurrences puts them into context, demonstrating their importance in our world.

Everything is up for critique: books, articles, the life around us. Let this handbook be a guide to escort you through the daunting world of critical theory. There may be times that you worry that you don’t know what’s going on. Hopefully this book will you show that it’s okay not to have all the answers right away. Critical theory will make you rethink everything you know, and make you realize that everything in this world may not be what it appears. Be prepared to look at things in a different way, and from multiple lenses. Your opinion about the world will be different after reading these essays and exploring the world of critical theory.

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Preface to the 2018 Edition by Abby Goode is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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