Twenty-Five Years of Critical and Cultural Theory

A woman in black walking through shelves of a libraryLiterary theory. The words will send a shudder through many an English student, and perhaps also those authors and readers who enjoy literature without feeling the urge to theorise about it. But like it or not, theory underpins most aspects of literary research today. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, a journal that was first edited by Professor Stephen Regan and that has traced the evolution of the discipline ever since.

Cover of the Year's work in cultural critical theory volume 1

Stephen Regan helped to launch The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory in 1991, as a companion volume to The Year’s Work in English Studies, which had been going since 1920. To mark the publication of the twenty-fifth volume, the journal’s current editors – Neil Badmington and Emma Mason – interviewed him to reflect on subsequent developments in theory.

As Stephen Regan notes, literary theory had exploded in the 1980s, with new work being developed “in areas such as poetics, semiotics, narratology, hermeneutics, psychoanalysis, feminism, and historical and materialist criticism”. The first issue captured these trends, while also incorporating chapters on Art History and Popular Music, with the “expectation that the volume would deal with cultural theory in the broadest sense”. This seems to have been prescient. Today, The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory also covers fields like ecocriticism and the medical humanities – a reflection of how English studies today engages with and has an impact on the realities and problems of the wider world.

The full interview is available to read now, on the Oxford University Press blog.


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