Signs and Symbols

A found poem introduction to the definitive introduction to literary theory.

low light photography of books

The following is assembled from phrases found in the opening six pages of The Norton’s Anthology of Theory and Criticism, a text that some readers might find a touch dense, or perhaps conducive of a sprained wrist. I took the liberty of assembling this found poem from the text, to keep on hand for moments when something lighter is in order.

What does theory demonstrate? That there is no position free of it, 

not even common sense. The same is true of an author’s inner being, 

institutions, historical periods, and conflict.

What is interpretation? Consider dense and enigmatic 

explication, exegesis––versus intimate, casual appreciation.

In order to establish our bearings, 

along the way

we discuss.

True, there are problems 

with seemingly sensible methods

––ambiguities, paradoxes, the problem of no easy 

answers––and theorists, and well-known heuristic devices. 

The notion of mirroring necessarily contains 

distorting devices: signifiers, signified; 

the crisis of reference; the dizzying view. 

Significantly, it re-presents and refracts 

certain affinities.

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I am here to wonder out loud. The point is not to get a clear answer, a complete picture, but to remember how incomplete the picture is, to embrace the process once again, of discovery, of questions, to notice the stirrings of wonder. To leave crumbs behind, for the next traveler.

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