English 117

Introduction to Cultural Theory
Professor: Christian Thorne
Spring 2021

Scholarship as Conversation

Cultural theorists and literary scholars closely read, rigorously analyze, and deeply think about their primary sources (literature, films, music, cultural artifacts, etc.) to develop new ideas and arguments about a topic. However, scholars do not work in a vacuum. When writing a scholarly book or journal article, they take their original thoughts and put them in conversation with other scholars. They use other scholar's work to:

  • situate their own work within the field
  • acknowledge and build on previous ideas
  • find support for their arguments and areas of disagreement

Some scholarly conversations have a very long history (e.g., criticism of Shakespeare's works). As a beginning scholar, you need to survey the literature to see how your thoughts fit into this ongoing conversation. Other conversations are just starting (e.g., criticism of the latest pop culture phenomenon). In this case, you may not find scholars discussing your specific primary source. Instead, you would need to think more broadly about analogous examples and see how the arguments scholars have made about those examples could be applied to your object of analysis.