- Good literature is timeless, transcendent and speaks to what is constant in human nature
- Literary text contains its own meaning (not in subordinate reference to a sociopolitical, literary-historical, or autobiographical context)
- Text therefore studied in isolation without ideological assumptions or political conditions—goal of close verbal analysis to 'see the object as in itself it really is' (Matthew Arnold pace Kant)
- Human nature unchanging—continuity valued over innovation
- Individuality as essence securely possessed by each 'transcendent subject' distinct from forces of society, experience, and language
- Purpose of literature to enhance life in a non-programmatic (non-propagandistic) way
- Form and content fused organically in literature
- 'Sincerity' resides within the language of literature, noted by avoidance of cliché or inflated style so that the distance/difference between words and things is abolished
- 'Showing' valued over 'telling'—concrete enactment better than expository explanation
- Criticism should interpret the text unencumbered by theorizing, by preconceived ideas—must trust instead to direct, empirical, sensory encounter text (Lockean legacy)
2. All thinking affected and largely determined by ideological commitments—no mode of inquiry is disinterested, not even one's own (Barry notes that this premise introduces risk of relativism that may undercut one's argument).
3. Language conditions and limits what we see and all reality is a linguistic/textual construct
4. All texts are webs of contradiction with no final court of appeals to render judgment
5. Distrust of grand, totalizing theories/notions, including notion of "great books" that are somehow identifiably great regardless of a particular sociopolitical context; likewise, concept of a "human nature" that transcends race, gender , class is untenable, and can be shown to have the effect of marginalizing other categories of identification/affiliation when some general "human nature" is invoked, appealed to.
- Politics is pervasive,
- Language is constitutive,
- Truth is provisional,
- Meaning is contingent,
- Human nature is a myth.
(Notes of the lecture delivered on 8 November. Prepared by Angelo Savio Pereira)