Betwixt the Text and the World: Literary Theory Responses to Current Challenges from a Teaching Perspective

Natalia Vysotska


The paper offers a view of literary theory development as a kind of pendulum movement between text-centered and world-centered models. The reasons behind current theory’s gravitation towards world-centered approaches are discussed, including scholars’ dissatisfaction with New Critics’ concentration on texts’ formal characteristics taking no heed of broader socio-cultural context. Critical edge of present-day theory also presupposes closer attention to the interface between the text and the world. Posthumanism as a prominent trend in contemporary philosophy and cultural studies is considered in terms of its continuity with regards to traditional humanism and of its potential efficiency as an instrument for analyzing and interpreting literary phenomena, in particular, those engendered by early 21st c. cultural and psychological atmosphere. It is argued that, far from postulating “the death of the subject”, posthumanism offers a different perspective on human beings in their ambivalent relationships with natural environment and technology. Based on a variety of ideas put forward by such prominent exponents of new directions in humanities as Katherine Hayles, Donna Haraway, Cary Wolfe and others, the paper shows how contemporary intellectuals seek to challenge and transgress the traditional limits of human subjectivity demonstrating the porosity of borders separating humans from their “companion species” and man-made cyborgs.


literary theory; text-centered; world-centered; Posthumanism; human machine; cyborg; cybertextuality


Baudrillard J. Symvolichnyi obmin i smert’ [Symbolic exchange and death]. Lviv, 2004, 376 p. (in Ukrainian).

Foucault M. Slova i veschi. Arkheologia gumanitarnykh nauk [Words and things. An archeology of the human sciences]. Moscow, 1977, 404 p. (in Russian).

Aarseth E. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore, 1997, 203 p.

Culler J. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, 1997, 143 p.

Gallagher C., Greenblatt St. Practicing New Historicism. Chicago, 2000, 227 p.

Haraway D. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. In: Haraway D. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York, 1991, pp. 149–181.

Haraway D. When Species Meet. Minneapolis, 2008, 402 p.

Hassan I. Prometheus as Performer: Towards a Posthumanist Culture?. The Georgia Review, 1997, vol. 4, no. 31, pp. 830–850.

Hayles K. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago, 1999, 364 p.

Nichols S. Post-Humanist Movement. Available at: (accessed 5 September 2012).

Wolfe C. What Is Posthumanism?. Minneapolis, 2010, 357 p.

GOST Style Citations

Бодріяр Ж. Символічний обмін і смерть / Жан Бодріяр ; [пер. з франц. Л. Кононовича]. – Львів : Кальварія, 2004. – 376 с.


Фуко М. Слова и вещи. Археология гуманитарных наук / Мишель Фуко ; [пер. с франц. Н. С. Автономовой ]. – М. : Прогресс, 1977. – 404 с.


Aarseth E. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature / Espen J. Aarseth. – Baltimore & L. : The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1997. – 203 p.


Culler J. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction / Jonathan Culler. – Oxford : Oxford Univ. Press, 1997. – 143 p.


Gallagher C. Practicing New Historicism / Catherine Gallagher, Stephen Greenblatt. – Chicago ; London : Univ. of Chicago Press, 2000. – 227 p.


Haraway D. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century / Donna Haraway // Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. – New York : Routledge, 1991. – P. 149–181.


Haraway D. When Species Meet / Donna Haraway. – Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2008. – 402 p.


Hassan I. Prometheus as Performer: Towards a Posthumanist Culture? / Ihab Hassan // The Georgia Review. – 1997. – Vol. 4. – No. 31. – P. 830–850.


Hayles K. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics / Katherine N. Hayles. – Chicago : Univ. of Chicago Press, 1999. – 364 p.


Nichols S. Post-Humanist Movement [Electronic resource] / S. Nichols. Available at :


Wolfe C. What Is Posthumanism? / Cary Wolfe. – Minneapolis : Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2010. – 357 p.


Copyright (c) 2013

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The journal publishes research papers on terms: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License 


Pytannia literaturoznavstva
ISSN 2306-2908 
Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University
2 Kotsiubynsky str., Chernivtsi 58012, Ukraine