Useful and productive

Browsing through old issues of Chinese Literature Today. Ji Jin interviews Carlos Rojas:

Question: Your research places considerable emphasis on theoretical interpretation. Compared with previous research, what do you think are the advantages or disadvantages of this approach? How do you understand the relationship between theory and text?

Answer: Actually, I would contend that everyone approaches literature theoretically. Indeed, without some sort of theoretical framework, there could be no analysis. The key difference, accordingly, is not between literary scholars who use theory and those who don’t, but rather between those who attempt to explicitly reflect on the theories that they use, and those who focus instead on the analytical process itself. I don’t think that one must explicitly reflect on one’s theoretical assumptions in order to do useful literary scholarship, just as there are many historians, anthropologists, film scholars, and musicologists whose work is deeply informed by a set of theoretical assumptions but who don’t analyze those assumptions in their writings. On the other hand, I do think that—in many circumstances—an attention to theoretical concerns can be useful and productive. This kind of theoretical reflection can help reveal the unexamined assumptions that shape our analyses, and also help catalyze new approaches and methodologies.