The invitation to think about “theory now” requires a double response. Insofar as theory has a “now,” it is a “now” in the time of disciplines and institutions, a point in an institutional trajectory. To ask where theory is now invites us to describe where theory has been and where it is heading. And certainly there is much that could be said about theory now: narratology, for some time in the doldrums, seems to be making a comeback, taking cognitive science rather than linguistics as a model, though it may be too early to say whether this will prove productive. Psychoanalysis plays a less central role in theory than it used to, except in the form of trauma theory, whose pertinence to a host of contemporary issues continues to be d emonstrated. Questions about the nature of identity seem to have receded, as Rei Terada points out, doubtless because theoretical debates have led to a more subtle understanding, that identities are neither simply imposed nor freely performed. Theories of haunting or spectrality provide new ways of thinking about a variety of perennial issues, including memory, the modes of being of the past, and intertextuality. The study of affect, once relegated by both philosophy and literary and cultural studies to the margins of psychology, has become central, with shame, compassion, envy, and sentimentality all requiring theorization and historical exploration. Queer theory continues to expand its purview, as a wider range of investigations and arguments is developed and new paradigms, such as that of reparative reading, emerge from theory's deep engagement with the pressures and the tragedies of gay lives. Race has come to be understood as much more complicated than early theorizations realized, and the problems of theorizing power and possibilities of resistance continue to engage thinkers, as the essays in this issue amply show.
Skip Nav Destination
Jonathan Culler; Afterword: Theory Now and Again. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 January 2011; 110 (1): 223–230. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2010-030
Download citation file: