I began my academic career as a student of literature. I went into English because I like reading and I like writing – and it also dove-tailed with my interest in theatre, in which I obtained a minor. In the end, though, English was maybe not the best subject for me. When I look back over the essays I wrote during my undergrad, almost every single one is about situating the work in its social or historical context. I never got into heavy theoretical analysis and, in fact, it drove me insane. It has always seemed to me like nothing more than games that we play in our heads, looking for meaning that isn’t there and laying our after-the-fact interpretations on the text as if it’s something definitive. I recently had a conversation with a friend who studied art history, and found the same thing.
When I was almost done law school, someone finally explained the point of theory to me – that we use it not because it gives a full and real picture of the subject we are analysing, but because it gives the researcher a structure framework in which to conduct the analysis. While I still maintain that psycho-analysing Hamlet (a fictional character with no sub-conscious) is of limited value, that explanation made sense to me. I wish that someone had told me that when I first started university – I think it would have made the whole game make at least a bit more sense.