Worst Bookish Theories Ever!

orangutan list

I’ve read and seen and heard a lot of daft theories over the years. In fact, way back when, I had a whole diatribe against people who say “read between the lines” to defend their shitty not-so-well-substantiated literary theories. Now, I’m quite open-minded about theories in general- but there are a few over the years that I think are beyond ridiculous. Today I thought I’d share some of the most bonkers ones!

bran night king

Bran was a time travelling Night King- to me, this one’s just funny. Aside from just *why* it’s not logical cos the books exist and the Night King’s not a character there. But whatever, I guess for this one you can believe what you want, even if I personally find it a bit silly.

goblins harry potter

J K Rowling is an anti-Semite because the goblins were clearly a symbol for *the Jews*- holyshitholyshitholyshit!!! It’s good I don’t have the provenance of this opinion anymore cos the funny thing is Rowling wasn’t the one being a raging anti-Semite here. The person who saw goblin + bank in a book and added that up to = the Jews is the one being Anti-Semitic. (And yes, there’s a whole bunch of bad Harry Potter theories, but to me this is the worst).

ball pride and prejudice

Darcy and Elizabeth were never in love/never fall in love– someone once had a whole argument with me about this. Look, you’re free to not enjoy their love story and you don’t have to like the book… but they literally confess their love to each other and get married! You have to literally go against canon to believe this!

mercutio

Romeo and Juliet is a comedy– this came from someone trying to be clever (while sounding like an idiot). Again, some interpretation here is valid: after all it’s a tragedy with comic elements. But to take it to the extreme and call it a comedy (when, spoiler alert, they both die in the end) is just ridiculous. Maybe don’t waste everyone’s time with this argument.

shakespeare2

Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare– technically this is more of a conspiracy theory than a literary theory, but it’s a very popular one. Unfortunately, some of those people are famous and get a lot of attention for it. As Krysta discussed recently in her review for Contested Will, this is a view often rooted in classism (after all, how could an uneducated actor write these plays?). Yet, having seen people argue all sorts of things for the provenance of Shakespeare, I’d say that this tells you a lot more about the conspiracy theorist than the (if you’re classist, you’ll assume it was a powerful rich guy; if you’re a little too into feminism, you’ll say it was a woman; maybe if you’re too into “Death of the Author”, then you’ll say it was a composite of people… etcetera etcetera… I’ve seen them all!). To me, it’s far from the most important thing about Shakespeare, I just get very suspicious of the people who give this ahistorical point of view credence.

Joanna Baillie

Joanna Baillie wasn’t popular or beloved or remembered because of sexism– nope- she’s just bad. I dare you to read one of her works. Go on- test this theory for yourself. Look, I get where this theory is coming from: there are hidden gems out there that could be included in canon. That said, not everything fits into this vein. Just because Bailey is a woman, doesn’t mean she was overlooked for no good reason (incidentally, there were just fewer literate and educated people, let alone women, so it’s stands to reason that the talent pool was smaller). And even if you don’t agree with me about the quality of her works, the same logic applies: just because something isn’t popular or remembered doesn’t mean there was some nefarious plot. Ultimately, while everyone wants to find the next John Donne, likelihood, all you’re getting is the next George Herbert (and if you’re response to that is who? my point is exactly).

Okay- I obviously don’t agree with these theories- but see if you can convince me otherwise… (or feel to chime in if you think they’re bad too 😉) What bad literary theories have you heard? Let me know in the comments!

67 thoughts on “Worst Bookish Theories Ever!

  1. Lol seriously goblins = jews ? This is so funny. Somehow the Darcy/Elisabeth one does make a little sense. I read it recently, and although they indeed said they loved each other, I kept feeling Elisabeth wasn’t THAT in love with Darcy, but that’s probably a subjective feeling :p

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    1. hehe I know right!! It’s bonkers! hahaha yeah to be fair- I could’ve understood if it was just that Elizabeth wasn’t in love with him- but the person that said that to me didn’t even agree that Darcy had said he loved her… even though that’s in the book!!

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  2. Romeo and Juliet is a comedy😲 Darcy and Elizabeth were never in love/never fall in love 😲😲 What’s that with Goblin and Jews?😲 unbelievable! Where do you hear such things!! 🤣😂 If these are the examples of bad literary theories, I’m happy to say I haven’t heard any. That Shakespeare one I know because I read that argument in a book, Well Met.

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    1. Yeah I can’t believe I’ve heard all of those too (the Romeo and Juliet one was in an academic circle and the Elizabeth/Darcy one was by someone who’d studied English Lit to a degree level… though I don’t know where and wouldn’t have much faith in the institution after that! 😉 ) There are some crazy theories out there!

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  3. Ooo, ooo, I thought of one! Tom Bombadil and the Witch King of Angmar are the same person. Exhibit A: You never see them together! There was lots of other evidence as well.

    I think the theory was tongue in cheek, though, as it appeared on the Tolkien Sarcasm Page.

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  4. The only one I was familiar with was the Shakespeare one. But I’ve heard that one so often that I simply tune it out. Of course, the first person I heard it from was Derek Jacobi, so I tend to remember that! (not that he told me personally. You know what I mean)

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  5. The Shakespeare one is well-known, though it doesn’t lend it any credence 😉 I was happy not knowing the Jews/goblin one; it’s as credible as claiming that the house elves are representative of African Americans from the times of slavery. All in all, very interesting!

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    1. hehe yeah I know (although unfortunately some people take it seriously!) hahaha I wish I’d never heard it either- so stupid!! hahahaha yeah that’d be horrible! I don’t know why people can’t hear themselves when they say dumb things tbh.

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    1. Yeah completely agree with you about Shakespeare.
      Well I get what you’re saying about Nazi propaganda, but the thing is Rowling wasn’t drawing a connection with Jews- so it’s kind of on the person reading that interpretation into the book

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  6. this came from someone trying to be clever (while sounding like an idiot). Hahaha! You’re amazing.
    I’ve never heard the HP one. I mean…what a horrible thought to have by someone. How does someone even come up with that?

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  7. Every time I hear the “Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare” argument I want to bang my head against the wall. I also hate hearing that he didn’t write everything he is credited for, because there are tonal and stylistic differences in his work. Really? A writer can’t have any variety or grow and change as an artist?

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  8. These are awesome! I don’t have patience for the Shakespeare theories — he existed, he wrote his plays, period. Move on! I never heard the HP one — that’s infuriating! GoT spawned so many out-there theories, including Bran/Night King, but also bizarre ones about Arya and everyone else. The only GoT theory that was really worthwhile was Jon Snow’s parentage, but then (in the show) it didn’t end up mattering a whole lot, so what was the point?

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    1. Ahh I completely agree with you! yeah the HP really infuriates me too. haha it really did- tbf, I think they’re nonsensical, but at least I enjoy them. Yeah I completely agree with you there (unfortunately- I really wanted it to at least mean *something*- or have some emotional impact).

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  9. I think I saw a semi-decent movie made out of the Shakespeare one, but it was fun rather than to be taken seriously! Hmm, think all I could half-add would be the theories about GRRM deliberately swerving finishing off ASoIaF.

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  10. Yes, people have disputed Shakespeare for decades. Back in College, my Shakespearean professor said those who disclaimed him were pimply ass educators who just couldn’t believe an uneducated man could have such talent. LOL! I will never believe these theories, especially since my dog is named Shakespeare.

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  11. There are definitely some crazy theories out there, and I never before even heard about anyone thinking that Darcy and Lizzie weren’t in love. I mean, they are one of literature’s most famous couples! And they’re sassy and adorable. Anyway, I guess I see what people mean by Romeo and Juliet being a comedy but I really don’t think they are using the right word. It’s not a comedy, at least to my understanding, but a parody. Shakespeare loved satire and apparently, he was trying to make fun of those super dramatic teen romances. But people took it seriously, and it stuck. I mean, I could be completely wrong, but while reading his work that’s how R&J looked to me.
    Great post as always!

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    1. yeah there are. Yeah surprisingly, I’m now seeing other people have heard that one before as well- it’s crazy!! Yes!! Yeah it has parodic (and even comic elements) but it’s incorrect to say it’s a comedy (that’s a type of genre and it directly doesn’t follow the generic conventions of a comedy). I think there are elements of that- but at the same time, it doesn’t follow the generic conventions of a parody (at least not by the end… and it’s missing a lot of the ways a satire is framed as well… tbh I did a specific course on satire at uni, so I can’t see it). Thank you!

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  12. The whole “Rowling is an anti-semite” came off the wings of her whole “TERF” controversy. Mostly it’s people trying to claim that she’s “always been problematic” so they formed half-baked conspiracy theories about her so they could feel justified in hating her.

    There…there are people that actually believe Darcy and Elizabeth don’t love each other? Then why did they get together? It wasn’t an arranged marriage. Nobody was trying to push them together. Did they offer ANY kind of evidence to support this claim? That makes absolutely zero sense.

    I don’t like the theory that Bran is the Night King, but I do like the theory that his time travel shenanigans are what lead The Mad King to go crazy and try to burn King’s Landing. I think that one has legs, although it probably is not true.

    As for Romeo and Juliet…okay, I don’t believe it was SUPPOSED to be a comedy, but I still found it pretty damn funny.. Especially when Friar Lawrence smacks Romeo for being a weepy bitch and tells him his “tears are womanly.”

    Sigh. I had an ex that truly believed Shakespeare didn’t write any of his own plays. Like, any of them. I tried explaining that he DID write them, it’s just copyright laws didn’t exist back then so it’s likely SOME things were lifted from other works of fiction, but all the beautiful diction was still him. He did not listen.

    No clue who the last chick is, but that doesn’t make sense since there are plenty of women from the literary past who were revered like Jane Austin, the Brontë sisters, etc. Sure people were still sexist towards them, but that didn’t stop them from gaining notoriety or the check from clearing the bank.

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    1. Ah that makes sense, I get why people made the claim a bit more now… although it’s still awful

      Haha I know!! It’s crazy!! It makes no sense if you’ve actually read the book… which apparently the person that made claim had… and apparently done English to degree level too! (and they wouldn’t even listen to the fact that Darcy had *said* he loved her in the book)…and that’s just one person- cos I’ve heard other people have heard this one too!

      Yeah I think that one’s silly. I don’t mind it so much- but there’s no logic to it.

      Ahh that I can *completely* understand. Hahaha!

      Oh dear! Haha wow that’s not even a good reason to think they weren’t by Shakespeare… if you read/study any books before copyright, you can always see a bunch of different examples of the same story by different people- because of course people copied each other!

      Yeah I know- I completely agree! (worst thing of all is I had a professor that said that… *sigh*). It’s like people haven’t heard of Austen or Bronte or Eliot etc, etc, etc! Yes absolutely!! I would never argue that sexism wasn’t a problem- but I think it doesn’t take a genius to realise that some people don’t make it cos they weren’t any good! (and some of Bailey’s plays, that actually got put on, were famously failures- one didn’t even make it for a week long run in theatre).

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  13. Such an interesting post! I am so interested in what you said about the Shakespeare isn’t Shakespeare argument coming out of classicism. I don’t know much about it (my way of dealing with conspiracy theories is usually not to engage), but that makes a lot of sense – and it’s quite sad! Poor old Shakey

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  14. Wow! These are quite wild! I’ve never heard the one about the goblins fortunately because I have no clue where that came from. There is nothing I remember in the books to suggest that, at all!

    Darcy/Elizabeth…hm. Maybe you could argue Elizabeth was less in love because she accepted the offer after she saw Darcy’s fancy house and he did her a favor, and, really what were her other options? But, the whole book, she is strong-willed and she does reject Mr. Collins’ offer, even though she couldn’t anticipate getting another one after. So I think she would have rather died unmarried than marry someone she didn’t like and respect to some degree! I think Elizabeth does have to love Darcy, at least a little!

    Um, I think it’s obvious Romeo and Juliet is ultimately a tragedy just from the old understanding that comedies ended happily, usually in marriage, and tragedies ended in death. Yeah, I’m gonna go with tragedy on that one.

    The Shakespeare conspiracy theories always bother me. Some of them are so absurdly convoluted. People would rather believe a dead person wrote the plays than actual Shakespeare!

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    1. Yeah that one is crazy bad!! I’m glad I don’t remember (and I don’t want to look it up, cos I just know it’ll make me mad!)

      Yeah I could’ve understood making that argument about Elizabeth (in fact I made that point to the person in question) although I agree that it doesn’t make sense with the full context of the book. That said, the person argued that, despite making a proclamation of love, Darcy just wasn’t into Elizabeth either… and that makes no sense! (also I’m now finding out I’m not the only one to have heard this theory- which amazes me!)

      Yeah exactly- I think it’s absolutely fine to mention that it has comic elements (even parodic ones)… but ultimately it’s pushing that argument too far to say it’s somehow a comedy.

      And yeah I agree!! I know!!

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      1. I think that Darcy could have just said, “Will you marry me?” to Elizabeth if he didn’t love her. Plenty of women like Charlotte were marrying for convenience/social standing/money and Darcy could be forgiven for assuming Elizabeth might marry him for similar reasons, regardless of his feelings of love. I think, considering how shy he says he is, he wouldn’t have add all that love talk if he didn’t mean it! So, yeah, not sure why multiple people think Darcy’s lying! (It would also kind of ruin the story if he were? The book is a romance. How is it a romance without love?? Don’t tell me every romcom I’ve watched is a lie, too!!)

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  15. Ha ha, yes – I’ve seen these floating around.

    The Shakespeare question is one that’s garnered a ton of academic debate — though, last time I took a Shakespearean lit class ( … not ages ago, but not yesterday) it was generally agreed that the vast majority of the canon is actually his. (Of course, throughout history, there have been cases were works have been wrongly attributed.)

    That said, it’s a fun idea to play with. I quite enjoyed the movie Anonymous — which depicts the Earl of Oxford as the real author.

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    1. haha yeah it has (unfortunately) although I hear you- the Shakespeare one isn’t popular in most academic circles at least (I think, from what I’ve seen, it’s more popular in the entertainment world atm). but yeah that’s true

      Oh I’ve heard that- someone else commented about it- and now I’m super curious! It sounds like fun

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  16. I haven’t heard about all of these, but I do know about the Shakespeare one. 😂 Depending on my menopausal mood I can either laugh them off or want to slap someone. 😉

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