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 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.
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).
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!
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.
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 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!