I'll explain the main Literary Theories here, so they don't seem to people quite so strange or esoteric. Can you ever prove authorial intention for meaning? Does a text have meaning that can be extracted objectively, regardless of taste or aesthetic quality? If not, what is the point of literature that says nothing? These are rhetorical questions here, but they are questions that are raised in Literary Theory. Believe it or not, there is a Literary Theory that rejects theory. It is called Neopragmatism. But we will return to this shortly. Also, the first thing that must be pointed out is that Literary Theory does not exist in a vacuum, most of the theories can either be applied to other academic approaches, such as New Historicism and Deconstructionist, or are political ideologies such as Marxist and Feminist theory. Imagine a party scene - yes, you, now. Just do it. Everyone is swinging around bottles of beer in tune to the music, having a very good time. The music is loud, it doesn't matter what is playing just make sure it is a song people can dance to. David Guetta should give you enough songs to pick from. Imagine during all the fun an argument breaks out, which as the music dies develops into a physical fight. The fight is broken up, and each person is quickly taken away, to opposite directions of the room to cool down. However when one of the combatants is being taken away a new person enters the room who does not know a fight has happened, and the new person gives the fighter a second look the fighter takes to mean something like 'What a prick', and gets angry at the person who has just entered and becomes aggressive again. Maybe he calls the new person a prick, I'm leaving it up to you, it is your imagination. The point is, when the new person entered the room and gave the fighter a look the fighter then interpreted as having meaning, was it actually meaning? In short: can meaning ever be unintended? There is no real answer to this question, however let us make it more complicated still. In the core Neopragmatism essay 'Against Theory' the example is given of a poem being made by the sea just happening to leave what appears to be words in the beach when it retreats that we can understand. Could such a poem ever really have meaning? Or is it just the meaning we impose simply because we can recognize it as language? This is a poem without an author, and yet it has meaning: does this really make any sense? As a matter of fact, this is not such an extreme example. We do have literary works where the author is unknown. Beowulf, The Song of Cid, even Homer's works we cannot ascribe concretely to a single person, so if we do not know the author - and thus the author's intent - how could we possibly know the meaning of a text? The point of Literary Theory is to answer this question. Find meaning in a text without an author, and even (yes) despite the author. Is what the author claims they intended even relevant to the meaning of a text? I would argue that it is often: no. I say this simply because we can find complete meaning in texts where the author is unknown, or the author's intent cannot possibly be known. Charlotte Bronte is not around anymore for us to ask her what she intended Jane Eyre to mean. Jane Eyre though, can be theorized along a number of different approaches that unless we think about the novel in these terms would likely not be even thought of or emphasized. Like, say, if we approach Jane Eyre from a Marxist perspective, which would emphasize what significance material wealth has in the novel. How are the rich opposed to the poor portrayed in the novel, and how is capitalism and money reflected in the novel? We can also see it from a Feminist perspective, seeing how the novel portrays and comments on the patriarchy. There is also a Colonial, or Post Colonial perspective (small but important difference between the two) which will look at Bertha, and how Rochester's connection to the slave trade is portrayed - remember that Rochester's estate is supported by the slave trade. What does this say? What about an Ecological perspective? How is nature used in the text, and to what end? Or could we use a New Historicist approach, that sees the novel of a specific place and time, and looks at what was happening at the time and how it was being applied (by market sales and so on) but a New Historicist reading would seek to make value judgement, seeing them as intrusions and reinterpretations no matter how well-meaning. To a New Historicist the continued appreciation for a text is in it's applicability. There is strong evidence to suggest that The Illiad was at the time it was originally read to be purely about the Greek concept of 'arate', but we modern people find new meaning and beauty in the text, thus it is continued to be read. There is also the Bakhtin Cronotope method of approaching a test, which like New Historicism sees texts as a specific time and place, but instead looks at how time and place is used in a text to reveal character attitudes and motivations. An example would be how time and travel changes a character's personality. However, this is the most complicated and esoteric approach to understand, it would be hard to explain here with any justice. Now to make things even harder. In the work of Swiz linguist Ferdinand Saussure, who focused on how people interpret language, he claims a word has two parts: the Signifier and the Signified. The Signifier is the sound of the word, the Signified is the meaning of the word. So if someone where to see the word 'Hweat', many people might know the sound of the letters combined, but the meaning would allude anyone unfamiliar with Anglo-Saxon. We still do not fully understand what the word 'Hweat' means. At first it was taken to mean something like 'Hark', but now we think it means 'What'. The Signifier is well known, and it has obvious intention because it is used in plenty of Anglo-Saxon poems (Beowulf among them) but the Signified is still unknown. The Signified meaning comes with common agreement. So if a person who has never seen the word 'Hweat' before, they will not see the difference between it and 'Gozrbed' which I googled and is not a word. How would they know what is the difference between an unknown word and gobbledygook? Short answer is they can't. Thus without a solid Signified the Signifier would allow us to impose any number of meanings on a text as we please, so long as it can be supported by things in the text itself. This is Deconstructionism. This is opposed to the theory of Constructionism, which seeks to understand how stories and meaning can be constructed in rigid, scientific methods. The more methods we use to approach a text the more meanings and different aspects of the novel we find. We cannot help but find something for each above method if we look for it in most texts. If you are determined to find a condemnation in Jane Eyre of the capitalist system then chances are you are going to find it. However this is the joy of Literary Theory. The more approaches we take to a text, the more appreciation we often find for it, because we see how clever the text can be supposed as a work of art. We not just find new reasons to enjoy a text, we also find new ways to inform the message of a text which can inform our own creative process; it certainly affects what we can take away from a text both as readers and as people. That is, of course, if you think if literature is to attempt to be a comment on the human condition at all. Hopefully now Literary Theory will not seem so strange and esoteric.