The Virtual Theorist

home-libraryI am delighted that The Virtual Theorist is launching today, a pedagogic project I have been working on for a while now. This is a resource for students studying literary theory, and offers a new approach which we hope will be accessible and appealing to students who are new to the subject. It is funded by the Higher Education Academy and created and managed by the School of English at Birmingham City University, with contributions from academic staff across many institutions.

The website offers a brief, clear introduction to a range of literary theories (and more will be added in time), a bibliography for each concept, and an analysis of a poem using theoretical ideas from each area. All the analyses are of Christina Rossetti’s poem ‘Goblin Market’, and the approaches show some very different aspects to the poem, from issues of gender to those of form, historical context to psychoanalytical thought.

The thinking behind The Virtual Theorist is that students often engage well with the ideas presented them in the writings of Derrida, for bcu_logo_squareexample, or concepts of prosody, but find it difficult to integrate these ideas into their own literary criticism. The website offers examples of how this might be done.

Early feedback has been very positive; comments include:

“This resource makes a strong case for the continued importance of theory in literary studies.  It provides lucid introductions to the various authors and associated theories, while the worked literary examples demonstrate what each has to offer.  Too often students turn away perplexed from theoretical material.  This resource will help students to understand each of the theories and how they might be applied in their own work.”

“…each of these introductions manages to make their subjects seem alive and relevant. I think that it will make an excellent resource for students, as well as newcomers to any particular theory.”

“This is a very elegant and accessible resource.”

“I think that the tone is perfect as well as the structure and content. Using Rossetti’s Goblin Market while looking at each of the differeHEA_generic_logo_PNGnt theories brilliantly exemplifies the initial points about perspective and ranges of interpretation.”

“An essential guide to literary theory for all students. I wish I’d had it sooner!”

The authors of every section are academics at UK universities, and every page has been peer-reviewed. I would be grateful if you would pass on details to colleagues who might be interested and students who would find this resource useful. If you have any queries or comments, please use the contact form on this blog or on The Virtual Theorist.

You can read more about The Virtual Theorist on the BCU website, or visit the site.


  1. Thank you very much! It’s an interesting experiment in different readings as well as a way of looking at different theoretical methods. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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