There are different types of literary theories; some are based on particular theories, while there are others that base their views from general principles. Most of them claim that there is a “unity” in the literature, while others consider it as a unity of diverse types. Others regard it as a unity of diverse forms. In addition, they have a tendency to adopt different definitions of unity. Some even claim that there is a “unity of dissimilarity” in literature, while others see it in the form of a difference in form, or of differences in content.
The major branches of literary theory are comparative, historical, structural, and analytical. Comparative literary theory looks into how the development of literature took place through the ages in various countries and periods. It also examines the impact of cultural and social factors, especially those that are prevalent in different cultures at a given point of time. Comparative literary theory therefore seeks to explain the similarities and differences between the literary works of various authors, from the perspective of the particular culture. Historical literary theory is about the development of literary forms throughout the ages and focuses mainly on the cultural and social factors that shaped these literary forms and their respective characteristics.
Structural literary theory takes into consideration the structure of literary works and examines how each of these works has been developed through time and in different genres. A number of literary forms, such as romance, comedy, and drama, are the outcome of complex and lengthy plots, which are then organized into simple and easy-to-follow stories. In most of these, readers have a clear understanding of what is going on within the plot-line. The purpose of this theory is to demonstrate that there exists a structure, which is an unbroken and regular flow and the reader can follow the plot without any difficulty or need for interpretation.
The main idea of analytical literary theory, which is also known as critical literary theory, is that the writer is more than an artist, and he/she is also a reader. a critic. Analytical literary theory thus defines the author as an observer, who takes into account and interprets the experience of his/her readers and their responses to the written word. The literary work must be examined critically, in order to establish its significance to the reader. In addition, literary works are analyzed critically in terms of themes that are related to literary theories and to the general literary works themselves.
Another branch of literary theory is structural, which focuses mainly on the study of specific works, such as novels, biographies, collections of short stories, etc. In structural studies, one is not allowed to simply examine a work’s structure, but the importance of each literary work depends on the genre and the intended purpose of it. These include, in particular, the themes of these works and what literary critics deem their meaning.
The last two literary theories are structural and analytical, which both focus on the analysis of literary works and their interpretation. They are the most important ones because of their similarities with other theories. Analytical literary theory bases its view on the concept that a literary work is more important than its content.
These are the only two literary theories that can be considered a part of literary theory. However, there are other theories, such as cultural and social theories.