In the 1980s, first-year undergraduates reading English at Oxford could take a course in Literary Theory. Good idea, you might think. A bit of Aristotle, Sidney's Apology for Poetry, Dryden, Johnson, Coleridge, Matthew Arnold, T. S. Eliot - what better way of showing students at the outset of their degree that literature had been thought about and discussed in a great variety of ways?
Except, of course, it wasn't like that. Study typically began in the early years of the 20th century, with the work of the linguistician Ferdinand de Saussure and the Russian formalists, such as Viktor Shklovsky. On the students toiled, through structuralism, post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, feminism and post-modernism. It was as if no one had really thought about literature before European philosophy had taken its "linguistic turn" towards structuralism. A course that should have opened minds proved in fact to be the narrowest of intellectual prison-houses. Even so, it was surely a pretty demanding course, not just in terms of reading load but of linguistic competence. To do it properly you would need a good reading knowledge of, at the least, French, German and Russian. A smattering of Czech might even come in handy, if you were tempted to spend a week on the Prague school of linguistics.
But - again, of course - it wasn't like that. It was a monoglot course for largely monoglot students. In fact, many of those who took it seemed to read only one book: Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory: An Introduction.