Linda Hutcheon (1947-) - Key Figures in Literary Theory

The Blackwell Guide to Literary Theory - Gregory Castle 2007

Linda Hutcheon (1947-)
Key Figures in Literary Theory

Linda Hutcheon was born in Toronto, Canada, and educated at Cornell University and the University of Toronto, where she received a doctor-

ate in comparative literature in 1975. After teaching for twelve years at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, she took a position in comparative literature at the University of Toronto. Her work in theory, beginning with Narcissistic Narrative (1980), established her as a significant voice in Postmodernism. In A Theory of Parody (1985), she argued that intertextuality was a form of METADISCURSIVE critique. Hutcheon made her reputation as a theorist on the basis of A Poetics of Postmodernism (1988), which argues for a Postmodern aesthetics based on intertextuality and a critical historicism. A follow-up to that book, The Politics of Postmodernism (1989), furthers the argument of Poetics in part by a deeper concern for the ideological and political ramifications of Postmodern theoretical positions, especially with respect to history and representation in the arts. Also at this time, Hutcheon contributed to the debate over the relevance of Postmodernism for Postcolonial Studies. Her essay, “ ’Circling the Downspout of Empire' ” (1989), is a lucid argument for the progressive potential of Postmodernist strategies.

In the 1990s, Hutcheon pursued further her interest in a politicized rhetorical theory and published Irony’s Edge: The Theory and Politics of Irony in 1994. With her husband, Michael Hutcheon, she wrote Opera: Desire, Disease and Death (1996), a study of the operatic representations of “classic” illnesses (tuberculosis and syphilis), epidemics, tobacco use, and AIDS (the “gay plague”). In a “crypto-ethnic confession” of 1998, widely available on the internet, Hutcheon reclaimed her Italian heritage (she was born Bortolotti) from the Anglo name she had taken from her husband. It is an illuminating meditation on ethnicity and the social forces and traditions that mask it. Conscious of her own performance of ethnicity, she is sensitive to the performances of others. She has written extensively on Canadian literature and the complexities of multiculturalism in Toronto and other cities. In 2005, she received the Killam Prize (2005), Canada's most prestigious award for outstanding career achievements in the humanities.


Hutcheon, Linda. Irony’s Edge: The Theory and Politics of Irony. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.

---- . Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1980.

---- . A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1988.

---- . The Politics of Postmodernism. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 1989, 2002.