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Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction…

Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (1997)

by Jonathan D. Culler

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1,128167,270 (3.56)20
  1. 10
    50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know by John Sutherland (TeaWren)
    TeaWren: I recommend '50 Literature Ideas' first as it provides a clear, concise overview of 50 common literary terms. This way, when 'Literary Theory' uses those words to describe other words/ideas you'll know what it's on about. I wish I'd done that.
  2. 00
    Six Walks in the Fictional Woods by Umberto Eco (Oct326)

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Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, as you might have guessed by the title, gives you a quick overview on the importance of literary theory. It is a little introduction on the history and the progression of literary studies. It was interesting how the book looked at literary criticism as a field of studies that is losing a battle to cultural studies. Even thought this field steams from the study of literature, people seem more interested in studying music, movies and TV than literature. Cultural studies seem to be pushing out literary studies and, sadly, the two fields may merge.

I got the broad-brush strokes on literary theory from this book but it never really explored any literary movements in great detail. I really wanted to learn more about the different schools of thought. The book provides a basic idea of what each school is focusing on; “‘the class struggle’ (Marxism), ‘the possibility of unifying experience’ (the new criticism), ‘Oedipal conflict’ (psychoanalysis), ‘the containment of subversive energies’ (new historicism), ‘the asymmetry of gender relations’ (feminism), ‘the self-deconstructive nature of the text’ (deconstruction), ‘the occlusion of imperialism’ (postcolonial theory), ‘the heterosexual matrix’ (gay and lesbian studies).” This did allow me to have a general idea of the schools but I suspect there is a lot more complexity to them. Also this is a very small sample of the different schools of thought; probably just the more popular ones..

In the end I found the most informative section of the book to be the appendix, which had a brief definition of most of the literary schools of thought. This was the information that I was looking for but the book did provide a decent starting point for someone like me. I know I will need to read a lot more about literary theory but I’m starting to get a handle on what to expect. I know I’ll never be an expert in all fields but the more I learn, the more I understand each school of thought in a basic sense.

I feel like my interests will be focused on psychoanalysis and Marxism. I like the idea of using psychology to analyse characters in a book; it could be dark and twisted and that is the type of thing I’m interested in. You only have to see my opinions on Frankenstein and Crime and Punishment to see that. I’m also interested in the social structure and how society affects the characters, so I think Marxism will be an interesting field of study as well; it will also have the added bonus of freaking out my in-laws.

This A Very Short Introduction series of books are a great idea, I can see myself trying out some different ones in different ranges of topics. They don’t just focus on literature, you can learn about religion, sociology, music, history, psychology, science and so much more. I plan to try out a few more of the books; I’m thinking the one on Marx might be my next choice. They are short and if you prefer they are also available as audiobooks.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/06/06/literary-theory-a-very-short-introduc... ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 7, 2014 |
Not short enough. So dense as to make the reader wonder why she should bother with literary theory at all. Not finished. ( )
  sturlington | Nov 1, 2014 |
Capsule review: Difficult. Some interesting ideas, but I don't feel like I got a good, general understanding of the subject. Additionally, the language seems not to be aimed at the beginner. ( )
  Sopoforic | Feb 6, 2014 |
-takes away much of the confusion of this topic ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 31, 2013 |
Very useful idea for a reference book, great choice of subject matter, nice compact size. Horrible writing style. There were sentences so convoluted in here I reread them thrice over just to make sure I wasn't imagining things or going blind. ( )
1 vote Atsa | May 23, 2013 |
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In literary and cultural studies these days there is a lot of talk about theory - not theory of literature, mind you; just plain 'theory'.
Chapter 1
What is theory?

In literary and cultural studies these days, there has for some time been a lot of talk about theory — not theory of literature, mind you; just plain 'theory'.  (2nd ed.)
Many introductions to literary theory describe a series of 'schools' of criticism.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 019285383X, Paperback)

What is literary theory? Is there a relationship between literature and culture? In fact, what is literature, and does it matter? These questions and more are addressed in Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, a book which steers a clear path through a subject which is often perceived to be complex and impenetrable.
Jonathan Culler, an extremely lucid commentator and much admired in the field of literary theory, offers discerning insights into such theories as the nature of language and meaning, and whether literature is a form of self-expression or a method of appeal to an audience. Concise yet thorough, Literary Theory also outlines the ideas behind a number of different schools: deconstruction, semiotics, postcolonial theory, and structuralism, among others.
From topics such as literature and social identity to poetry, poetics, and rhetoric, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction is a welcome guide for anyone interested in the importance of literature and the debates surrounding it.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

From topics such as literature and social identity to poetry, poetics, and rhetoric, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction is a welcome guide for anyone interested in the importance of literature and the debates surrounding it.

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