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Wayne C. Booth (1921–2005)

Author of The Craft of Research

25+ Works 5,589 Members 39 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

A graduate student at the University of Chicago in the late 1940s, when the English Department was dominated by members of the Chicago School of criticism, Wayne Booth returned to his alma mater in the early 1960s and became an exponent of its critical methodology. The Chicago Critics were show more influenced by the formalistic, rhetorical analysis of the Poetics of Aristotle, which was concerned with the principles of literary construction and literary esthetics. Unlike the New Critics, who shared their interest in formalist analysis of texts, the Chicago Critics emphasized the importance of knowledge about the author and his or her historical context. They considered the New Criticism, which had developed at about the same time, too restrictive in its bracketing of that information as external to the text and therefore incidental to understanding and evaluating it. The first generation of Chicago School critics, who were Booth's teachers, did not have much impact beyond the university itself. Booth, however, continued to advocate pluralism. Critical Understanding: The Powers and Limits of Pluralism Critical Understanding: (1979) helped revitalize and popularize Chicago School principles. Booth is associated with two other movements in contemporary literary theory: reader-response criticism and narratology. The former includes a heterogeneous group of reader-oriented rather than text-oriented methodologies. The latter is usually seen as a type of structuralist or proto-structuralist literary study, since it focuses on the function and the grammar, or structure, of narrative. Linked with both is Booth's Rhetoric of Fiction (1962), which concentrates on the analysis of point of view and how writers manipulate it so that readers accept the values of the implied author of a text's narration. Booth's work has increasingly emphasized reading, ethics, and the rhetoric of persuasion-a concern already implicit in this early book. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by Wayne C. Booth

The Craft of Research (1995) 3,766 copies, 24 reviews
The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961) 875 copies, 11 reviews
A Rhetoric of Irony (Phoenix Books) (1974) 176 copies, 1 review

Associated Works

A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (1955) — Editor, some editions — 8,278 copies, 26 reviews
The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction (1983) — Contributor — 1,140 copies, 3 reviews
Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (1929) — Introduction, some editions — 447 copies, 1 review
Theory's Empire: An Anthology of Dissent (2005) — Contributor — 100 copies, 2 reviews
Essays on Aristotle's Poetics (1992) — Contributor — 33 copies
Proving Contraries (2005) — Contributor — 5 copies


Common Knowledge



The act of research – whether in the natural sciences, social sciences, or humanities – undergirds so much of modern society. The skills help us think and then test those thoughts in light of outside information (data). Without a rigorous set of methods, this act can become mere people pleasing, but with a firm framework, it continues to transform the way the world lives. This book, an educational standard for almost three decades with five authors, clearly communicates research’s foundations to those learning the craft. It’s appropriate for the classroom and individuals starting careers.

All authors were or are professors of English, so this book has a natural leaning towards the humanities. Nonetheless, it attempts to address all facets of the academic enterprise. Because the authors are involved with language, it communicates cognitive nuances that might be missed by experts in a field. Its wording is eloquent, and organization, tight.

Like most academic works, this book heavily relies on concepts and classical works, yet it also uses relatable, conversational English to convey its message. It walks readers through steps including why to identify as a researcher, how to pursue the process, how to think carefully, and how to communicate findings. As easily imaginable, the authors do a superb job of enhancing readers’ personal writing style in the last chapter.

We live in an information age where thinking about the world has become the most important skill. Ironically, some question the value of an education even in an information-rich environment. If information is freely available, they ask, what do universities have to offer? This book offers a forthright answer. A college education and research training offer students the ability to think and process the world constructively. Especially suited for later later undergraduates and early graduate students, this book shines a clear path forward for individual careers and ultimately society’s advance.
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scottjpearson | 23 other reviews | Apr 21, 2024 |
Turns out that rain on your wedding day is not ironic, but saying "like rain on your wedding day" definitely is.
audient_void | Jan 6, 2024 |
Every bit the classic it has long and widely been held to be.
Mark_Feltskog | 23 other reviews | Dec 23, 2023 |
It helps to have read Emma, Tristram Shandy, Samuel Beckett's Company, some Dafoe, some Swift, and whole lot of Henry James, to really piece this work together. Booth is primarily concerned with the relationship between the narrator, the implied author, and the reader. I think he is one of the first to use the term "unreliable narrator" to describe the critical distance required when reading a first person narrative.

I enjoyed his analysis of Austen's Emma the most, as I recently reread it and appreciated his commentary on Austen's use of narrative voice to gain the both the reader's sympathy and approbation for her heroine.

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jonbrammer | 10 other reviews | Jul 1, 2023 |



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