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Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, Third Edition [Paperback]

Peter Barry
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 15 2009 0719079276 978-0719079276 3

This book has been helping students navigate through the thickest of literary and cultural theory for well over a decade now. This new and expanded third edition continues to offer students and readers the best one-volume introduction to the field.

The bewildering variety of approaches, theorists and technical language is lucidly and expertly unravelled. Unlike many books which assume certain positions about the critics and the theories they represent, Peter Barry allows readers to develop their own ideas once first principles and concepts have been grasped.

The book has been updated and includes two new chapters, one of which (Literary theory -- a history in ten events) innovatively surveys the course of theory, while  the other (Theory after ‘Theory’) maps the arrival of new 'isms' since the second edition appeared in 2002.

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Product Description


“It is no surprise to learn that Beginning theory has already been reprinted nine times. There is no other book that offers such a comprehensive account of the field, combined with thoughtful, detailed exposition of the theoretical approaches under discussion. Far from being a modest survey of contemporary literary theory, it has had a vital role in shaping the way that theory is taught in Britain and North America.” --English Association Newsletter

About the Author

Peter Barry is Professor of English at the University of Aberystwyth.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great intro Oct. 11 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great introduction to theory, quite simply explained, yet still exhaustive enough to be useful beyond an intro class. This class saved my bacon in my beginning theory class, textbook SUCKED so I bought this on a whim at my college bookstore and ended up getting an A in the course instead of the C I'm sure I would have gotten without it
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Feb. 21 2013
By Henna
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was very pleased with this product. I had to buy it for a class and the book is very expensive at the book store but cheap on amazon! It was brand new condition and came on time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hit for British Lit Studies, A Bit of a Miss for American Lit Feb. 14 2011
By Victoria - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There's no denying that this book is a good, standard, all-encompassing Lit Theory book, especially for British literature studies. It mostly translates well into American Studies, with a few differences in names for some of the theories. The major "miss" that American teachers wishing to use this book should make a note of is that it lacks any information of African American literature studies. It touches on colonialism, but African American culture and literature is distinct to the US. American Lit Theory/Studies professors should be aware of this, and African American literary theory should be accounted for with supplemental material. Otherwise, the book is reader-friendly and thorough.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deciphering the Code April 16 2013
By E. Strickenburg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I didn't discover this book until halfway through a graduate level class on Postcolonial Theory. This would be after trying to keep my head above water while reading Derrida in the original language. I wish I'd read it years ago.

Despite its bland title and intimidating chapter headings, this book is very accessible. Each chapter takes a different ideological camp of literary theory -- from Post-structuralism to New Historicism -- and breaks it down into understandable terms. A brief history of each theory is given, along with an introduction to important scholars and influential works in the field. For me, the most helpful aspect was the practical application: the bullet pointed lists of what scholars from each camp actually do, and the mini-essays interpreting specific poems and short stories using the principles of each camp of literary criticism. (Several poems and short stories are included in the appendix and it was fascinating to see the same story interpreted differently depending on the chapter.)

For me, reading this book was like discovering the cipher to a code that I was already supposed to know. The articles for my class, which are littered with references to Foucault, textual deconstruction, Bhabha, and Narratology, are beginning to make sense. The genius of this book is its ability to take obtuse terms and abstract concepts and to bring them down to earth. The author writes in an easy going, casual voice, and isn't afraid to poke fun at his own profession at times. After Derrida, it's a breath of fresh air.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice beginners book Feb. 22 2010
By Igor Dimeaux - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I purchased the book to prepare myself for a degree in cultural and literary studies. The book is excellent as a beginners book. The only problem is that it is too small for the range it covers. The informations are short and almost encyclopedic. The author usually connects only one person with a (cultural) period or an idea (for example Barthes with Post-structuralism or Derrida with Postmodernism). However, as I said, there is no better book for beginners.
There are parts in the book (towards the end of every chapter) that help you to understand better the ideas presented (these are called STOP and THINK, where the author of the book helps you to apply the knowledge you gained from reading about a certain theory). Also, there are, at the end of every chapter, suggested books for "further reading" with short explanations pointing (in a nutshell) the quality and shortcomings (biases etc) of each book.
At the end, I can just conclude that this book is worth buying only as a beginning point (probably that's why there is BEGINNINGS in the name of the book). If you already know something, and still look for a book to help you understand theory, get separate books for every kind of theory (e.g. get a book on post-structuralism, book on postmodernism etc.)
PS. The book itself was poorly made. It already started falling apart and I have it less than a month.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Would Not Recommend March 17 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
To speak the truth, not a very informative text. After reading Robert Dale Parker's How to Interpret Literature, I see that Barry has left out so much. Perhaps the weakest sections are on psychoanalysis (particularly Lacan) and feminism. Let me tell you, if I had only read this book, I would have had nary a clue as to what professors in upper-level classes mean when they mention "signs of the father" or gynocriticism or even discourse. If you are using this in your theory class, grab a supplementary text.

Plus, what is the deal with the old man and the kitty on the cover. Creepy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty easy to understand. Oct. 15 2013
By Nora - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I got this book for my graduate school Literary Theory class. Each theory gets it's own chapter, and I find Barry's writing to be very down-to-earth and easy to comprehend (especially compared to Eagleton).

If you need this for a textbook, don't fret - this is a really good book! If you need a guide through literary theory or a resource for writing an essay or analyzing literature, I highly recommend Beginning Theory. It's just a good guide to have on hand if you are in the field of literature, literary theory, or English.
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