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Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, Third Edition Paperback – Mar 15 2009
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“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 on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
Plus, what is the deal with the old man and the kitty on the cover. Creepy.
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