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Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – Oct 1 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (Oct. 1 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019285318X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853189
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.3 x 19 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,332,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review


"An excellent idea, these Very Short Introductions; a new concept from OUP."--The Guardian


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Oct. 12 2003
Format: Paperback
I have been reading Culler's more comprehensive books on Structuralism and Deconstruction. I was having trouble reading these, so I stopped and read this, along with the other "Very Short Introduction" on Poststructuralism (not by Culler.)
I am finishing up "On Deconstruction" and it has been very smooth sailing, thanks to this book.
If you are not a beginner, this book probably isn't necessary, but if you are, it might be useful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mssr. Nomdeplume on May 19 2004
Format: Paperback
Yes, the book does aim to answer questions about the nature of literature and theory rather than approach them from a school-by-school philosophical/ideological orientation. Some English student in a rush who just wants an elucidation of the major critical schools will find Culler's approach oblique and might want to find a different book to read. Culler's book is easy to read, fun, clear, yet it touches briefly on a lot of heavy ideas that are explained in plain language for beginners. I appreciate that he doesn't seem to privilege any one ideology but lets the reader make up his own mind; this is the sign of a mature educator. Other reviewers of this little gem have overlooked what is perhaps the most valuable part: the "Citations and Further Reading" section in the back. This helpful annotated bibliography is loaded with references to journals and books that are linked to each chapter topic. It gives specific page numbers where to locate the relevant information so you don't waste time searching. Believe me: this is great. If you are facing something like Derrida's Of Grammatology or de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics for the first time, it can be pretty intimidating. These valuable references make Culler's litle book the perfect self-study guide with the primary texts. The only disappointment I have is that this book does not teach the reader how to apply the information he reads here to other texts; for example, the reader isn't taught steps on how to "deconstruct" a text. But there are other books that already do that like Steven Lynn's Texts in Context or Critical Theory Today by Lois Tyson and many others that are equally good.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
First, if you have ever speculated that "theory" is primarily posturing by intellectuals with too much time on their hands in an attempt to justify their fringe political/social views, this book will probably confirm that belief for you. Further, if you have ever suspected that the arcane jargon created by "theory" practitioners is little more than obfuscation to ensure that their more outrageous pronouncements will be immune from refutation by intelligent but uninitiated outsiders, this book will do little to dissuade you. Nonetheless, if you want an approachable explication of what "theory" is all about, this is the book for you. Professor Culler does not argue the case for a particular school of thought, but explains (eschewing jargon when possible) the underlying currents of thought that drive literary analysis today. He starts by explaining the inextricable connection of literature theory to cultural studies and proceeds to explore the ramifications of that marriage. He then examines how literature theory attempts to answer questions about the nature of self, language, and meaning. To ensure that no single movement is given precedence, short descriptions of the tenets of the various schools are relegated to an appendix. The sheer number of approaches listed is breathtaking -- Russian Formalism, New Criticism, Phenomenology, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Deconstruction, Feminist Theory, Psychoanalysis, Marxism, New Historicism/Cultural Materialism, Post-Colonial Theory, Minority Discourse, and Queer Theory. So, if you simply want to know what all the "fuss" is about, or if you want to embark on a more serious study, start here.
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Format: Paperback
Once again, Culler shows that he can explain theory in a manner that is relatively accessible to the neophyte yet likely to go down well with his peers. All the same, the final effect is less than satisfying. As thoughtful as the seven meditations on theory and language are, they don't have sufficient cohesion to make much of an impression (let alone a memorable one) on a reader fresh to theory. One wishes the author had paid more attention to the historical periods of theory and the revisions of successive generations, if only to clarify key distinctions. Or that this commentary (like many other recent explanations of literary theory) did not pass by archetypal criticism, which may be reductive and out of fashion in the academy but for many younger readers offers an edifying and useful approach. Instead, he manages to touch on Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan in the introductory chapter and devotes later chapters to discussions about J. L. Austin and performative language along with a section about Judith Butler.
The Appendix, which provides a summary of various schools and methodologies, is written in unhelpful, "humanless" prose, as unaware of an audience as it is deaf to voice (certainly this isn't what Barthes had in mind when he sacrificed the author to the life of the text).
In short (or in this case, the very very short of it), there are some good things to be gleaned from this little text (especially if an instructor wishes to use it for "departure points"), but I'm afraid it's too arbitrary, personal, and eccentric to be of great service in the undergraduate classroom.
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