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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 andWhat 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....

Title : Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction
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ISBN : 9780192853189
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 145 Pages
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Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-02-10 01:39

    La Rochefoucault said that no one would ever have thought of being in love if they hadn’t read about it in books. I don’t believe that, do you? No. Not true at all.But that’s not what we’re here to discuss. So -, it’s been said before and I’ll say it againLITERARY THEORY – huuuagh! What is it good for? Absolutely nuthin.Theory is a body of thinking and writing whose limits are exceedingly hard to define. Theory isworks that succeed in challenging and reorienting thinking in fields other than those to which they apparently belongTheory isan unbounded group of writings about everything under the sun.Theory disputes the notion of “common sense”. It’s engaged inthe unsettling of anything that might have been taken for granted, it’sreflexive, thinking about thinking, an enquiry into the categories we use in making sense of thingsTheoryis intimidating (p15)One of the most dismaying features of theory today is that it is endless. It is not something you could ever masterTypical conversational gambit suggested by Jonathan Culler:“How can you write about the Victorian novel without using Foucault’s account of the deployment of sexuality and the hysterization of women’s bodies and Gayatri Spivak’s demonstration of the role of colonialism in the construction of the metropolitan subject?”Don’t say –“Oh, you’re so right – I’ve been such a fool.”Instead, try – “Spivak? But haven’t you read Benita Parry’s demolition of her categories and her fundamentally flawed response?”A good deal of the hostility to theory no doubt comes from the fact that to admit the importance of theory is to make an open-ended commitment… Theory makes you desire mastery…but theory makes mastery impossible…because theory is itself the questioning of presumed results and the assumptions on which they are based. This is notably strange in an introduction to an academic subject(although I have seen stranger) since :1) The author is admitting that there is quite a bit of hostility expressed by some towards his discipline2) He’s admitting that his discipline is impossibly large and forbiddingly arcane3) What he’s describing is “theory” and not “literary theory. It doesn’t become “literary” until it’s applied to literature. But then - what is literature? who says so? Why is it worth studying any more than soap opera? (Answer to this last – many think that it isn’t.)So the idea is that these various (often French) theorists, who were writing about all kinds of issues, psychotherapy, semiology, linguistics, sexuality, prisons, Aids, wrestlers, whatever, began to be used to create a new trendy edgy academic subject called Cultural Studies which sprang up in the 1970s and took hold in universities in the 1980s. Like Steerpike in the castle of Gormenghast, cultural studies decided it was the right discipline to rule the liberal arts and so began to make a subtle, insidious take-over of the English departments, by smuggling cultural-studies ideas into the curriculum, where their ivy tendrils grew wildly and began to choke the host. Pity the appalled English professor as sturdy vines of Derrida begin to twine round his calves.The idea of studying literature is not old. The faculty of English literature at Oxford University was only established in 1894. There is a theory, to which I subscribe, that literature, at that time, had become imbued with a special significance. The precipitous decline of Christian belief amongst the English middle class in the 19th century, at the very time the Empire was reaching its apogee, inspired some academics to reach out for a substitute religion, some system whereby the cultural values which made Britain “great” could be located. They figured these values were to be found in literature. Liberal humanist values could be celebrated and transmitted to the generations through the study of the best writers. A national literature helped to form a national consciousness and a set of values which could then be broadcast to the subjects of the Empire. Terry Eagleton summed this line of thinking up by saying that this was throwing a few novels to the workers to stop them throwing up a few barricades. So this is the giant enterprise that the theorists have come to interrogate. And they treat it like the scene of a crime.Theorist Sarah Lund : So, we have the results from the laboratory.Theorist Jan Meyer : Did you get all of it?Lund : Yes, we bagged everything. It took all Wednesday and most of Thursday.Meyer: What, all of Western literature? All of it?Lund : Well, I think we did. You can go and check again. There was a lot of it. We had to get a truck. I don’t think the department will like the expenses but it can’t be helped. Meyer : So what do they say?Lund (reading from computer print out) : 78% sexism of which 49% overt; 68% racist of which 17% overt; 39% homophobic, all overt; pretty much all of it was contaminated one way or another.Meyer: Was anything left after all these tests?Lund : The Little Prince. That one was okay. Some of these theorists as usual like to come up with jawbreaking neologisms like the hyper-protected cooperative principle (p26) - actually, they all do, – and some of these ideas are fairly straightforward when you get hold of them, e.g.INTERTEXTUALITY (AARGH, NO, GET OFF ME!)The idea is that novels are actually about other previous novels, films are about other films and the act of film-making, poems are about poetry and poems. At first this does sound like one of those awful critical life-denying ideas – what? Novels are about novels? But I want them to be about life, love, politics, the world, stuff! Reality! Not other bloody novels! But you know, as well as being about stuff, novels etc are about – i.e. are in response to, bounce off, react strongly to, are in opposition to, are a love letter to previous novels just as My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sunis Shakespeare sending up previous platitudinous clichéd love poems, anda bumper-sticker – is pretty meaningless unless you know your previous bumper stickers, like SAVE THE WHALE, NO NUKES and GAY JESUS SAVES.So yes, intertextuality is TRUE. Grr. That's just one example - amongs many. Oh yes, many.This is a rocking little introduction to a formidable subject. Recommended to SOME of you!

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2019-01-21 03:03

    Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #4), Jonathan Cullerتاریخ نخستین خوانش: شانزدهم ماه آگوست سال 2012 میلادینخستین بار با عنوان: نظریه ی ادبی؛ مترجم: فرزانه طاهری، تهران، نشر مرکز، در سال 1382، در ؟ صعنوان: تئوری ادبی ؛ نویسنده: جاناتان کالر؛ مترجم: حسین شیخ الاسلامی؛ تهران، افق، 1389، در ده و 160 ص، مصور، شابک: 9789647369013؛ گزارشی از موضوع‌ و عنوان‌های مطرح در نظریه ادبی امروز. روی سخن با خوانشگرانی ست که نظریه ادبی را به شکل تخصصی نخوانده‌ اند اما کنجکاو هستند دانش بیشتری درباره آن داشته باشند. نویسنده نظریه را به چند رویکرد یا مکتب رقیب تقسیم نمیکند بلکه مهمترین مقوله‌ های مورد توجه را مطرح و بررسی کرده، دیدگاه‌ های گوناگون درباره هر يک را معرفی مینماید. ایشان از نقش نظریه در: اندیشه، ادبیات، هویت انسانی، و قدرت زبان، سخن میگوید و خوانشگر را با اندیشه‌هایی که فرهنگ جامعه را در دو دهه‌ ی گذشته دگرگون کرده‌ اند آشنا میسازد. ا. شربیانیا. شربیانی

  • Riku Sayuj
    2019-02-04 01:54

    Endangered Theory!Culler sets out trying to define literature and theory, but soon degenerates into a comparison of literary studies and culture studies. In fact except for Foucault and Derrida no literary theorists are given more than a couple of paragraphs worth of space. Towards the close we are introduced to a type of ‘theory’ and shown how it developed over time, to give a flavor of how theories evolve by transforming themselves. This was an interesting exercise. And it ends with what I felt was a very poignant message:A Theory can only, at best, be a tool.Theory provides no answers, no final way of looking at literature, only avenues for thinking.Theory, then, offers not a set of solutions but the prospect of further thought. It calls for commitment to the work of reading, of challenging presuppositions, of questioning the assumptions on which you proceed. I began by saying that theory was endless – an unbounded corpus of challenging and fascinating writings – but not just more writings: it is also an ongoing project of thinking which does not end when a very short introduction ends.But of course, after the VSI ends, we are left with the uncomfortable fact that it did not really introduce what it was supposed to! So we have a ten page appendix in which some of the major ‘schools’ are quickly presented in short half page summaries. It was almost funny.All in all, a pretty loose book — the author is worried for the field of literary theory and spends his time sharing his concerns with us.Now, this could work. After all “xxx religion in danger!” is always an effective rallying cry.So “Literary studies in danger!” might well be a great introductory war cry too!

  • Aaron
    2019-02-01 07:44

    This book was my first in the "Very Short Introduction" series, and I picked one in a field where I had a little bit of background. Where I went to college it was impossible to take a humanities class and not have someone mention Foucault or Althusser. The school newspaper once ran an article "The Next Person Who Says 'Derrida' Gets Dropkicked". Reading this book, I couldn't help but wish I had it back then, for while every professor loved to spout critical theory, the acting assumption was that everyone in the class knew what they were talking about, and as a freshman from the Midwest, I most certainly did not. While I eventually toiled to form a solid framework about these ideas, it was never quite as elegantly structured and argot-free as what Culler puts down here. The book clearly has its limits -- as it claims: it is merely an introduction causing it to give only a cursory overview of even the biggest name's in the field. Also, it's ten years old, and I'm sure that causes it to miss some of the major things happening in academia at the moment. Lastly, while a minor point, my blood boiled and cartoon-esque steam shot from my ears when I read "A good deal of the hostility to [literary:] theory no doubt comes from the fact that to admit the importance of theory is to make an open-ended commitment, to leave yourself in a position where there are always important things you don't know." Certainly this feeling of always being behind on the latest paper in your field is a condition of academia in general. I can think of a panoply of alternate reasons why there is hostility to literary theory: writing that prefers to obfuscate rather than clarify (Jameson), a total lack of rigor (the Sokal hoax), and a frustrating combination of advancing an epistemology that undercuts any claims that they are working towards something "real" while simultaneously positioning their work on the highest of moral ground (Marcuse). I'd appreciate it if Culler didn't make it seem like the reason I never stuck with critical theory was simply laziness on my part.Rant aside, if you ever find yourself in intellectual settings where Foucault is getting name checked and you don't know what they are saying, get this book.

  • Karl Steel
    2019-01-24 01:04

    I loved that Culler organized the work thematically rather than by critical schools. Given that many of the best theorists overlap in many fields--is Judith Butler a psychoanalyst or feminist? is Althusser a structuralist or Marxist? and what is Foucault?--I think Culler's approach best represents how theory actually works. After all, poststructuralism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis tend to do much the same thing in a theoretical context: they all call 'the natural' (of language, of the state and economics, of the personality) into question and thereby transform the self into subject. That denaturalization is the key difference from what came before, not the differences between, say, a politically informed and a merely linguistic poststructuralism.Moreover, even though it originally appeared about 10 years ago, its refusal to split theory into various schools preserved it from obsolescence. The pure Lacanian died out in 1999 or so, and now the best critics draw on everything. Highly recommended. This is probably the one I'll assign.

  • Jihm
    2019-02-11 07:46

    Take it in increments. It covers the broadest topics of literary theory in a very thorough treatment that makes it cumbersome at times. Wisely, the author chose to write short chapters. I could see turning to this book to gather launch points for future literature papers.However, the author seems to have the wrong audience in mind. The vocabulary and sentence structure is rather stilted and the prose reads more like a philosophical treatise than an introductory text. Had I been a freshman in an English program at the time of reading this book, I would not have found it very helpful at all. A text that covers the fundamentals of a discipline should be written in the interest of clear presentation and not be a showcase of erudition.

  • Bibliomantic
    2019-01-26 06:00

    Among the Very Short Introductions, I count this one as one of the best entries. It’s nice to see Jonathan Culler take the task seriously, and not merely as an excuse to write an essay on a select area of the subject (Catriona Kelly’s ‘Russian Literature’ entry comes to mind), but to actually put together an engaging overview of the field’s major themes and divisions. Culler is obviously very comfortable in the topic, and he reads in the way that makes me think his lectures (at Cornell, from what I gather at Wiki) are a pleasure to attend. In any case, some of the book’s strengths is in answering questions that I’ve always meant to ask. Why does literary theory seem to be based so little things to do with literature? Why is it more ‘theory’ than ‘literary theory’? Why is Saussure so elemental? How did all of this evolve from Russian formalism to post-structuralism and beyond? Culler gives good brief answers without oversimplifying the arguments to accommodate length. Though, of course, there are longer and more specific studies, Culler’s volume inspires further reading while at the same time giving us that which so many such introductions fail to give, mainly the urge to tell those who are interested: if you want to read just one book on the topic, read this one.

  • Biggles
    2019-01-27 00:58

    It's hard to know whether this book is a comprehensive introduction to literary theory, as it's the first whole book I've read on the subject. My motivation was to better understand the literary theoretic ideas being used in software studies and game studies papers I read. Besides that, I always enjoyed English lit at school and I figured it would be nice to say hi again.The book has its flaws, including indulging in the pompous habit (with which I had already become familiar) of placing literary theory at the centre of everything, referring to it simply as Theory, and declaring it without bounds. Nevertheless, I got what I wanted from it. I now have a stronger conceptual base from which to understand various things as text, and I better understand how scholars with a more similar background to Culler's than mine might approach problems.The careful and informed reader will make excellent use of this well-written book, which contains many useful examples. It serves its purpose, so I find it hard to fault it significantly.

  • Samir Rawas Sarayji
    2019-01-20 08:00

    A good and brief introduction to literary theory. It tries to cover the scope of the field as superficially as possible. The result is more like a dictionary of terminology and schools of thought really, rather than any form of comprehensive methodology or system. So, as a first introductory text to the field, it is fine.

  • Tyler
    2019-02-03 05:59

    This summary of trends in higher level criticism of literature sets aside the basics to focus on what’s sometimes called the postmodern critique. That’s to say, it gives readers an introduction to the many modern perspectives by which they might evaluate a literary work: the Marxist critique, the feminist critique, the Freudian critique and so on. Readers also get a brief introduction to various schools of what’s broadly called “theory,” an endeavor characterized by its multi-disciplinary applicability. Here they learn about literary versions of theory such as formalism, New Criticism, post-structuralism and historicism. Now I’m finally a little clearer on the use of hermeneutics and poetics, and I know that quote marks can be used to demystify abstruse terminology in a text (I'm still chortling over that last point). All in all, I'm less embarrassed when academics brandish these concepts. The question that remains for me from this short introduction is how far the postmodern critique can logically apply to any particular work. I can discern the class-consciousness in Anna Karenina and the misogyny in Tropic of Cancer, but how do I know if I’m judging Tolstoy too harshly on the one hand or giving Miller an unwarranted pass on the other? After all, doesn’t a work of literature have to have at least some point of view anyway? How do I judge if a racist perspective is essential to the book I’m reading, or if that perspective instead weakens it? And is that even the right way to interrogate literature? I suppose I'm asking, How much further beyond the New Criticism do subsequent critiques really need to take us? Those points are too in-depth for this book, so in a way Jonathan Culler raises as many questions as he answers. Oxford’s A Very Short Introduction series packs a lot of information in fine print into each of its books. The series is a good way to get quickly oriented in any of the subjects it covers, but a highlighter is necessary. A lot of important information comes at you in 125-175 dense pages, too much to remember. So marked passages will become excellent future references. The eight chapters of this book cover things like language, meaning and interpretation; narration; performative language; and cultural studies. It has a useful appendix and a careful chapter-specific bibliography. I recommend this introduction to people wanting to learn more about the current state of the study of literature.

  • Steven
    2019-02-15 06:56

    I just skimmed this one. Pretty basic lit theory 101 stuff, although quite different from my theory text as an undergraduate (Wellek and Warren, Theory of Literature). Its chief virtue being all the rhetorical questions Culler asks; if you listed them out they would be a catalog of eternal debates, questions Aristotle thought he answered, yet we argue about them just as viciously today. Culler’s chapter on narrative is tight, a good summation of issues theorists like Bal have devoted hundreds of pages to. His chapter on Performative Language is interesting given that American academic philosophy has been influenced by English philosophers while American academic literary criticism has been influenced by French and German philosophers. Derrida’s arguments with Austin and Searle being perhaps the only inter-section, the only time the two sides actually talked. Culler links Judith Butler’s theory of gender with Austin’s theory of speech acts (102-107), perhaps the only clear instance where he lets himself skate above his introductory agenda. His final chapter on identity, is also quite good, and certainly not a topic Wellek and Warren could have concerned themselves with. So it is in these final two chapters that Culler’s book becomes a sign of its times.

  • Jeff
    2019-01-31 06:40

    Oxford University Press did an interesting thing with these tiny books that introduce intrepid readers to a variety of any possible subject: from The European Union to Molecules to Jazz to Mandela; the idea being to enlighten the future Jack-of-all-trades to an introductory lesson in any given discipline. I cannot vouch for the others, but the book here on Literary Theory is very user unfriendly, and does not offer a perspective into the discourse that an average reader could appreciate. I have a graduate degree in Literary Theory and still found the text taxing and a bore. There are much better books out there that introduce the theories herein and do so without the air of pretentiousness that makes Literary Theory so odious that most would rather...just watch the movie.For example: Lois Tyson's Critical Theory Today. That's a great one. This...thank God it was little.

  • Sara Kate
    2019-02-17 07:06

    Written for the intelligent lay or scholarly reader who knows nothing, this book provides a concise and compelling introduction to some of the major questions with which literary theory grapples. I found particularly illuminating Culler's discussion of how theory is often used as a form of intimidation (i.e., "How can you *possibly* think talk about X topic if you haven't read Y piece of theory?") and of how, once this petty jostling is put to the side, theory can be an extremely useful tool in providing new methods for the examination literature and other cultural objects.

  • Kristen
    2019-02-10 06:09

    A rather uneven treatment of the topic. Within just a few pages the book alternates between incredibly elementary concepts (thanks but I know what the word 'plot' means) to far more esoteric subjects which the author assumes the reader is already acquainted with and these bits were actually quite helpful if you happen to know what the fuck the author is saying.I'm not sure who the ideal reader is supposed to be, someone already somewhat familiar with lit theory but who has yet to learn what narration is???

  • Jim
    2019-02-20 06:56

    I finished this book a few months ago but forgot to write a review.Like most of the volumes in Oxford's 'Very Short Introduction' series, Culler covers most of the big ideas within Literary Theory. He also includes an Appendix with summaries of the major theoretical schools and movements. For those who are interested in Lit Theory but don't know where to begin, this short intro will give you enough of a head start to further your investigations....

  • Ryan
    2019-01-30 04:40

    A wonderful overview of literary theory, which sidesteps the usual presentation by schools of thought in favor of a discussion of what literature is, and what questions theory seeks to answer. Culler himself is a structuralist, which comes through in his discussion of semiotics, but the rest of the book is presented so fairly that it's difficult to pick up any bias in his presentation. This is an excellent introduction that makes the reader hungry for more theory and criticism.

  • Jackson Cyril
    2019-02-11 05:50

    Introduces the reader to the great questions that animate literary theorists today, but does claim to introduce readers to the dominant 'schools', for which I will be approaching other books-- some of which are suggested by Culler in the very important "further reading" section these small books provide.

  • Filipa
    2019-01-20 08:01

    To all lit students out there, with love.

  • Emily
    2019-01-29 01:46

    An absolutely fascinating book. What is theory? What is literature? How can we read literature in such a way as to understand it both in its context and as an individual text? I have been really interested in literary theory for a while now and this book was readable, direct and clear. Completely recommend to anyone with a beginner's interest in theory, or just to anyone who likes reading!"Literature is a paradoxical institution because to create literature is to write according to existing formulas -- to produce something that looks like a sonnet or that follows the convention of the novel -- but it is also to flout those conventions, to go beyond them. Literature is an institution that lives by exposing and criticising its own limits, by testing what will happen if one writes differently." (p41)I was also really interested in the discussion of the English language itself: "If words stood for pre-existing concepts, they would have exact equivalents from one language to the next, which is not at all the case. Each language is a system of concepts as well as forms: a system of conventional signs that organises the world. ... Works of literature explore the settings or categories of habitual ways of thinking and frequently attempt to bend or reshape them, showing us how to think something that our language had not previously anticipated, forcing us to attend to the categories through which we unthinkingly view the world. Language is thus both the concrete mainfestation of ideology -- the categories in which speakers are authorised to think -- and the site of its questioning or undoing." (p59-61)There was fascinating discussion of ideas of meaning -- what is meaning? Should we take works "in context" or whether they can be read on their own."If we say that meaning is context-bound, then we must add that context is boundless: there is no determining in advance what might count as relevant, what enlarging of context might be able to shift what we regard as the meaning of a text." (p68)In this very short introduction, Culler explains plainly and charmingly what theory is: a way of thinking about literature than breaks down conventions and seeks to know literary works in all their complexity and richness.

  • Jess
    2019-02-14 03:53

    If I'd taken the amount of time I spent complaining about this and just read it instead, I would be writing this review a week earlier. However, it is at least half this book's fault that I complained so much, so here we are: me, with my interest in literary theory lying in pieces, about to write a superficial and ignorant review; and this book, having failed in its task to thrill me about its subject matter.To be fair, this started off quite well. The introduction and first few chapters were funny and simple enough for a novice like me to understand. Then came the chapter about cultural studies, and things took a downward turn from there. Maybe I'm a snob (can one be a snob without knowing the subject?) but I fail to see how a highbrow academic debate on whether cultural studies will transcend literary studies is really that relevant to literary theory. It finished with a chapter on animals, oceans and robots. I was left bewildered.Of course, that could just be because I only understood about half of the things said.In conclusion, I came here expecting a nice romp from Russian formalism to new historicism, touching on Derrida, Foucault, whatever. We did get a bit of that, but I left feeling bitter and jaded about an area of English literature I haven't even studied yet, anyway.

  • Martin Makara
    2019-02-08 03:54

    Myšlienka série, ktorej je táto útla kniha súčasťou, sa mi veľmi páči: prostredníctvom krátkych knižných úvodov zoznámiť čitateľov s rôznymi akademickými oblasťami. O prestíži literárnej teórie azda svedčí fakt, že vyšla ako štvrtá v poradí tejto série. Autor sa rozhodol predstaviť lit. teóriu z celkom iného pohľadu, než je zvykom, a tak sa vyhýba definíciám rozličných rétorických prostriedkov a namiesto toho sa zaoberá širším filozofickým pozadím lit. teórie, napr. všeobecnou definíciou teórie, problémom identity a subjektu ap., čo sú témy síce dôležité a zaujímavé, ale podľa mňa nenáležiace do "veľmi krátkeho úvodu". Cullerova kniha je síce balíčkom vrchovato naloženým dobrou filozofiou a podnetnými myšlienkami, ale zároveň takým, v ktorom neostáva priestor pre gro disciplíny. Literárne vzdelaným ľuďom to síce prekážať nemusí a možno uvítajú celkom inú koncepciu úvodu do lit. teórie, laickému čitateľovi však nespokytne všetko to, čo by pre úvod do štúdia literatúry mohol potrebovať.

  • Alejandro Orradre
    2019-01-27 06:40

    Un ensayo corto en el que Jonathan Culler intenta dar su particular visión acerca del estudio de la literatura a lo largo de los últimos siglos. Plantea algunas presuntas interesantes cuyas respuestas quedan, sin embargo, dispersas por culpa de unas explicaciones algo largas y tediosas. Otras cuestiones directamente derivan en nuevas preguntas sin respuesta aparente.Siendo una lectura interesante, Breve introducción a la teoría literaria no aportará una especial resolución a los grandes temas de la literatura: más bien obligará al lector al que le haya picado la curiosidad a indagar más en el estudio literario.

  • M. Ashraf
    2019-02-05 06:52

    We start with two questions; What is theory? and What is Literature?This introduction is better organised than the previous shorts I read, it lays a good overview on the subject and though it is not my cup of tea it was an interesting read. It introduced to many theorist and some of their work:Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser...Different interpretations of the same work; how to choose, what determine the meaning, intention and context?Rhetoric and Poetry. Different kinds of Narrative and the contrast between constative and performative languages.It - Literature - would at once teach disinterested appreciation, provide a sense of national greatness, create fellow-feeling among the classes, and ultimately, function as a replacement for religion, which seemed no longer to be able to hold society together.The meaning of a work is not what the writer had in mind at some moment during composition of the work, or what the writer thinks the work means after it is finished, but, rather, what he or she succeeded in embodying in the work.We dance round in a ring and suppose,But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

  • Adrian Astur Alvarez
    2019-02-09 02:58

    This is a fantastic li'l Lit Theory book. It is short, but rather than superficially skimming the surface of as many theoretical schools as possible, Culler takes a more interesting (and page appropriate) approach by encountering those different schools through an exploration of lit theory's practical concerns. You get chapters like "What is Theory?" and "Language, Meaning, and Interpretation," and as a result of his method, you actually do end up coming across some of the main lines of thinking that these theoretical schools identify with, only you do it with an organic understanding of critical theory's overall nature and purpose.I highly recommend this book to anyone who reads and/or has even a slight interest in literary or cultural studies. Jonathan Culler does more in 120 pages than most others do in 500.

  • Mr Buchanan
    2019-01-21 04:43

    Like others, I also dug this thematic approach over a more general schools-based survey as a way to introduce theory. I liked the fact that this approach gave me a feel for theory as a 'do' as much as an 'is'. By the end, I felt as if I could try to think using the principles of theory (a mistrust of 'common sense' and the 'natural' as being socially/culturally constructed) without necessarily really knowing a lot of positions in detail. I was also pleased to see that Culler didn't completely endorse theoretical readings over more traditional close readings. He even described the danger of the misplaced concept of a 'social totality' (the idea that fictional 'worlds' can directly correspond with our real 'world'). That's one term that will get plenty of mileage while I'm at the wheel!Great for Uni students, great for teachers who want to stay in touch...

  • Sara
    2019-01-31 02:56

    Very short, very concise book about literary theory. I knew nothing about literary theory until I read this book. It gave some good summaries of deconstuction and structuralism, constative and performative sentences, for example. Some of the chapters made more sense to me than others. I was reading this in conjunction with The Marriage Plot as Madeleine takes some literary theory and semiotics classes.I'd like to know more, this book was a little TOO concise but it was the one available at the library. Since this is my first introduction to literary theory, I won't be able to comment too much on the pros/cons of this book until I've read more.Next up - Derrida??

  • Sujan
    2019-02-01 00:07

    This book tries to show the line where literature and various theories merge. To me the book's greatest success is that it has proven quite convincingly the sole privilege of literature to shape the human consciousness, the sense and scope of ethics, and the interpretations of social issues. It was such at least up to the previous century. As now we have entered into a fully digitised age, I am afraid literature has almost lost its previously unbridled power to shape human destiny.The book, though intricate at times, gives a sheer amount of pleasure wrapped up in profundity.

  • Joseph Staten
    2019-01-24 05:06

    Indispensable. I so, so wish I had read this as a freshman or sophomore, when I had barely even heard of capital-T Theory, much less knew anything about it. But even after graduating, I learned a huge amount from it. So incredibly lucidly written, and witty, and well-informed. The whole Very Short Introduction series is fantastic, but this is easily the best work I've come across. For anyone with even the slightest interest in theory, or poetry, or literature, or life as a human being. Seriously.

  • April
    2019-01-21 02:45

    This is a gem of a little book. It summed up everything I needed in a way Barry could not. I think if you take both books together you have a fairly complete background of literary theory, or so I am currently assuming. I'll keep you posted on that, but I feel like I can keep up with my graduate classes fairly well now so that says something I think.On maybe a slightly superficial note?? The cartoons rocked! :D

  • Pooya Kiani
    2019-02-09 03:45

    باب کار خود من بود، یعنی یه کسی که نه صفرِ صفره، نه نظریه پردازه نه اصن براش صرف نظریه پردازی مهمه. کسی که میخواد یه نظام‌مندی‌ای بین شیرتوشیر احساس ادبیش وارد شه گهگاه. اصلا ساده نبود و اصلا هم مترجم سرسری نگرفته بود ترجمه رو. دست خانوم طاهری رو باید بوسید. لذت اصلی رو از فصل دوم و آخرِ فصل آخر بردم. جایی که به نقدِ منتقدِ رادیکال، اونم نه آشکار، می پردازه. اگر درد ادبیات دارید حتما این کتاب رو بخونید.