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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The Bennett and Royle is really the best intro to theory text I've seen -- a small book, but readable and fairly broad, and yet scrupulous in the ways it describes various theoretical approaches. Each chapter discusses a different theoretical "issue." So, the 2nd edition includes the following chapter titles: The beginning, Readers and reading, The author, The text and the world, The uncanny, Monuments, Narrative, Character, Voice, Figures and tropes, Laughter, The tragic, History, Me, Ghosts, Sexual difference, God, Ideology, Desire, Queer, Suspense, Racial difference, The colony, The performative, Secrets, The postmodern, Pleasure, The end.

Two aspects I particularly like:

(1) The authors describe theory as related to literary texts, using lots of examples from literature to illustrate the concepts--a practice that I think helps the reader access the theory.

(2) Each chapter concludes with a short section called Further Reading, in which the authors explain, in prose, other texts that might be of interest to the reader, and how and why they relate to the theory of the chapter.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2010
Bennett and Royle's text is an excellent introductory guide to contemporary issues in literary criticism and theory. I have encountered several introductory/foundational theory texts in my undergraduate experience (Barry's "Beginning Theory" and Bonneville's "In Search of Authority" most recently) and this one takes the cake. The writing is direct, lucid, and compelling. Rather than the typical "schools of thought" approach to theory and criticism, whereby authors divide the book according to various "movements" (ie, new criticism, poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, and so on), Bennett and Royle include 30 or so chapters dealing with specific "issues": narrative, the tragic, the uncanny, war, desire, the colony, etc. This allows for a much more varied approach, as well as one that directly engages many texts in ways that I (and I would imagine other students) are already familiar with. In other words, it's nothing particularly new to see tragic moments or instances of violence, pleasure, and sexual difference in texts; having read a chapter in the text, I feel confident moving on to a literary work and applying the insights that Bennett and Royle draw from the many voices they include. They also include a wide variety of literary texts across a large span of time - Shakespeare, "Ozymandias," "The Wasteland," Larkin - which keep their approach fresh and useful. The reader doesn't have to wonder if old thoughts still work on new texts, or if new thoughts are "too advanced" for old texts.

Speaking of those "many voices," I also enjoy their very contemporary approach to issues. While, on the one hand, they are keen to introduce, say, Freud into a discussion of the uncanny, they are also willing to include Lacan (if not to flesh out his difficult teachings, to at least demonstrate the ways that issues change according to who is talking). That being said, a quick gloss of the index reveals the authors' "biases": Derrida is their favorite, Deleuze is popular as well. While some might chafe at the difficulty and/or controversy that these theorists are (often unfairly) tagged with, I enjoy them both because of their challenging but compelling insights, and because such citations serve to keep to text involved in current academic debates. I think that this "textbook" (it hardly reads like one) is really a doorway to quite recent discussions of literature and the literary, which for an interested critic/theorist, like myself, is the most one could ask.

I purchased this book for an introductory theory and criticism class, but I would suggest it to anyone interested in the field. It doesn't even have to be an "introuduction": if you're not new to the field, you are still likely to find this text very useful. I imagine that I will keep and use this book even through my graduate studies.
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on February 1, 2011
For anyone majoring in English, or who has a vested interest in literature, this book is an excellent choice. It inspires critical thinking by providing complex examples. This is NOT a one-dimensional or boring textbook! If you're looking for a way to get more involved in literature, but aren't interested in reading a boring, run of the mill textbook, I highly suggest Bennett & Royle's book. Watch out though, because it will definitely wrinkle your brain.
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on February 26, 2015
Came in perfect condition!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2015
Brings back bad memories of my Senior year Capstone... Useful reference though.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2013
I am glad I bought this book cheaper on Amazon over the school bookstore; however, I barely used this book as well. I dunno what college professors think. Books aren't cheap and neither is college.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2014
:)
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9 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2006
This book sets out to give an overview of a variety of different theories involved in literary criticism. Admittedly, it does present an incredible number of philosophies on more topics than most critics venture to consider.

I read this book as the text for a literary criticism class. The only truly good thing I can say about it is that it did promote a great deal of conversation each day. Basically, Bennett and Royle present so many theories for every topic that it is difficult to keep track of them. Often, the theories will contradict themselves several times in a single chapter and the authors provide only a cursory explanation of each theory. It often seemed that they gave us just enough information about a particular philosophical view that we knew it was beyond our comprehension and left us scratching our heads.

Additionally, I felt that the approach Bennett and Royle use is somewhat lacking. They attempt a style of writing in which they pose philosophical questions that will cause readers to stop and ponder ideas that they would not normally consider. However, the way that the authors go about this process often seems clumsy and undermines the other information that they are presenting.

Despite my dislike, I would say that it could be a useful text /if/ the reader understands the aim and layout (specifically that the authors want to present as many theories on a topic as possible regardless of interconnectedness and without thorough details) and if the reader uses it more as an introductory reference and ignores most of the author's commentary and philosophical musings.
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