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Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide 2nd Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415974103
ISBN-10: 0415974100
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Lois Tyson is a Professor of English at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, USA.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 482 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2nd edition (August 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415974100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415974103
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The book's introduction includes a valid argument for students to learn about literary theory: although it can be intimidating at the beginning, we will be able to see the world in a new and pluralistic way. The author explains in individual chapters, and in this order, the following theoretical approaches: psychoanalytic criticism, Marxist criticism, feminist criticism, New Criticism, reader-response criticism, structuralist criticism, deconstructive criticism, new historical and cultural criticism, lesbian/gay/queer criticism, African American criticism, and Postcolonial criticism. At the end of each chapter the respective criticism is illustrated in a reading of Fitzgerald's novel _The Great Gatsby_, which helps students see how the same text can be understood by different approaches.

This book is very useful for undergraduate students, but also for those students thinking about going to graduate school. It is well organized and provides good examples of questions to brainstorm about topics for papers. The author is very objective discussing the different theoretical approaches to writing about literature. Although students who are new to critical theory may find some of the concepts difficult, the author is sensitive to the needs of this audience and explains them carefully and clearly. She also includes a meaningful bibliography for further exploration. The book is mainly intended for English literature classes, but film studies, cultural studies and literature courses other than English can also benefit from it. I teach Spanish in an undergraduate liberal arts college and will seriously consider this title for my advanced literature courses and independent research projects.
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Format: Paperback
Literary theory is one of the more challenging college courses even for graduate students. Typically, the instructor will assign a complex tome as the primary source and when that happens, the often bemused student needs a supplemental text. CRITICAL THEORY TODAY by Lois Tyson fills this void better than nearly every other choice. The problem with most critical theory books is that the authors assume that if the subject matter is heavy going in both matter and style, then any explanatory book must be similarly constructed. Lois Tyson stands out as one of a handful of writers who remembers to write first as a student-friendly professor than a jargon-heavy theorist.

In her introduction, Tyson issues a stern warning that critical theory is an evolving and very nearly living and breathing field that involves a series of "overlapping, competing, quarrelling visions of the world rather than as tidy categories." (page 9) Tyson introduces each school of critical theory in roughly historical chronology, beginning with Psychoanalytic criticism, and following with Marxist, Feminist, New Critical, Reader-Response, Structuralist, Deconstructionist, New Historicist, Queer theory, African-American, and finishing with Post-Colonialist. In each case, Tyson provides an historical context, which leads into a close analysis of that particular school's underlying premises. Tyson "fleshes out" each school with a close reading of THE GREAT GATSBY, a novel which invites a spectrum of divergent analyses. She also includes a helpful list of questions that one might ask to connect that specific theory to a designated text. This list has potential for the interested student to practice writing his or her own analyses of standard literary works that invite interpretation under that critical lens.
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Format: Paperback
Kudos to Prof. Tyson for writing a book of this kind! This book is an invaluable asset for any student of critical theory and a must-have for all. One marvels at the rare sense of empathy Prof. Tyson displays for her young readers in enumerating some of the ever-obscure, complex critical concepts. She writes in a stunningly clear, conversational style, providing real-life examples to give concrete shapes to the abstract theoretical concepts at every step. Besides, she also demonstrates the practical application of each critical theory in interpreting literary texts. I cannot think of any other book which offers a similar approach to critical theory. This is the book which, I think, we all have been waiting for! It is an expository book meant for the young students, the beginners, and not another elusive scholarly discourse on critical theory meant exclusively for advanced scholars.

However, one must know that this book enumerates the underlying principles and key issues pertaining to the different schools of critical theory in a student-friendly manner and does not trace their historical developments; nor does it focus on individual theorists and their works. For that, you need to turn to a different book on the subject. I wish Prof. Tyson comes up with another volume dedicated to that purpose.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm using this book for a college class in literary criticism, and I love it. I will confess that I dreaded the course, because literary criticism can be an exercise in one-upmanship ("I'm more esoteric than you!"), and I have no patience with academics who write for each other and don't care about being actually understood. Tyson gets it, and presents the various schools of critical theory clearly and concisely, yet with enough substance to make this reader able to immediately apply the theories she describes to different literary works. Each of her chapters ends with an application to Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which I thought I knew, but under Tyson's pen the novel is unpacked in layers of meaning. I can't say enough good things about this text - highly recommended both for classes and for anyone who wants to glean more out of reading literature.
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