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Customer Review

on October 7, 2007
Peter Barry's BEGINNING THEORY introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory is lucid, engaging, and challenging, and would make an ideal classroom text; but it's also a good one for those individuals like me who have been out of school for some time and are a little curious about how the reading and study of literature has changed over the past few decades. The book's thirteen chapters cover traditional criticism (liberal humanism); structuralism; post-structuralism and deconstruction; postmodernism; psychoanalytic criticism; feminist criticism; lesbian/gay criticism; Marxist criticism; new historicism and cultural materialism; postcolonial criticism; stylistics; narratology; and ecocriticism (the latter being the new kid on the block and usually not included in comparable Theory Introductions). Barry may not be the last word on all these subjects, but I felt he's a good starting point for just about anyone. He advocates reading carefully a few of the most pivotal texts on the subjects covered (rather than reading as broadly as possible); he succinctly summarizes each theory's tenets and practices in easy-to-absorb lists; he encourages readers to apply the theories in some way in "Stop and Think" exercises; and he provides annotated select reading lists for each chapter. This is a book I expect I'll be returning to time and again as I try to read some of the primary texts Barry recommends.
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