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How to Read Literature Paperback – 2 May 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (2 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300205309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300205305
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Acclaimed literary scholar and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton is Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of English Literature at Notre Dame.

Terry Eagleton is the author of many books including The Idea of Culture (2000), Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (2002), the bestselling text Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983, 1996, 2008), Trouble with Strangers: A Study of Ethics (2009), and the forthcoming On Evil (2010).

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Review

"'Part of the fun of the book is the way in which Eagleton prompts, provokes and at times infuriates. How to read How to Read Literature? As an ideal introductory guide to critical analysis, and a thoroughly enjoyable reminder of Eagleton's own skill and subtlety as a reader.' (Felicity James, Times Higher Education Supplement) 'This book is seriously good fun. Teachers should pounce on it with glee, especially if they have tried for weary years to tell students, daunted by having to comment on great literary works, that poems and novels are not alarming, for they are composed only of words. Of course students themselves may not read the book, students being what they are, but those entrusted with their education should rejoice.' (Sue Gaisford, The Tablet) 'Eagleton is alive to the complexity of literature and to a commonsense clarity... In a cheering way, Eagleton believes in literary value and thinks an inability to recognise it would be as absurd as someone who is into single-malt whisky not being willing to admit a great one when he tasted it... This is as brilliant as an absolutely sensible book about literature could be. Anyone intrigued by the subject, as well as quite a few who have long been bemused by it, will read it with intense pleasure.' (Peter Craven, The Sydney Morning Herald)"

About the Author

Terry Eagleton is Distinguished Professor of Literature, University of Lancaster, UK, and Excellence in English Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Notre Dame. One of the most influential literary critics in the English-speaking world, he is the author of more than 40 books on literary theory, postmodernism, politics, ideology, and religion, among them his best-selling Literary Theory: An Introduction. He lives in Northern Ireland, UK.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 2 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
I teach literature at university and think this would be an excellent book for A level students and anyone about to commence a literature degree. One of the problems with the current curriculum is that there is a widening gap between the way literature is taught in schools, and the critical approaches that are required at degree level.

This book doesn't completely plug that gap but it does problematise some of the assumptions that students (and general readers) bring with them: that the narrative voice is that of the author, that authorial intentionality is the source of meaning, that characters can be thought of and talked about as if they were real people, that what is said is always more important than the way in which it is said, that `good' literature is necessarily the same across history and, essentially, timeless.

This is slightly rambling, but Eagleton uses examples of what he calls `slow reading', otherwise known as `close reading', to deconstruct some of these misunderstandings, and offer more reliable, subtle and productive ways for thinking about how literature works. Given that this is Eagleton, a Marxist scholar of critical theory, this is particularly good on modern and postmodern modes, though he certainly doesn't ignore earlier texts.

Eagleton's enthusiasm comes over well as does his wit - his ideal literary companions on a pub crawl, for example, would be Viola and Becky Sharp, but not Clarissa!

This is a popular book without any jargon or critical terms, so it is complementary to and a few steps down from Eagleton's Literary Theory: An Introduction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ancient Mariner on 6 April 2015
Format: Paperback
Nothing in this book, really, is presented as an absolutely authoritative expression of opinion or as a final judgment. The author neither bullies nor patronizes. It may be possible to push around freshman in English Lit survey courses, but at some point the older, more widely experienced reader resists being set straight by experts or, especially, by single minded and inflexible proponents of particular schools, theories or movements.

What I had hoped to find in this book, and what I am very happy to report that I found, was a wide range of thoughtful, good humored, pointed, creative and entertaining observations about reading and appreciating literary works. If you are at all interested in character, plot, syntax, symbolism, narrative structure, and the like, or if you would like some grounding in the various "isms", you will be interested in what Professor Eagleton has to say about these topics. And, it is easier to pay attention if you have some guidance as to what you should be looking for. (Also, I now know what "parataxis" is, so I'm already in the plus column on this book.)

So, this isn't a textbook; it's more like a companion reader. You can browse or read closely, and either way you will be entertained and benefited in equal measure. What a pleasure.

Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By autodidact on 11 Dec. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
'Dostoevsky is a better novelist than John Grisham in the sense that Tiger Woods is a better golfer than Lady Gaga'. The work is about how one arrives at the value judgements behind that rather nice donnish joke that is one of the delights in this volume. By discussing the use of language, plot and characterisation and finishing with some examples from his extremely wide reading, Eagleton approaches the answer to the title of this book. If the condensed version of the answer is 'carefully and closely', it is because the subject itself is as varied as its constituents, but along the way there is plenty to enlighten and to entertain. The style is easy, the asides are plentiful and amusing, the selections are wide-ranging. It's a treat.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Lindsell on 6 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent read for those who enjoy literature - novels, plays and poetry. Eagleton's opinions are very grounded and eclectic and are often expressed very amusingly. I shall be returning to some of my old favourites.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Buglebead on 16 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Eagleton approaches his subject with enthusiasm and gives detailed examples from well-known stories, poems and plays to support his points. Sometimes he is in danger of disappearing up his own argument but, as he suggests when analysing the opening of Orwell's '1984', readers should be encouraged to think for themselves. Usefully organised into 5 sections: Openings, Character, Narrative, Interpretation and Value, I think this book would appeal to both students new to the study of English literature in higher/further education and those who have completed degrees who perhaps need reminding what it was that attracted them to the subject in the first place. Eagleton's preface opens with the line: 'Like clog dancing, the art of analysing works of literature is almost dead on its feet'. This book makes the art of 'slow reading' accessible, enjoyable and thought-provoking.
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