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Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Culler
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

What is Literary Theory? What is the relationship between literature and culture? In fact, what is Literature, and does it matter? These are the sorts of questions addressed by Jonathan Culler in a book which steers a clear path through a subject often perceived to be impenetrable. It offers insights into theories about the nature of language and meaning, whether literature is a form of self-expression or a method of appeal to an audience, and outlines the ideas behind a number of
different schools: deconstruction, semiotics, postcolonial theory, and structuralism amongst them. - ;What is Literary Theory? Is there a relationship between literature and culture? In fact, what is Literature, and does it matter?

These are the sorts of questions addressed by Jonathan Culler in a book which steers a clear path through a subject often perceived to be complex and impenetrable. It offers discerning insights into theories about the nature of language and meaning, whether literature is a form of self-expression or a method of appeal to an audience, and outlines the ideas behind a number of different schools: deconstruction, semiotics, postcolonial theory, and structuralism amongst them. -


Product Description

Review

Review from previous edition It is impossible to imagine a clearer treatment of the subject, or one that is, within the given limits of length, more comprehensive. Culler has always been remarkable for his expository skills, and here he has found exactly the right method and tone for his purposes. (Sir Frank Kermode)

A must read for all literature students. (Bookwise)

Bookwise

"A must read for all literature students."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 521 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (23 Sept. 1997)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002TQKRWE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #127,746 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful 8 July 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a short, largely jargon-free guide to literary theory, which explores the field not by school of criticism (formalism, post-structuralism, etc.), but rather by theme. This is a good approach, although it arguably leaves the reader with a slightly hazy sense of the particular theoretical contributions of people like Foucault and Barthes. But Culler writes very clearly, and this is a good starting point for exploring this area, although it would perhaps best be used in conjunction with a book like Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory or Raman Selden's Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gentle introduction to theory 22 Jan. 2006
By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
The fact that literary theory is often referred to as just 'theory' should alert the newcomer to its amorphous and unfocused nature. It is no longer concerned just with literature, but with every aspect of culture and experience. It is a theory of theories, a post-modernist stocktaking of the western intellectual tradition.
Culler traces several paths through this boundless philosophical landscape. Seven such paths actually, exploring aspects of language, identity and meaning. These constitute as gentle an introduction as is possible. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a better guide than Culler, with his clear and elegant style and his breadth of knowledge. Although this is not a conventional school-by-school primer, there is a section at the end briefly summarizing the major schools, from Russian Formalism to Queer Theory (yes, you heard right). The author advises that you can read these summaries before, after, or during the main text. I recommend leaving them until after, when they will be a lot more meaningful. Otherwise, they might frighten you off from reading the text itself.
The illustrations consist of a half-dozen or so vaguely relevant cartoons. I suppose, as this series is illustrated, OUP felt obliged to include something, even if the text had no need of it. More positively, this book is blessedly free of the typos that normally bedevil the series.
If you wish to 'dip your toe in the water' of literary theory (and be warned, it is a maelstrom) Culler's book is the perfect place to do it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This review really writes itself 3 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm sure I'm going to have owned three copies of this book in a very short space of time. The first copy I gave away to a stranger on the tube after he had been reading it over my shoulder between London Bridge and West Ham - a good read! He nudged me by way of starting a conversation about the book. Giving it to him was not difficult because replacing it would be a financial triviality and also I knew by then that what I was sharing was well worth the act of giving it away. I'll buy a third copy soon - sure I'll be giving away again soon.

The introductory chapter will leave your tongue hanging and if your a budding poststructuralist it will also begin to drip. Culler uses examples from Foucault and Derrida to illustrate how literary theory can be perpendicular to the literature it critiques. It is probably no coincidence that both exemplars are poststructuralist in nature, Culler mentions that they both are but does not dwell on it. Indeed much of the theory presented in the book is poststructural in nature but Culler spares you the details. For most readers this may be fine as the book is about Literary Theory after all.

After a very good introductory chapter the book settles down into covering the basic issues such as what is literature and how would we know it if we saw it. Literary components such a narrative, hermeneutics and poetics are explored and a rather good discussion around structural versus poststructural readings of texts {though of course not presented as such} is carried on under a subheading 'Meaning, intention, and context' {p66}. The differences and the similarities between cultural studies and literary studies is also explored. The book covers the basics well.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very short indeed 30 April 2009
Format:Paperback
This has been the first book I've read on literary theory, and I've enjoyed it. It explains quite clearly the various questions you should ask yourself when you're facing a text, as well as a reasonably up-to-date status of literary criticism and cultural studies.

Unfortunately, the various currents (marxism, structuralism, new criticism, feminism, etc) are described only in an appendix at the end. This makes it harder to link the currents to the historical contexts in which they appeared and to the literary debates they were mainly involved. In these respects, the title ("A very short introduction ...") is unquestionably appropriate.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Culler makes the subject of Lit. theory interesting, after generations who had to endure Gavin Ross's laborious essays on criticism this is of welcome relief. A fantastic read and as textbooks go it is stunning.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mind-boggling - but not in a bad way 19 May 2014
Format:Paperback
When I read the Very Short Introductions (VSIs) they can fall into a few categories. They might be on subjects I know well, where I am seeking a refresher and may wish to critique how well the subject has been communicated (as was the case with Mathematics) or they may be on subjects that I know little to nothing about (as was the case with The Roman Republic). Literary theory falls very firmly in the latter of these two categories.

If someone had asked me beforehand to give either a one line synopsis of what I thought literary theory was about, or write a paragraph or an essay, I would have been wholly unable to do so. I read it because I wanted to find out what it was all about, to continue my daily battle against ignorance by means of self-education. It was also noticeable for the fact that it was one of the very early VSIs to be published, this being number 4 in the series.

As with many VSIs, this is not necessarily a simple introduction. As I started reading it, it dawned on me just how alien literary theory is to me. Indeed, it was, and remains, difficult to define. The author tries to be more general and talks just of "theory" as a subject in itself. Now this is very far removed from either the common notion of theory as conjecture or hypothesis as well as being different from the more scientific view of theory.

Having attempted to define "theory" Culler moves on to the question of "what is literature". Here, the answer, to a non-expert in the field such as me, seems obvious, but wary of a kind of hubris of ignorance, I gave it a go. That said, Culler does seem to unduly pedantic, though the link between literature and language is interesting enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Tks
Published 29 days ago by Snoops
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great book used to complete a module on Children's Literature at University. A great help when completing essays.
Published 1 month ago by C. Bennett
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction for first year undergraduates
A clear & concise summary of a complex area of intellectual enquiry. An excellent introduction for first year undergraduates.
Published 2 months ago by M R Gowar
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Arrived quickly and wasn't damaged.
Published 6 months ago by Ruma
3.0 out of 5 stars just an introduction like it says but I would have liked more...
Very brief book, just an introduction like it says but I would have liked more information, nevertheless it did help me get a excellent grade at university level.
Published 7 months ago by Sofia
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Exactly as described, arrived on time
Published 7 months ago by Mrs m barkass-williamson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Very nice and helpful book in a great price! It was totally worth buying it and i would recommend it with no hesitation.
Published 13 months ago by Panagiotis
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for teachers of literature
A classic. It is a very short but necessary introduction to literary theory. Accessible and interesting. I strongly recommend it.
Published 13 months ago by Esther
4.0 out of 5 stars good book
Gave me a great understanding of literary theory and opened my eyes to understand more knowledge of the subject. Glad to be taking my degree
Published 20 months ago by Honeybun
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for English students!
If you're studying Literary Theory/Criticism as part of an English Degree or similar, this is an ESSENTIAL buy! Read more
Published 21 months ago by S.Williams
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