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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easygoing and very informative
I studied English and American literature at Ghent university years ago (I try to forget how many years ago exactly, it only makes me feel old), and in those days I was introduced to a lot of the 'ideas' contained in this book. Since then I've been most of all just your average reader in search of pleasure, not bothering myself a lot about what 'intentionalism' or...
Published on 11 Sept. 2011 by Didier

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected - rather a disappointment!
As an enthusiastic English teacher, linguist and lover of the language, I generally find this kind of book utterly fascinating and enjoyable to read; and even though I don't always learn anything entirely new, it's always good to find a different angle on a complex or controversial litcrit concept. This new text book has left me wanting and quite frustrated. The...
Published 23 months ago by Scampo


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected - rather a disappointment!, 31 Mar. 2013
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Scampo "Steve C" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know (Hardcover)
As an enthusiastic English teacher, linguist and lover of the language, I generally find this kind of book utterly fascinating and enjoyable to read; and even though I don't always learn anything entirely new, it's always good to find a different angle on a complex or controversial litcrit concept. This new text book has left me wanting and quite frustrated. The explanations are simply far too short or even too obscure themselves to be clear; I'm left sometimes wondering even whether the author really "gets it" but that is unlikely given his status.

It's the first time I've ever considered returning a book to Amazon. If I'd looked at it first, its weaknesses would have been quickly clear and would prevented me buying it. There are many far clearer guides available, even if less stylish and modern in design and style. If you are needing to dip your toes in the often murky waters of lit crit for A level or university, or are a general reader keen on such fascinating things, I do feel that this guide is unlikely to be very useful and might even make you feel rather belittled and confused, needlessly and wrongly. The explanations are not only too brief, they often, and in my view most importantly, lack clarity.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars harmless, but not very interesting, 29 July 2013
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Stanley Crowe (Greenville, SC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know (Hardcover)
I have to admit that I don't much like this kind of book -- you might call it "Lit. Crit. for Dummies." There's the breezy style, edging towards the demotic, along with the sidebars and typographical messing around that purport to reduce the "key concept" to a kind of visual sound-bite. Nothing that Sutherland says is silly or awful, but the whole tone and set-up of the thing says to the reader, "You know, you don't really need to take any of this seriously." It seems to be aimed at low-level undergraduates, or maybe sixth-formers in the UK, and yet . . . when you throw out names like Plato, Eliot, Empson, Leavis, and Kermode, in the course of explaining this or that concept, and you don't say anything much at all about where such figures come from, historically and intellectually, what's a sixth-former to do? In other words, the book offers to present accessible information about concepts to novices, but its range of allusion extends far beyond what is likely to make sense to novices, so who is going to be helped by it? Readers who "get" the allusions are already going to be beyond what this book provides.

I prefer introductions to criticism that make an effort to wrestle with the specifics of certain critical texts. Terry Eagleton's "Literary Theory, now over 30 years old, makes an effort to do that. So does Frank Lentricchia's "After the New Criticism," and I'm sure there have been others since. Such books encourage the reader to actually read some De Man or Derrida or Fish or Aristotle. I can't say that Sutherland's book does. The tone is wrong for encouraging real intellectual engagement; the tone says, "This is all a bit of a lark." I have enjoyed and learned from other things that John Sutherland has done, but this is really too light to be taken seriously. It won't hurt you, but it won't take you very far either.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easygoing and very informative, 11 Sept. 2011
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know (Hardcover)
I studied English and American literature at Ghent university years ago (I try to forget how many years ago exactly, it only makes me feel old), and in those days I was introduced to a lot of the 'ideas' contained in this book. Since then I've been most of all just your average reader in search of pleasure, not bothering myself a lot about what 'intentionalism' or 'structuralism' would make of the books I read. So actually I'm not sure on what sudden impulse I ordered this book from Amazon, and why - having received it - I put the other book I was reading on hold and plunged into this one.

Be that as it may, as soon as I started reading '50 Literature Ideas you really need to know' I couldn't be stopped. It's written in an easy, captivating style, explaining each 'idea' in a couple of pages and using a wealth of examples, and each idea is accompanied by a basic timeline. Of course, one can well imagine endless discussion and debate on the selection of ideas: should 'Gothic' be in there or not? and what about 'Libel'? I for one don't really care that much because any expert or jury would probably come up with a different selection, and instead of argueing back and forth for years Sutherland just sat down and wrote the book. And well write it he did!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The condensed idea - Literature Kicks., 4 Dec. 2013
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know (Hardcover)
John Sutherland is Northcliffe Emeritus Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London and a visiting professor at the California Institute of Technology and this book is beautifully presented in hardback and part of a series of books, each presenting 50 ideas about various subjects including Religion, Economics, Philosophy and Psychology, to name only a few. It is produced by Quercus. It was lovely, but now I've scribbled all over it in pencil, so I'll have to get my eraser working, or better yet, keep the book instead of passing it on to my local charity shop. It is enormously useful in reminding me of aspects of the way literature is said to work by people such as Sophocles (Mimesis), William Empson (Ambiguity), Frank Kermode (Shakespeare and the Classics), Goethe (Intentionalism) The Bloomsbury Group (Milieu), Paradigm Shift (The Revolutionary Romantic Movement), Style (Wordsworth), Allusion (Philip Larkin), and 42 other essential tropes, developments and movements within the aegis of English Literature. I found it fascinating and very rewarding. It rehearses several of the controversies that have gone on during the years up to the present and gets to penetrating grip with aspects such as the New Historicism, Defamiliarization and (gulp) Roland Barthes.

It has side-bars giving examples of, for instance, Irony, Metafiction, Deconstruction, Literary Lies, Plaigiarism, Semiology, Genre, etc, etc. All of which I found entertaining and useful. Here's what he says on Reception Theory, of which there are two main kinds:

"In Britain, the sociologist Stuart Hall has proposed a somewhat different variant of the Barthesian model. Readers do not, Hall says, `receive in the way, say, that a telephone receives a message. There are he proposes, three ways of answering literature's incoming call. One is to submit to the `dominant' - typically authorial instruction. The second is to oppose or quarrel with, the text as an equal. The third way is to work out some kind of compromise, or `negotiated' reading."

I suspect we all do this subconsciously, without realising we are doing it. If it's a book that we have difficulties with on the grounds of some sort of world-view antithetical to our emotions or politics, or even just the way we're feeling at the time, we won't be inclined to negotiate. If it's something that is amusing or otherwise pleasing to us, we'll negotiate, or submit. I admit, I'm a bit of a submitter, I figure that someone has spent time in an effort to please or excite or at least inform me, so what's the sense in arguing with it? I do sometimes argue, but only when I'm sure it's worth it. A book is at my mercy, the least I can do is give it a chance. There are no thought police to make me read what I don't want to read.

The inestimable Stanley Fish introduces: "The principle US variant of reception theory [which] seizes on the `democratic' implications of readers being the ultimate trustees of meaning... The danger. self evidently is rampant subjectivism." He goes on to suggest that: "Readings should be stabilised by `interpretive communities.'" He obviously wants people to come to his seminars and one wishes one could. But a reading group, such as the very good one at my local Library, will probably provide the democratising element, or at least a simulation.

There's a very good glossary explaining terms such as `Epigraph' `Epistle' `Litotes', etc, for such as me who sometimes feels she's forgotten everything she did in English Language classes. Reading this was an absolute pleasure, and I will keep it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful, 17 Jun. 2013
I reckomend this to anyone who wants to learn more about literary criticism. Having read other reviews I'd say the people leaving the negative comments are either not educated enough to grasp the concepts or someone with an advanced education in literature. You're not going to become an expert after reading this book but I'd recommend it to someone in early years of an English degree, to give a brief introduction to a wide range of theories
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is all in the title, 19 July 2011
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This review is from: 50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know (Hardcover)
Whilst not the most relaxing read this book is certainly informative and helps you think about how you think about literature. Some complex ideas are expressed very simply. It has made me quite a pedant about people using the phrase 'epic' which is no bad thing!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Use with caution, 26 May 2014
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This was fun to read and might be helpful to a complele beginner. However it is necessarily very superficial and can be annoying - eg the fact that Paul de Man turned out to have been a Nazi doesn't have anything to do with the value or otherwise of structuralism!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating, 30 April 2014
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I love John Sutherland's easy-to-read, entertaining style, and this was true to form... lots of interesting ideas, made me go back and revisit several classic books to read them with new insights.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Academic Yet Easy, 19 Feb. 2014
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JS presents his summaries with such clarity that one wants to keep on turning the pages. The book is a very sound intro to critical literary theory, especially the iconoclastic modern variety. Strongly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 14 Feb. 2015
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50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know
50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know by John Sutherland (Hardcover - 6 Jan. 2011)
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