This anthology is a mixed bag. Although prone to over-simplification, some essays are enlightening and stimulates thought. Others are murky waters: pieces that move within small circles of contemporary or outmodeded jargon (e.g. "Freud and psychoanalysis"). Others again (e.g. "Marxists aesthetics") are little more than exercises in name dropping. The understanding of Plato is - rightfully - praised elsewhere. Symptomatically though, that same essay contains a presentation of Aristotle which is plain wrong.
Recently having become a student of literature, I have been snowed under with lists of books on theory and prosody, as well of course as those of actual texts, recommended I read. Theory is to the uninitiated a bewildering and multiplicitous subject in itself, and a decent introduction is essential.
This guide is far and away the best I have come across. It is attractively and sensibly set out, with 37 essays written by scholars on disparate aspects of theory and its developement. The essays are intelligent and do not patronize or oversimplify some quite complex issues, yet manage to be clear and accessible to the new reader, should he give his time to their study. The essay on, for example, deconstruction is elucidatory rather than self-referential and ironic, as some I have seen. The book also benefits from coming from an apparently neutral position, as opposed to some guides, notably Terry Eagleton's often recommended unashamedly Marxist "Literary Theory: An Introduction".
It is of considerable length, and is pricey, but this allows for sufficient exposition that one does not need any further such introductions. Shorter works may be concise, but this compression is at the expense of the reader's better understanding of the subject.
With theory it is better to start with a secondary source such as this, and then move on to, short of consulting a full text, a work like Ryan and Rivkin's "Literary Theory: An Anthology", another weighty book, but one which complements this. Derrida and co can be incomprehensible without primers. This is the one to go for.
I actually found this on eBay, but there is no option to leave a review there.
While a firm believer in the theory that 'you've either got it or you haven't', I actually found many areas of this guide helpful and it has aided me in the expansion and exploration of skills I already possess as a literary critic. I still dip into it now and again, and I've been using it over five months.
A valuable tool for anyone interested in pursuing a career in literary criticism, or indeed just interested in how it all works. Four stars. ****
I've read parts from several books on literary criticism. Some are heavy reading, like the introductions in the available anthologies on literary criticism and theory, and some are easy reading and captures the reader. This one is longer than the latter, and gives you more understanding for the subject. It is actually one of the best academical books I have ever read from, after having read about 100 pages. The introduction is great, and I loved the deep understanding of Plato. Buy it!