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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2008
Though it's been a while since I was at Uni I still clearly remember how awful the prospect of studying Lit Theory was. Not only were the lectures dull, most of it hardly seemed to make sense and had no real bearing on world. However, this book single handedly changed all of that for me. Simple and clear, Eagleton lays bare the major theories including strucuralism, semiotics, post-structuralism and everyone's favourite: psychoanalysis.

In particular I would recommend this book to anyone trying to get to grips with post-structuralism. If you've ever tried to read Derrida you'll know that it is the most impossible thing in the world (there is many a lecturer who won't touch it). However, a couple of read throughs of Eagleton and you'll be a master.

Seriously, anyone even thinking about starting on Lit Theory get this book now. It's a life saver and a life changer.
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VINE VOICEon 25 March 2010
This is a very landmark product in the history of critical theory, but as an introduction to Literary Theory there are better places to go.

I found Eagleton quite fun to read, but you have to be on your toes as not everything he states is as objective as a total stranger to the field might desire.

The book is also really long. Introductions to topics should be comprehensive and concise. This book is neither. Although Eagleton's summary is interesting and generates fresh material, he misses feminism, queer theory, ecocriticism...etc.

I read the Eagleton before starting an English Literature course at university. During the first semester I got back in touch with my old English teacher and asked if he had any further recommendations for Literary Theory, and he sent me here:
Beginning theory (third edition): An introduction to literary and cultural theory (Beginnings)

I'm not a fan of Peter Barry's insistence on frequent 'DIY' exercises, but his is a book I could read quickly and easily, whilst getting a feel for the big picture of critical theory.

In my opinion, literery theory can only really be approached as an 'introduction' if not studied as a means to understanding a specific text. Sooner or later you'll happen across a school of criticism which is aligns with your own thoughts regarding literature, and when that time comes it's useful to be able to put some details and context to the rather erudite names.

I don't wish to undersell Terry Eagleton. I found this book fascinating, and was telling my friends and family (much to their annoyance) about some of the more beautiful allegories throughout my reading. It's just that it was more intellectual entertainment than anything else, and ironically a more academic approach to the subject might call for 'simpler' books.
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on 16 February 2014
I have just finished a BA English degree course, and inevitably modern literary theory made an appearance from time to time. Happily, this didn't happen very often. I am a retired lawyer and found much of what was recommended in this line obscure, indigestible and sometimes plain silly. By chance, I discovered a superb book that enabled me to understand how to play these games. This was Lois Tyson's 'Critical Theory Today' (2nd. ed, 2006). She explains even the most bizarre theories very clearly, and has adopted the excellent device of applying each of the theories to the same text ('The Great Gatsby') in a short model essay at the end of every chapter. On the strength of her book, and some other practical books recommended for beginners in her bibliographies, I was able to score over 70% for my effort to 'deconstruct' a short story by Charlotte Mew. Value of the exercise for literary appreciation: nil. Value as parlour game and grade accumulator: very high.
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on 25 July 2015
Raunchy and lucid. Justifiably tough on deconstruction. The ending is sad, as the author believes that all which needed to be created to crticise properly, has been, and that the discipline has nowhere left to go. The book shows that literary criticism has gone mad, and that it possibly needs to return to romantic basics. The message is clear that the European, Cartesian, deductive school has led us inductive Anglo-Saxons up a blind alley. That the "modern" school should now have to rely on Marx and on Freud to resolve its existential problems rightly comes over as absurd.
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on 5 June 2014
This is Eagleton's best work, which all undergraduates should read. Without making arguments too complex and without delving unnecessarily deep into the many writers he discusses, this overview of the history of literary theory clearly and, by and large, fairly puts the thought of a huge number of thinkers in witty and clear terms. Eagleton points out many of these writers' central problems and themes without ever being dull or overly complex. A fine piece of writing, and the criticism's not half bad.
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on 8 January 2012
A superb introduction to the world of Lit Crit & theory. If you're doing a degree in English, or simply want to look at the cogs which make literary theory work, then this is THE book for you.
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on 28 October 2009
Terry Eagleton is a vastly experienced and highly regarded academic and his book is doubtless essential reading for students on university literature courses. As an interested general reader, I found his opening chapters on the development of literary criticism fascinating. However, the chapters on specific theories were a little beyond the scope of this reader.
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on 17 May 2013
This book has prooved to be exactly what I needed. It is essential reading for any student of English Literature. Thank you.
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on 24 February 2016
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on 10 December 2012
It is a well-established complaint about TE that he recycles others' theories rather than writing something challenging himself. But there was always something else wrong, difficult to pin down, but connected with a ridiculously credulous attitude to leftist ideology. Then a few months ago he dropped his bombshell by coming out as a Catholic - suddenly, the absence of gay/queer studies from his book, his lack of intellectual rigour, his defensive and hysterical sneers against people like Larkin and Amis, all began to make sense. He was writing books purporting to be based on reason, whilst all the time supporting the world's largest homophobic hate machine.
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