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Customer Review

on 29 September 2008
I bought this book as a newcomer to literary theory, hoping for a clear introduction to contemporary approaches to literary criticism. On that front, I was not disappointed since the writing is clear enough for a beginner, and the idea of using classic and contemporary texts to illustrate the various approaches is a good one. However, Ryan spoils what could have been an excellent, serious introduction by persistently drawing from a strong leftist (and cliched) socio-political viewpoint whenever he creates his own illustrations. Some examples: stating that a liberal will consider George W. Bush "an idiot and a fool" in order to illustrate rhetoric; stating that white readers of a racist novel can "more easily accept the offer of complicity in racism" because they are white; writing that a universal truth about hard work being rewarded is "belied by the educational system in the United States"; a discussion on universal truth is illutrated by a pyramid of the society "before you" which is like a "slave society": "investors, large, property-owner, corporate executives...reap the benefits of other's labors"; etc. etc. Subtle enough perhaps, but constantly inserting this tosh where other examples would have served as well or better introduces an unnecessary and distracting element to the discussion at hand. My objection is not the fact that the slant is leftist, but that political slant does not belong in an instructional book of this sort. When I buy a book about literary theory, I am unwilling to be sujected to the author's political views, whatever they may be. Sadly, the author's inability to keep his own social and political bias out of his text not only makes for tedious reading, but is also a serious failing in a book aimed at first-time students, who may not always pick up on the subtext which is being forced upon them.
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