Modern Literary Theory and Ancient Texts: An Introduction / Edition 1

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This book provides students and scholars of classical literature with a practical guide to modern literary theory and criticism. Using a clear and concise approach, it navigates readers through various theoretical approaches, including Russian Formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, gender studies, and New Historicism.

  • Applies theoretical approaches to examples from ancient literature
  • Extensive bibliographies and index make it a valuable resource for scholars in the field
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A major aspect of this book is Schmitz's refreshing modesty and candour." (Journal of the Classical Association of Canada, Winter 2009)

“…a clear and engaging introduction to some of the most important areas of modern literary theorizing. What sets this apart from a simple introduction, however, is the way that the general theoretical position outlined in each chapter is keyed into the context of modern classical studies…a useful book and one that can be strongly recommended to undergraduates and even intrepid sixth-formers…” (Greece and Rome, Vol 55 No. 2 2008)

“Brief description of theoretical approaches …[in] frank manner of discourse … Schmitz tries to help students understand the concepts he explains.” (Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

"As a reference guide, a bibliographical resource and an engaging read, this book should prove an asset to many." (Journal of Classics Teaching)

“Schmitz is clearly an intelligent reader and advocate of theory. It is a solid piece of work which will, I hope, serve as a starting point for acquainting many classicists with the questions and challenges theory has to offer. The field as a whole will only benefit from Schmitz's contribution.” (New England Classical Journal)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405153751
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 10/9/2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas A. Schmitz is Professor of Greek Language and Literature at the University of Bonn, and is one of the founding members of the Centre for the Classical Tradition. He has previously held positions at Paris, Harvard, Heidelberg, and Frankfurt. He is the author of over 40 books and articles including Bildung und Macht: Zur sozialen und politischen Funktion der zweiten Sophistik in der griechischen Welt der Kaiserzeit (1997) and Moderne Literaturtheorie und antike Texte: Eine Einfuhrung (2002).

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments for the English Translation.


What Is, and To What End Do We Study, Literary Theory?.

Literary Theory and Classics.

Objections Raised against Literary Theory.

How to Use This Book.

Introductions to Literary Theory.

1. Russian Formalism 17.

The Question of Literariness.

Roman Jakobson’s Model of Linguistic Communication.

Poetic Language as Defamiliarization.

Further Reading.

2. Structuralism.

The Founder of Structuralism: Ferdinand de Saussure.

Saussure’s Definition of the Linguistic Sign.

The Meaning of Differences.

Structuralism and Subject.

Structural Anthropology.

Is Structuralist Interpretation Possible?.

Structuralist Definitions of Literary Genres.

Further Reading.

3. Narratology.

Vladimir Propp’s Analysis of the Folk Tale.

Greimas’s Actantial Theory of Narrative.

Roland Barthes and the Study of Narrative Texts.

Structuralist Plot-Analysis: Gérard Genette.

Irene de Jong’s Narratological Analysis of the Homeric Epics.

Further Reading.

4. Mikhail Bakhtin.

Bakhtin’s Life and the Problem of His Writings.

Dialogism and the Novel.

The Carnivalization of Literature.

Menippean Satire and Ancient Carnivalesque Literature.

Further Reading.

5. Intertextuality.

Leading the Way: Julia Kristeva.

Further Developments of Intertextuality.

Gérard Genette’s Model of Hypertextuality.

Intertextuality in Virgil.

Further Reading.

6. Reader-Response Criticism.

Empirical Reception Studies.

Aesthetics of Reception.

American Reader-Response Criticism.

Wheeler’s Analysis of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Further Reading.

7. Orality – Literacy.

Oral Cultures: The Theses of Goody and Watt.

What Does “Orality” Mean?.

Oral Poetry.

The Homeric Epics as a Test Case.

Further Reading.

8. Deconstruction.

The Foundations: Derrida’s Criticism of Logocentrism.

Deconstruction in America.

Objections to Deconstruction.

The Role of the Author.

Stanley Fish’s Model of “Interpretive Communities”.

The Responsibility of the Interpreter.

Deconstruction’s Merits and Demerits.

Deconstruction in Antiquity? Socrates und Protagoras.

Further Reading.

9. Michel Foucault and Discourse Analysis.

The Power of Discourse.

Objections to Foucault’s Analysis of Discourse.

Foucault and Antiquity.

The Debate about Foucault’s Interpretation of Ancient Sexuality.

Further Reading.

10. New Historicism.

New Historicism and Deconstruction.

New Historicism and Michel Foucault.

Objections to New Historicism.

New Historicism and Antiquity.

Further Reading.

11. Feminist Approaches/Gender Studies.

The Feminist Movement and Definitions of “Woman”.

Feminism in Literary Criticism.

French Feminism.

Pragmatic Feminism in Literary Criticism.

From Images of Women to Gender Studies.

Queer Theory.

Gender Studies and Attic Drama.

Further Reading.

12. Psychoanalytic Approaches.

Interpreting Dreams, Interpreting Literature.

Three Attempts at Psychoanalytic Interpretation.

Language and the Unconscious: Jacques Lacan.

Further Reading.


Whither Now?.

Additional Notes.

References and Bibliography.


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