Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory / Edition 2 available in Paperback
Beginning theory has been helping students navigate through the thickets of literary and cultural theory for over two decades. This new and expanded fourth edition continues to offer students and readers the best one-volume introduction to the field.
The bewildering variety of approaches, theorists and technical language is lucidly and expertly unravelled. Unlike many books which assume certain positions about the critics and the theories they represent, Peter Barry allows readers to develop their own ideas once first principles and concepts have been grasped.
The book has been updated for this edition and includes a new introduction, expanded chapters, and an overview of the subject (Theory after Theory) which maps the arrival of new 'isms' since the second edition appeared in 2002 and the third edition in 2009.
About the Author
Peter Barry is Emeritus Professor of English at Aberystwyth University
Table of Contents
1. Theory before 'Theory' Liberal humanism
3. Post-structuralism and deconstruction
5. Psychoanalytic criticism
6. Feminist criticism
7. Lesbian/gay criticism
8. Marxist criticism
9. New historicism and cultural materialism
10. Postcolonial criticism
14. Literary theory a history in ten events
15. Theory after 'Theory'
Where do we go from here: Further reading
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Every student of literature or writing should read this book. Barry handles the subject matter expertly, taking the beginner on a guided tour of the battlefield that is literary theory. Literary theory is divided along such ambiguous lines that even grasping the fundamentals of disparate theories is difficult. Barry takes the edge off theory fear. I appreciated his manner of structuring each topic--dipping just below the surface to expose the rudimentary nature of the various theories made the basic concepts easier to understand. Barry also reveals the history of criticism in an easy to follow way. Tracing criticism¿s track from Aristotle forward is a difficult task he simplifies for the student. His five points for theory on page 36 summed up the whole of what theory attempts to unravel: pervasive politics, constitutive language, provisional truth, contingent meaning, and the myth of human nature. This tells me that theory attempts to make sense of life as described in literature. I thought it most confusing and interesting that Barry aligns post-structuralism with philosophical skepticism. Personally, I would align Elizabethan literature with skepticism, especially Shakespeare¿s work. I also thought it confusing to posit deconstruction as a branch of post-structuralism. I had thought of deconstruction as a theoretical concept in its own right, standing alone or perhaps running parallel with post-modernism. Barry makes an excellent case for the opposite. New historicism seems to be a play on Foucault¿s archeology of knowledge. Perhaps it should be called Foucaultian theory. Cultural materialism seems to want to say that knowledge can¿t be attained unless attained through cultural materialism. The divisiveness of the various theories¿something Barry perhaps didn¿t intend to point out¿stands out. The differences among theorists and theories seem a bit like a catalogue of music videos made by different directors of the same song by the same artist. All the directors film an interpretation that leaves the viewer feeling a different musician has been created along with the video. Most times, I find music video ruins the song for me, because I often find that seeing the artist through the eyes of the director ruins my own interpretation of the art. Songs and texts have no absolute state, no absolute meaning. Both take on a life of their own in the imagination. It¿s rather sad to over-analyze art rather than experience it. Somehow, theorizing destroys art¿s magic the same way music videos destroy music. The text never errs; it¿s the theorist who takes a different viewpoint¿ the song remains the same.
Peter Barry is brilliant. He outlines recent literary theories and gives the reader detailed descriptions of what a critic in the theory looks for in a text. For anyone beginning to study literary theory - Barry is your man.