An accessible and thorough introduction to literary theory and contemporary critical practice, this book is an essential resource for beginning students of literary criticism . Covers traditional approaches such as formalism and structuralism, as well as more recent developments in criticism such as evolutionary theory, cognitive studies, ethical criticism, and ecocriticism Offers explanations of key works and major ideas in literary criticism and suggests key elements to look for in a literary text Also applies critical approaches to various examples from film studies Enables students to build a critical framework and write analytically Each chapter contains a reading selection from a contemporary critic practicing that approach
Michael Ryan teaches American Literature and Film Studies at Temple University, USA. He is the author of numerous publications, including Literary Theory: An Anthology, second edition (co-edited with Julie Rivkin, Wiley-Blackwell, 2004), Literary Theory: A Practical Introduction, second edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007), Cultural Studies: An Anthology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), and Cultural Studies: A Practical Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).
Table of Contents
Working Table of Contents.Each chapter will have two parts. In the first, we will explain a theoretical concept by linking it to the world in which students live. In the second, we will train students to use theoretical concepts in their writing. The focus will be on analysis, the examination of an object or of a text in a critical fashion..1. Semiotics .Summary:.This chapter will introduce students to the relativity of language-its dependence on point of view and context-and its semiotic character. We will explain the semiotic model. Most students realize that words are arbitrary but are much less comfortable with the implications of that idea-that language has no inherent relationship to reality. This decentering of the ideal of objective truth inaugurates a search for what determines meaning within a society-a search that will lead students to more complex theories of language, culture, and selfhood..Writing Goal:.Teach students to notice that the words they use are signs, that the signs are given meaning by codes embedded in the culture they inhabit, that words classify the world in various ways, and that these classifications modify the world we perceive..Possible Assignments:.a) After introducing students to metaphor and metonymy, ask students to find an example of each in a work of literature. This is a simple thesis of classification that must be defended through the body of the paper. What instructors will come to find is that, despite years of discussing metaphor and metonymy, students will have some difficulty accurately pointing to them, and even more difficulty in being able to defend their decision using the established criteria.b) After introducing students to connotation and denotation, ask them to analyze the use of the word "terrorist" to describe those resisting the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Provide them with a reading regarding the resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s that portrays the indigenous people resisting occupation as "freedom fighters." Ask them to analyze how words make different things the same and similar things different..Possible Readings: .Arthur Asa Berger "Semiotics and Cultural Criticism"; Roman Jakobson, "Two Types of Aphasia"; William Wimsatt, "Connotation and Denotation"..2. Rhetoric.Summary:.This chapter sensitizes students to the fact that words can be building tools as well as weapons: they can harm or heal, respect or demean, persuade or deceive. The readings will describe the power of language to act in the world by making people believe certain things. Different language acts that will be discussed are arguing a point, justifying an action, demeaning someone through stereotypes, and using fallacies of reason to persuade.Writing Goal:.Introduce students to classical rhetoric. Teach them the difference between logical reasoning (induction, deduction, causality, derivation, etc) and the fallacies of reasoning (slippery slope, generalization, biased example, etc). Alert them to how different ways of writing affect others using either reasoning or emotional appeals..Possible Assignments:.a) Analyze a newspaper editorial for its fallacies of reason. This exercise asks students to identify discursive strategies and to determine the persuasive goal of the text-the specific purpose the logical fallacies seek to attain.b) Using speech act theory, analyze a news report as a verbal and visual act that influences its audience by portrayi