An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory by Nicholas Royle, Andrew Bennett

By Nicholas Royle, Andrew Bennett

This booklet provides the most important serious strategies in literary experiences this day, warding off the jargonistic, summary nature of a lot `theory'. The authors discover the most important concerns in modern feedback and idea through focusing heavily on a variety of texts, from Chaucer to Achebe and from Milton to Morrison. 

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The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture . . Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing. (Barthes 1977a, 146) In a sense the problem here is evident simply from the two words which frame the above quotation: ‘Barthes writes’. We are still talking in terms of the author and there could be little more persuasive indication of the idea that the author is not dead (though Roland Barthes, sadly, is) than the use of the present tense: Barthes writes.

Where does literature end and literary criticism or literary theory begin? It has become something of a truism to note that Freud’s writings can be thought about in at least two basic and quite different ways. First, there is the Freud of the so-called popular imagination: Freud the patriarchal, bourgeois, nineteenth-century Viennese Jew, who believed that everything has to do with sex. This Freud has very firm views and spouts these in the form of rather mechanically predictable theories, the most celebrated and fundamental of which is perhaps the Oedipus complex.

For an accessible and entertaining history of reading practices and theories from the earliest records to the present, see Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading (1997). For an introduction to poststructuralism, see Robert Young’s ‘Poststructuralism: The Improper Name’, in Torn Halves (1996). On close reading, see Lentricchia and DuBois, eds, Close Reading (2003). For a powerful if highly idiosyncratic take on reading, see Harold Bloom’s How to Read and Why (2000). qxd 13/05/2004 14:44 Page 18 .

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