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Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice (A Second Printing), 5th Edition

By Charles E. Bressler

Published by Pearson

Published Date: Mar 16, 2011


Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice, 5/e presents the thirteen basic schools of twentieth-century literary theory and criticism in their historical and philosophical contexts.  Unlike other introductions to literary criticism, this book explores the philosophical assumptions of each school of criticism and provides a clear methodology for writing essays according to each school's beliefs and tenets.

Table of Contents



1          Defining Criticism, Theory, and Literature

            Listening to a Conversation

            Eavesdropping on a Literature Classroom

            Can a Text Have More Than One Interpretation?

            How to Become a Literary Critic

            What is Literary Criticism?

            What is Literary Theory?

            Making Meaning from Text

            The Reading Process and Literary Theory

            What is Literature?

            Literature Theory and the Definition of Literature

            The Function of Literature and Literary Theory

            Beginning the Formal Study of Literature


2          A Historical Survey of Literary Theory

            Plato (C. 427 – 347 B.C.E.)

            Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E)

            Horace (65-8 B.C.E.)

            Longinus (First Century C.E.)
            Plotinus (204-270 C.E.)

            Dante Alighiere (1265-1321)

            Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375)

            Sir Philip Sydney ((1554-1586)

            John Dryden (1631-1700)

            Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

            Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

            William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

            Perce Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

            Hippolyte Adolphe Taine (1828-1893)

            Matthew Arnold (18822-1888)

            Henry James (1843-1916)

            Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-175)

            Modern Literary Criticism


3          Russian Formalism and New Criticism

            Russian Formalism

            Bridging the Gap Between Russian Formalism and New Criticism

            Applying Russian Formalism to a Literary Text

            New Criticism

            Historical Development



            Questions for Analysis

            Critiques and Responses

            Critical Essay “The Formalists Critics, Cleanth Brooks


4          Reader-Oriented Criticism

            Historical Development

            I.A. Richards

            Louise M. Rosenblatt






            Hans Robert Jauss

            Wolfgang Iser

            Subjective Criticism

            Norman Holland

            David Bleich

            A Two-Step Methodology

            Questions for Analysis

            Critiques and Responses

            Critical Essay: “The Case for Reader-Response Analysis,” Stanley Fish


5          Modernity and Postmodernism: Structuralism and Deconstruction


            Poststructuralism and Postmodernism

            Modernity and Modernism

            Structuralism: Its Historical Development Pre-Sausseren Linguistics

            Saussure’s Linguistic Revolution

            The Structure of Language

            Langue and Parole

            Saussure’s Redefinition of a Word

            Assumptions of Structuralism

            Methodologies of Structuralism

            Claude Levi-Strauss

            Roland Barthes

            Vladimir Propp and Narratology

            Tvetan Todorov and Gerard Genette

            Jonathan Culler

            A Model of Interpretation

            From Structuralism to Poststructalism: Deconstruction

            Deconstruction: Its Historical Development

            Deconstruction: Its Beginnings

            Derrida’s Starting Place: Structuralism

            Derrida’s Interpretation of Saussure’s Sign

            Assumptions of Deconstruction Transcendental Signified


            Binary Oppositions


            Metaphysics of Presence

            Methodology Acknowledging Binary Operations in Western Thought




            Deconstructive Suppositions for Textual Analysis

Deconstructive: A New Reading Strategy

            American Deconstructionists

            Questions for Analysis

            Critiques and Responses

            Critical Essay “What Is Criticism?” Roland Barthes

            Critical Essay “Convention and Meaning” Jonathan Culler


6          Psychoanalytic Criticism

            Historical Development

            Sigmund Freud

            Model of the Human Psyche: Dynamic Model

            Economic Model

            Typographical Models

            Freud’s Pre-Oedipal Development Phase

            The Oedipus, Castration, and Electra Complexes

            The Significance of Dreams

            Literature and Psychoanalysis

            Carl G. Jung

            Northrop Frye

            Jacques Lacan

            Lacan’s Model of the Human Psyche

            Lacan and Textual Analysis

            The Present State of Psychoanalytic Criticism



            Questions and Analysis

            Critiques and Responses

            Critical Essay: “On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry,” C.G. Jung


7          Feminism

            Historical Development

            Virginia Woolf

            Simone de Beauvoir

            Kate Millet

            Feminism in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s

            Elaine Showalter

            Geographical Strains of Feminism



            Present-day Feminist Criticisms




            Questions for Analysis

            Critiques and Responses

            Critical Essay: “Dancing through the Minefield: Some Observations on the Theory, Practice, Politics of Feminist Literary Criticism,” Annette Kolodny


8          Marxism

            Historical Development

            Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

            Russia and Marxism

            Georg Lukaes

            The Frankfurt School

            Antonio Gramsci

            Louis Althusser

            Marxist Theorists Today



            Questions for Analysis

            Critiques and Responses          

            Critical Essay: “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory,” Raymond Williams


9          Cultural Poetics or New Historicism

            A New-Critical Literature

            Old Historicism

            The New Historicism

            Historical Development

            Cultural Materialism

            New Historicism


            Michael Foucault

            Clifford Geertz

            Text, History, and Interpretation

            What Cultural Poetics Rejects

            What Cultural Poetics Does and Accepts


            Questions for Analysis

            Critiques and Responses

            Critical Essay: Arthur Kinney


10        Postcolonialism

            Postcolonialism: “The Empire Writes Back”

            Historical Development of Postcolonialism

            Assumptions of Postcolonialism


            Questions for Analysis 

            Critiques and Response

            Critical Essay: “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” 


11        African-American Criticism

            Historical Development, Assumptions, and Methodology

            Questions for Analysis

            Critiques and Responses

            Critical Essay: “Talking Black: Critical Signs of the Times,” Henry Louis Gates   Jr.


12        Queer Theory: Gay and Lesbian Criticism

            Historical Development and Assumptions

            Queer Critical Theorists

            Questions for Analysis

Critiques and Response

            Critical Essay: “Epistemology of the Closet”


13        Ecocriticism

            What is Ecocriticism?

            Historical Development



            Questions for Analysis

            Critiques and Responses


Readings on Literary Criticism

“The Formalist Critics”                                                                                            Cleanth Brooks

“Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”              Jacques Derrida

“Heroic Enthocentrism: The Idea of Universality in Literature”                       Charles Larson

“Queer Theory”                                                                                                        Annamarie Jagose                

“John Keats and Nature: An Ecocritical Inquiry”                                                  Charles Ngiewih TEKE