6th Edition

A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory

    318 Pages
    by Routledge

    318 Pages
    by Routledge

    A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory is a classic introduction to the complex yet crucial area of literary theory. This book is known for its clear, accessible style and its thorough, logical approach, guiding the reader through the essentials of literary theory. It includes two new chapters: ‘New Materialisms’ which incorporates ecocriticism, animal studies, posthumanism and thing theory; ‘21st Century and Future Developments’ which includes technology, digital humanities, ethics and affect.


    Preface to the Sixth Edition


    1. New Criticism, moral formalism and F. R. Leavis

    Origins: Eliot, Richards, Empson

    The American New Critic

    Moral formalism: F. R. Leavis

    2. Russian formalism and the Bakhtin School

    Shklovsky, Mukařovský, Jakobson

    The Bakhtin School

    3. Reader-oriented theories

    Phenomenology: Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer

    Hans Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser

    Fish, Riffaterre, Bleich

    4. Structuralism

    The linguistic background

    Structuralist narratology

    Metaphor and metonymy

    Structuralist poetics

    5. Marxism

    Soviet Socialist Realism

    Lukács and Brecht

    The Frankfurt School and After: Adorno and Benjamin

    ‘Structuralist’ Marxism: Goldmann, Althusser, Macherey

    ‘New Left’ Marxism: Williams, Eagleton, Jameson

    6. Psychoanalysis

    Sigmund Freud

    Jacques Lacan

    Trauma Studies

    Slavoj Žižek

    7. Feminism

    First-wave feminist criticism: Woolf and de Beauvoir

    Second-wave feminist criticism

    Kate Millett: sexual politics

    Marxist feminism

    Elaine Showalter: gynocriticism

    French feminism: Kristeva, Cixous, Irigaray

    8 Poststructuralism

    Roland Barthes

    Deleuze and Guattari

    Deconstruction: Jacques Derrida

    American deconstruction

    Michel Foucault

    New Historicism and Cultural Materialism

    9. Postmodernism

    Jean Baudrillard

    Jean-François Lyotard

    Postmodernism and Marxism

    Postmodern feminisms

    10. Postcolonialism, race and ethnicity

    Edward Said

    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

    Homi K. Bhabha

    Race and ethnicity

    11. Gay, lesbian and queer theories

    Gay theory and criticism

    Lesbian feminist theory and criticism

    Queer theory and criticism

    12. Post-theory

    13. Ecocriticism, animal studies, thing theory


    Animal Studies

    Thing theory

    14. World literature and digital humanities

    World literature

    Digital Humanities


    1: Glossaries and dictionaries of theoretical and critical terms

    2: Literary, critical and cultural theory journals

    Index of names, titles and topics


    Raman Selden was Professor of English at Lancaster University and Sunderland Polytechnic. He is remembered with lasting admiration for his contribution to 17th century studies and especially for his pioneering and lucid introductions of literary theory. His warmth, commitment and energy remain an inspiration to former colleagues and students.

    Peter Widdowson was Professor of English at the Universities of Middlesex, Brighton and Gloucester. He was able uniquely to combine seriousness with wit and good humour. His strong and questioning historical sense, evident in his teaching and notably in his work on Thomas Hardy and on the ramifications of contemporary theory, remains a model for younger scholars.

    Peter Brooker is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Culture, Film and Media at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. He is the author of A Glossary of Literary and Cultural Theory (Routledge, 2016) and Bertolt Brecht: Dialectics, Poetry, Politics (Routledge Revivals, 2016).