A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory  book cover
6th Edition

A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory

ISBN 9781138917460
Published December 21, 2016 by Routledge
318 Pages

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents


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

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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).