What is this thing called literature? Why should we study it? And how?
Relating literature to topics such as dreams, politics, life, death, the ordinary and the uncanny, this beautifully written book establishes a sense of why and how literature is an exciting and rewarding subject to study. Bennett and Royle delicately weave an essential love of literature into an account of what literary texts do, how they work and what sort of questions and ideas they provoke.
The book’s three parts reflect the fundamental components of studying literature: reading, thinking and writing. The authors use helpful, familiar examples throughout, offering rich reflections on the question ‘What is literature?’ and on what they term ‘creative reading’.
Bennett and Royle’s lucid and friendly style encourages a deep engagement with literary texts. This book is not only an essential guide to the study of literature, but an eloquent defence of the discipline.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Studying Literature Part 1: Reading Chapter 2: Reading a Poem Chapter 3: Reading a Novel Chapter 4: Reading a Short Story Chapter 5: Reading a Play Part 2: Thinking Chapter 6: Thinking about Literature Chapter 7: Thinking Critically Part 3: Writing Chapter 8: Writing an Essay Chapter 9: Creative Writing Chapter 10: Writing Short Fiction Appendix: The Wordbook Glossary Bibliography
Andrew Bennett is Professor of English at the University of Bristol, UK.
Nicholas Royle is Professor of English at the University of Sussex, UK.
"A very shrewd, lively, and at times irreverent introduction to literary study, which explains that thinking about literature is thinking about everything else, including thinking." Jonathan Culler, Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Cornell University, USA
"Clear, fair-minded, and patiently elaborating, this is an invaluable field guide for seasoned teachers and scholars as well as beginning students." Wai Chee Dimock, William Lampson Professor of English & American Studies, Yale University, USA
"Reports on the so-called ‘death of literature’ – its increasing irrelevance in an age of digital reason – are, we have long suspected, greatly exaggerated. Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle confirm this with a timely and robust case for the defence, repositioning literary studies at the centre of the humanities. With their eloquent readings, witty aperçus and compendious range of reference, the authors provide the kinds of insightful pleasures that, they argue, are central to the literary arts themselves. The book’s brevity is no indication of its ambition: if This Thing Called Literature does not make you a better reader, writer, critic and thinker, you haven’t been reading it closely enough." Paul Sheehan, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
"Literature, it turns out in Bennett and Royle's invigorating introduction to the topic, is anything but a thing: it is an activity, a provocation, an experience, a conundrum. This highly readable book is an important contribution to debates about why literature matters at the same time as offering a practical guide to the understanding and enjoyment of literary works, the task of writing about them, and the challenge of creating them." Derek Attridge, Professor of English, University of York, UK
"What the duo of Strunk and White is to writing well the duo of Bennett and Royle is to reading carefully and, especially, to thinking deeply about literature. This Thing Called Literature is a fun, fresh take on why we study literature and how to do it and is a useful and accessible read for students just beginning their study; it is also a rewarding, heartening read for those of us who got into the business of literary study for the love of reading, thinking, and writing." Daniel Robinson, Homer C. Nearing Jr. Distinguished Professor of English, Widener University, USA
"This Thing Called Literature is another triumph by Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle. They are our most trusted guides to literary study writing today. Their exemplary pedagogy opens up the wonders and complexity of both literature and study itself. The future of reading has been given a fighting chance by this wonderful book, which will benefit everyone who reads it from the A Level student to the Emeritus Professor." Martin McQuillan, Kingston University, UK
"The seasoned authorial duo of Bennett and Royle has pulled it off again. Avoiding both simplification on one side, and over-abstraction on the other, this new book will engage and appeal to all readers with doubts or hopes about studying literature seriously." Rachel Bowlby, Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University, USA
‘Some versions of Cole Porter’s ‘What is This Thing Called Love?’ open with references to the humdrum. There is, however, nothing remotely humdrum about Bennett and Royle’s This Thing Called Literature - a playful, pleasurable, passionate defence of ‘what is strange and slippery about literature’. In light and lucid prose, and with plenty of well-chosen examples, the authors offer a timely and provocative introduction to literary study and creative-critical response.’ - Neil Badmington, Cardiff University, UK.
"Combining a precis of literary theory with advice on how to read and write creatively, This Thing Called Literature, the third book from Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, is a neat little guide for undergraduates, or anyone who wants to know more about literary studies. It is the kind of book tutors and lecturers could enjoy and learn from, as well as their students." - Rachel Darling, TLS