Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

Here are our top ten recommendations if you are looking for the best books to read in Literary Theory. We have made sure our list is diverse to cater to the interests of different types of readers.

1. Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

"Bradbury, all charged up, drunk on life, joyous with writing, puts together nine past essays on writing and creativity and discharges every ounce of zest and gusto in him."-- Kirkus Reviews ¶" Zen and the Art of Writing is purely and simply Bradbury's love song to his craft."-- Los Angeles Times

  • Author: Ray Bradbury
  • Publisher: Joshua Odell Editions; 0 edition (August 1, 1994)
  • Genre: Reference, Writing, Research & Publishing Guides
  • ISBN: 978-1877741098
  • Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8 inches


2. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

This thoroughly updated third edition of Critical Theory Today offers an accessible introduction to contemporary critical theory, providing in-depth coverage of the most common approaches to literary analysis today, including: feminism; psychoanalysis; Marxism; reader-response theory; New Criticism; structuralism and semiotics; deconstruction; new historicism and cultural criticism; lesbian, gay, and queer theory; African American criticism and postcolonial criticism. This new edition features: a major expansion of the chapter on postcolonial criticism that includes topics such as Nordicism, globalization and the ‘end’ of postcolonial theory, global tourism and global conservation an extended explanation of each theory, using examples from everyday life, popular culture, and literary texts a list of specific questions critics ask about literary texts an interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby through the lens of each theory a list of questions for further practice to guide readers in applying each theory to different literary works updated and expanded bibliographies Both engaging and rigorous, this is a "how-to" book for undergraduate and graduate students new to critical theory and for college professors who want to broaden their repertoire of critical approaches to literature.

  • Author: Lois Tyson
  • Publisher: Routledge; 3rd edition (November 24, 2014)
  • Genre: New, Used & Rental Textbooks, Humanities
  • ISBN: 978-0415506755
  • Dimensions: 6.14 x 1.1 x 9.21 inches


3. Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

An astonishing work of cultural criticism, this book is widely recognized as a brilliant and devastating challenge to conventional views of literature, anthropology, religion, and psychoanalysis. In its scope and interest it can be compared with Freud's Totem and Taboo , the subtext Girard refutes with polemic daring, vast erudition, and a persuasiveness that leaves the reader compelled to respond, one way or another. This is the single fullest summation of Girard's ideas to date, the book by which they will stand or fall. In a dialogue with two psychiatrists (Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort), Girard probes an encyclopedic array of topics, ranging across the entire spectrum of anthropology, psychoanalysis, and cultural production. Girard's point o departure is what he calles "mimesis," the conflict that arises when human rivals compete to differentiate themselves from each other, yet succeed only in becoming more and more alike. At certain points in the life of a society, according to Girard, this mimetic conflict erupts into a crisis in which all difference dissolves in indiscriminate violence. In primitive societies, such crises were resolved by the "scapegoating mechanism," in which the community, en masse, turned on an unpremeditated victim. The repression of this collective murder and its repetition in ritual sacrifice then formed the foundations of both religion and the restored social order. How does Christianity, at once the most "sacrificial" of religions and a faith with a non-violent ideology, fit into this scheme? Girard grants Freud's point, in Totem and Taboo , that Christianity is similar to primitive religion, but only to refute Freud―if Christ is sacrificed, Girard argues, it is not becuase God willed it, but becaus ehuman beings wanted it. The book is not merely, or perhaps not mainly, biblical exegesis, for within its scope fall some of the most vexing problems of social history―the paradox that violance has social efficacy, the function of the scapegoat, the mechanism of anti-semitism.

  • Author: René Girard
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1st edition (June 1, 1987)
  • Genre: New, Used & Rental Textbooks, Humanities
  • ISBN: 978-0804722155
  • Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches


4. On Beauty and Being Just

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

Have we become beauty-blind? For two decades or more in the humanities, various political arguments have been put forward against beauty: that it distracts us from more important issues; that it is the handmaiden of privilege; and that it masks political interests. In On Beauty and Being Just Elaine Scarry not only defends beauty from the political arguments against it but also argues that beauty does indeed press us toward a greater concern for justice. Taking inspiration from writers and thinkers as diverse as Homer, Plato, Marcel Proust, Simone Weil, and Iris Murdoch as well as her own experiences, Scarry offers up an elegant, passionate manifesto for the revival of beauty in our intellectual work as well as our homes, museums, and classrooms. Scarry argues that our responses to beauty are perceptual events of profound significance for the individual and for society. Presenting us with a rare and exceptional opportunity to witness fairness, beauty assists us in our attention to justice. The beautiful object renders fairness, an abstract concept, concrete by making it directly available to our sensory perceptions. With its direct appeal to the senses, beauty stops us, transfixes us, fills us with a "surfeit of aliveness." In so doing, it takes the individual away from the center of his or her self-preoccupation and thus prompts a distribution of attention outward toward others and, ultimately, she contends, toward ethical fairness. Scarry, author of the landmark The Body in Pain and one of our bravest and most creative thinkers, offers us here philosophical critique written with clarity and conviction as well as a passionate plea that we change the way we think about beauty.

  • Author: Elaine Scarry
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (November 1, 2001)
  • Genre: New, Used & Rental Textbooks, Humanities
  • ISBN: 978-0691089591
  • Dimensions: 4.52 x 0.46 x 7.35 inches


5. Uses of Literature

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

Uses of Literature bridges the gap between literary theory and common-sense beliefs about why we read literature. Explores the diverse motives and mysteries of why we read Offers four different ways of thinking about why we read literature - for recognition, enchantment, knowledge, and shock Argues for a new “phenomenology” in literary studies that incorporates the historical and social dimensions of reading Includes examples of literature from a wide range of national literary traditions

  • Author: Rita Felski
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1st edition (June 9, 2008)
  • Genre: New, Used & Rental Textbooks, Humanities
  • ISBN: 978-1405147248
  • Dimensions: 6.02 x 0.48 x 9.02 inches


6. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

What is literary theory? Is there a relationship between literature and culture? These are some of questions addressed by Jonathan Culler in this new edition of his highly popular Very Short Introduction . Culler, an extremely lucid commentator and much admired in the field of literary theory, uses easy-to-grasp examples as he outlines the ideas behind schools of criticism that can otherwise be quite daunting, such as deconstruction, semiotics, and postcolonial theory. He explains "theory" not by describing warring "schools" but by sketching key "moves" that theory has encouraged, and by speaking directly about the implications of theory for thinking about literature, human identity, and the power of language. In this Second Edition, Culler includes much new material, including a discussion of the "death of theory," a look at topics such as trauma theory, ecocriticism, and the link between the theory of narrative and cognitive science, plus a new chapter on "Ethics and Aesthetics." The book also includes updated bibliographies. Shedding light on everything from literature and social identity, to poetry, poetics, and rhetoric, Literary Theory is a welcome guide for all lovers of literature. About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

  • Author: Jonathan Culler
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2nd edition (August 11, 2011)
  • Genre: New, Used & Rental Textbooks, Humanities
  • ISBN: 978-0199691340
  • Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.5 x 4.4 inches


7. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

More comprehensive and up-to-date than ever before The gold standard anthology for anyone who wants to understand the development and current state of literary theory. Offering 191 pieces by 157 authors, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism , Third Edition, is more comprehensive and more varied in its selection than any other anthology. Forty-eight NEW selections―concentrated mostly on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries―make the book not only the best overview of the history of theory, but also a remarkably up-to-date portrait of the state of theory today.

  • Author: Vincent B. Leitch
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Third edition (June 11, 2018)
  • Genre: New, Used & Rental Textbooks, Humanities
  • ISBN: 978-0393602951
  • Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.6 x 9.6 inches


8. The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols (Dictionary, Penguin)

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

This remarkable and wide-ranging book is an inventory of symbols and the symbolic imagination. The editors and their fifteen contributors are drawn from a variety of scholarly backgrounds—including anthropology, ethnology, psychotherapy and art history. This diversity of approach is responsible for the book's unique character, a reflection of the multiplicity of symbols and signs and the phenomenal range of possible interpretations they offer. This book draws together folklore, literary and artistic sources, and focuses on the symbolic dimension of every colour, number, sound, gesture, expression or character trait that has benefitted from symbolic interpretation. The conscious and unconscious minds are explored, desire and dreams are treated alongside the known and the chronicled. Extraordinary in its range and eclecticism, this dictionary was originally published in French as the Dictionnaire des Symboles , and it is regarded as the standard work on the subject.

  • Author: Jean Chevalier
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 2nd Revised ed. edition (March 1, 1997)
  • Genre: New, Used & Rental Textbooks, Humanities
  • ISBN: 978-0140512540
  • Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.18 x 2.08 inches


9. Ulysses Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's Ulysses

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

Don Gifford's annotations to Joyce's great modern classic comprise a specialized encyclopedia that will inform any reading of Ulysses. The suggestive potential of minor details was enormously fascinating to Joyce, and the precision of his use of detail is a most important aspect of his literary method. The annotations in this volume illuminate details which are not in the public realm for most of us. The annotations gloss place names, define slang terms, give capsule histories of institutions and political and cultural movements and figures, supply bits of local and Irish legend and lore, explain religious nomenclature and practices, trace literary allusions and references to other cultures. Annotations are keyed not only to the reading text of the critical edition of Ulysses, but to the standard 1961 Random House edition, and the current Modern Library and Vintage texts.

  • Author: Don Gifford
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition, 20th Anniversary (January 14, 2008)
  • Genre: Literature & Fiction, History & Criticism
  • ISBN: 978-0520253971
  • Dimensions: 7 x 1.3 x 10 inches


10. The Theory of the Novel

Top 10 Best Books to Read in Literary Theory - August 2021

Georg Lukács wrote The Theory of the Novel in 1914-1915, a period that also saw the conception of Rosa Luxemburg's Spartacus Letters , Lenin's Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism , Spengler's Decline of the West , and Ernst Bloch's Spirit of Utopia . Like many of Lukács's early essays, it is a radical critique of bourgeois culture and stems from a specific Central European philosophy of life and tradition of dialectical idealism whose originators include Kant, Hegel, Novalis, Marx, Kierkegaard, Simmel, Weber, and Husserl. The Theory of the Novel marks the transition of the Hungarian philosopher from Kant to Hegel and was Lukács's last great work before he turned to Marxism-Leninism.

  • Author: Georg Lukacs
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1st edition (January 15, 1974)
  • Genre: Literature & Fiction, History & Criticism
  • ISBN: 978-0262620277
  • Dimensions: 7.94 x 5.21 x 0.37 inches