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A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature

Sixth Edition

Wilfred Guerin, Earle Labor, Lee Morgan, Jeanne Reesman, and John Willingham

Publication Date - February 2010

ISBN: 9780195394726

464 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $124.99

An essential guide to the most useful critical approaches to literature--applied to the same six classic works


Ranging from traditional approaches to the most contemporary perspectives, such as feminist and gender studies, cultural studies, and postcolonial studies, A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature offers readers a variety of clearly articulated approaches to interpreting literature. This thoroughly updated sixth edition applies these diverse approaches to the same six classic works--"To His Coy Mistress," "Young Goodman Brown," "Everyday Use," Hamlet, Huckleberry Finn, and Frankenstein--in a way proven to elicit student analysis by enriching their response to and understanding of the individual works and critical theory. (Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress," Nathaniel Hawthorne's story "Young Goodman Brown," and Alice Walker's story "Everyday Use" are included in full within this volume.)

New to this Edition

  • Three new chapters--Materialisms (Chapter 4), Literature and Linguistics (Chapter 5), and Postcolonial Studies (Chapter 10)--present some of the latest theory and criticism, including ecocriticism, Literary Darwinism, third-wave feminism, and black maternal theory, as well as expansion of foundational topics such as Marxism
  • Expanded discussions of film and visual texts link analysis of images--such as Velázquez's Las Meniñas (front cover) and Picasso's interpretations of this painting--to analysis of literature
  • Summaries of key points at chapter ends reinforce concepts
  • A glossary of literary terms (boldfaced at their first appearance in each chapter) helps students master and apply these terms in criticism
  • Updated Quick Reference sections at chapter ends reflect the latest research
  • A companion website (www.oup.com/us/guerin) features essay assignments, self-tests, PowerPoint presentations, and helpful links

About the Author(s)

Wilfred L. Guerin, Professor Emeritus of English, Louisiana State University

Earle Labor, George A. Wilson Professor of American Literature, Centenary College

Lee Morgan, Professor Emeritus of English, Centenary College

Jeanne C. Reesman, Ashbel Smith Professor of English, University of Texas at San Antonio

John R. Willingham, Late, Professor Emeritus of English, University of Kansas

Previous Publication Date(s)

December 2004
October 1998
October 1992

Table of Contents


    1. Getting Started: The Precritical Response
    I. Setting
    II. Plot
    III. Character
    IV. Structure
    V. Style
    VI. Atmosphere
    VII. Theme

    2. Traditional Approaches
    I. First, a Note on Traditional Approaches
    II. First Things First: Textual Scholarship, Genres, and Source Study
    A. Textual Scholarship: Do We Have an Accurate Version of What We Are Studying?
    1. General Observations
    2. Text Study in Practice
    B. Matters of Genre: What Are We Dealing With?
    1. An Overview of Genre
    2. Genre Characteristics in Practice
    C. Source Study: Did Earlier Writings Help this Work Come into Being?
    III. Historical and Biographical Approaches
    A. General Observations
    B. Historical and Biographical Approaches in Practice
    1. "To His Coy Mistress"
    2. Hamlet
    3. Huckleberry Finn
    4. "Young Goodman Brown"
    5. "Everyday Use"
    6. Frankenstein
    IV. Moral and Philosophical Approaches
    A. General Observations
    B. Moral and Philosophical Approaches in Practice
    1. "To His Coy Mistress"
    2. Hamlet
    3. Huckleberry Finn
    4. "Young Goodman Brown"
    5. "Everyday Use"
    6. Frankenstein
    V. Summary of Key Points
    VI. Limitations of Traditional Approaches

    3. The Formalist Approach
    I. The Process of Formalist Analysis: Making the Close Reader
    II. A Brief Overview of Formalist Criticism
    A. The Course of Half a Century
    B. Backgrounds of Formalist Theory
    C. The "New Criticism"
    D. Reader-Response Criticism: A Reaction
    III. Constants of the Formalist Approach: Some Key Concepts, Terms, and Devices
    A. Form and Organic Form
    B. Texture, Image, Symbol
    C. Fallacies
    D. Point of View
    E. The Speaker's Voice
    F. Tension, Irony, Paradox
    IV. The Formalist Approach in Practice
    A. Word, Image, and Theme: Space-Time Metaphors in "To His Coy Mistress"
    B. The Dark, the Light, and the Pink: Ambiguity as Form in "Young Goodman Brown"
    1. Virtues and Vices
    2. Symbol or Allegory?
    3. Loss Upon Loss
    C. Romance and Reality, Land and River: The Journey as Repetitive
    Form in Huckleberry Finn
    D. Dialectic as Form: The Trap Metaphor in Hamlet
    1. The Trap Imagery
    2. The Cosmological Trap
    3. "Seeming" and "Being"
    4. "Seeing" and "Knowing"
    E. Irony and Narrative Voice: A Formalist
    Approach to "Everyday Use"
    F. Frankenstein: A Thematic Reading
    V. Summary of Key Points
    VI. Limitations of the Formalist Approach

    4. Materialisms
    I. Marxism
    II. British Cultural Materialism
    III. New Historicism
    IV. Ecocriticism
    V. Literary Darwinism
    VI. Materialisms in Practice
    A. A New History of "To His Coy Mistress"
    B. Hamlet's Evolution
    C. Frankenstein: The Creature as Proletarian
    D. "The Lore of Fiends": Hawthorne and his Market
    E. Fathers and Sons, Gods and Slaves in Huckleberry Finn
    F. "But they're priceless!" Material versus Exchange Value in "Everyday Use"
    VII. Summary of Key Points
    VIII. Limitations of Materialist Approaches

    5. Literature and Linguistics
    I. Structuralism and Post-structuralism, Including Deconstruction
    A. Structuralism: Contexts and Definitions
    B. The Linguistics Model
    C. Russian Formalism: Extending Saussure
    D. Structuralism, Levi-Strauss, and Semiotics
    E. French Structuralism: Coding and Decoding
    F. British and American Interpreters
    G. Post-Structuralism, Deconstruction
    II. Dialogics
    III. Linguistic Approaches in Practice
    A. Deconstructing "To His Coy Mistress"
    B. The Deep Structure of Hamlet
    C. Language and Discourse in Frankenstein
    D. Huck and Jim: Dialogic Partners
    E. "Speak of the Devil!": The Sermon in "Young Goodman Brown"
    F. "Asalamalakim!" Linguistic Distortion in "Everyday Use"
    IV. Summary of Key Points
    V. Limitations of Linguistic Approaches

    6. The Psychological Approach: Freud
    I. Aims and Principles
    A. Abuses and Misunderstandings of the Psychological Approach
    B. Freud's Theories
    C. Other Theories
    II. The Psychological Approach in Practice
    A. Hamlet: the Oedipus Complex
    B. Rebellion Against the Father in Huckleberry Finn
    C. Prometheus Manqué: The Monster Unbound
    D. "Young Goodman Brown": Id over Superego
    E. Sexual Imagery in "To His Coy Mistress"
    F. Morality Principle Over Pleasure Principle in "Everyday Use"
    III. Summary of Key Points
    IV. Other Possibilities and Limitations of the Psychological Approach

    7. Mythological and Archetypal Approaches
    I. Definitions and Misconceptions
    II. Some Examples of Archetypes
    A. Images
    B. Archetypal Motifs or Patterns
    C. Archetypes as Genres
    III. Myth Criticism in Practice
    A. Anthropology and Its Uses
    1. The Sacrificial Hero: Hamlet
    2. Archetypes of Time and Immortality: "To His Coy Mistress"
    B. Jungian Psychology and Its Archetypal Insights
    1. Some Special Archetypes: Shadow, Persona, and Anima
    2. "Young Goodman Brown": A Failure of Individuation
    3. Creator or Creator: Who is the Real Monster in Frankenstein?
    4. Syntheses of Jung and Anthropology
    C. Myth Criticism and the American Dream: Huckleberry Finn as the American Adam
    D. "Everyday Use": The Great [Grand]Mother
    IV. Summary of Key Points
    V. Limitations of Myth Criticism

    8. Feminisms and Gender Studies
    I. Feminisms and Feminist Literary Criticism: Definitions
    II. First-, Second-, and Third-Wave Feminisms
    III. The Literary Woman: Created or Constructed?
    A. Feminism and Psychoanalysis
    B. Feminists of Color
    C. Marxist and Materialist Feminisms
    D. Feminist Film Studies
    IV. Gender Studies
    V. Feminisms and Gender Studies in Practice
    A. The Marble Vault: The Mistress in "To His Coy Mistress"
    B. Frailty, Thy Name Is Hamlet: Hamlet and Women
    C. "The Workshop of Filthy Creation": Men and Women in Frankenstein
    1. Mary and Percy, Author and Editor
    2. Masculinity and Femininity in the Frankenstein Family
    3. "I Am Thy Creature. . ."
    D. Men, Women, and the Loss of Faith in "Young Goodman Brown"
    E. Women and "Sivilization" in Huckleberry Finn
    F. "In Real Life": Recovering the Feminine Past in "Everyday Use"
    VI. Summary of Key Points
    VII. The Future of Feminist and Gender Studies: Some Problems and Limitations

    9. Cultural Studies
    I. What Is (or Are) Cultural Studies?
    II. United States Ethnic Studies
    A. African American Writers
    B. Latina/o Writers
    C. Native American Literatures
    D. Asian American Writers
    III. Postmodernism and Popular Culture
    A. Postmodernism
    B. Popular Culture
    IV. Cultural Studies in Practice
    A. Two Characters in Hamlet: Marginalization with a Vengeance
    B. "To His Coy Mistress": Implied Culture
    C. From Paradise Lost to Frank-N-Furter: The Creature Lives!
    1. Revolutionary Births
    2. "A Race of Devils"
    3. The Frankenpheme in Popular Culture: Fiction, Drama, Film, Television
    D. A Postmodern Goodman Brown
    E. "Telling the Truth, Mainly": Huck and Twain as Tricksters
    F. Cultures in Conflict: A Story Looks at Cultural Change
    V. Summary of Key Points
    VI. Limitations of Cultural Studies

    10. Postcolonial Studies
    I. Postcolonialism: Definitions
    II. Some Key Figures
    III. Postcolonial Critical Practices
    A. Seventeenth-Century English Colonization and "To His Coy Mistress"
    B. Hamlet: Postcolonial Adaptations
    C. Frankenstein: Are There Any New Worlds?
    D. Jim's Superstitions in Huckleberry Finn
    E. Salem: A City Upon a Hill?
    F. The End of an Era: "Everyday Use"
    IV. Summary of Key Points
    V. Limitations of Postcolonial Studies


    Appendix A Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"

    Appendix B Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"

    Appendix C Alice Walker, "Everyday Use"

    Glossary of Literary Terms