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Critical Theory

A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies

Robert Dale Parker

Publication Date - January 2012

ISBN: 9780199797776

896 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

Retail Price to Students: $104.99

A concise, accessible, and affordable anthology of primary readings that introduces students to the most challenging ideas and debates in literary theory


A wide-ranging and refreshingly up-to-date anthology of primary readings, Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies, edited by Robert Dale Parker, presents a provocative mix of contemporary and classic essays in critical theory.

From the foundational ideas of Marx and Freud to key writings by Fanon and Foucault, the essays in this collection represent the most influential ideas in modern critical thought and in the contemporary interpretation of literature and culture.

Ideal as a stand-alone reader or as a companion to a critical theory survey--including How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies, also by Robert Dale Parker--this collection of seminal readings invites students to join in the ongoing debates and controversies of critical discussion, reading, writing, and interpretation.

* Provides a comprehensive selection of key works that speak to students' needs and interests without overwhelming them with too many selections
* Offers clear, brief, and engaging headnotes at the beginning of each selection that place the essay in context (i.e., what the essay responds to or what responds to it) and elucidate its key arguments
* Includes key pieces from cultural studies critics not always well known in literary studies, including selections on youth culture by Dick Hebdige, Angela McRobbie, and Tricia Rose
* Provides a glossary of critical terms, giving students a quick and reliable in-text resource
* Covers a variety of theoretical schools--from New Criticism, Structuralism, and Deconstruction to Feminism, Queer Studies, and Postcolonial and Race Studies--weaving connections among chapters to show how these different movements respond to and build on each other
* Organizes selections by theoretical school, unfolding chronologically and matching the organization of Parker's popular How to Interpret Literature
* Features "see also" recommendations that connect different essays and critical movements from across the volume

About the Author(s)

Robert Dale Parker is James M. Benson Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


"This anthology reverses the trend toward bigger, bulkier collections without sacrificing the coverage and selections needed for a responsible theory course. The selections are thoughtfully chosen, artfully focused, and reflect the scope of contemporary theory today." --Steven J. Venturino, Loyola University Chicago

"Critical Theory would make a welcome addition to anyone's bookshelf. I know from experience that Robert Dale Parker's How to Interpret Literature has been incredibly helpful to my theory students. He makes sense of difficult theoretical positions, and he's an enjoyable read. Parker is acutely aware of the many difficulties of assembling such an anthology and he has put a great deal of thought into the choices he has made, both in regard to his selections and his organization--it is fresh and new, but not unfamiliar." --David Ben-Merre, Buffalo State College

Table of Contents

    New Criticism
    Cleanth Brooks, "The Language of Paradox"
    Cleanth Brooks, "The Formalist Critics"
    W. K. Wimsatt, "The Concrete Universal"
    See also selections by Strier and Wolfson
    Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics
    Victor Shklovsky, "Art as Technique"
    V. Propp, Morphology of the Folktale
    Roman Jakobson, "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles"
    Roman Jakobson, "Linguistics and Poetics"
    Claude Lévi-Straus, "The Structural Study of Myth"
    Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author"
    See also selections by Hall ("Encoding/Decoding"), Hayles, Mulvey, and White
    Friedrich Nietzsche, "On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense"
    Jacques Derrida, "The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing"
    Roland Barthes, "From Work to Text"
    J. Hillis Miller, "Stevens' Rock and Criticism as Cure, II"
    Paul de Man, "Semiology and Rhetoric"
    Diana Fuss, "Essentialism in the Classroom"
    bell hooks, "Essentialism and Experience"
    N. Katherine Hayles, "Speech, Writing, Code: Three Worldviews"
    See also selections by Bauman, Chow, Cixous, Hall ("Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation"), Koshy, and Spivak
    Sigmund Freud, "Psycho-analysis"
    Jacques Lacan, "Seminar on 'The Purloined Letter' "
    Slavoj Zizek, "Why Does a Letter Always Arrive at Its Destination?: Imaginary, Symbolic, Real"
    See also selections by Cixous, Irigaray, Mulvey, Sedgwick, and Wittig
    Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema"
    Hélène Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa"
    Luce Irigaray, "This Sex Which Is Not One"
    Toril Moi, "'Images of Women Criticism"
    bell hooks, "The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators"
    See also selections by Anzaldúa, Bauman, Butler, Fuss, McRobbie, Mohanty, Nussbaum, Rich, Sedgwick, Smith, Spivak, and Wittig
    Queer Studies
    Adrienne Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence"
    Monique Wittig, "The Straight Mind"
    Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Gender Asymmetry and Erotic Triangles"
    Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity
    Martha C. Nussbaum, "The Professor of Parody: The Hip Defeatism of Judith Butler"
    Robert McRuer, "Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence"
    Judith Halberstam, "Queer Temporalities and Postmodern Geographies"
    See also selections by Anzaldúa and Dollimore
    Karl Marx, from the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
    Karl Marx, "The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof"
    Karl Marx, "The Working Day"
    Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproducibility"
    Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, from "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception"
    Bertolt Brecht, "Short Description of a New Technique of Acting Which Produces an Alienation Effect"
    Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation)"
    Raymond Williams, "Dominant, Residual, and Emergent"
    Fredric Jameson, "Cognitive Mapping"
    See also selections by Barthes ("The Death of the Author"), Fanon, and Dollimore
    Historicism and Cultural Studies
    Hayden White, "The Historical Text as Literary Artifact"
    Michel Foucault, "Panopticism"
    Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style
    Angela McRobbie, from "Jackie Magazine: Romantic Individualism and the Teenage Girl"
    Stuart Hall, "Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation"
    Stephen Greenblatt, "The Circulation of Social Energy"
    Jonathan Dollimore, "The Politics of Containment"
    Tricia Rose, "The Contradictory Politics of Popular Culture: Resisting, Selling Out, and 'Hot Sex' "
    Lawrence Buell, "The Emergence of Environmental Criticism"
    Richard Strier, "How Formalism Became a Dirty Word, and Why We Can't Do Without It"
    Susan J. Wolfson, "Reading for Form"
    See also selections by Hall ("Encoding/Decoding"), Haraway, hooks ("The Oppositional Gaze"), Koshy, and Williams
    Postcolonial Studies and Race Studies
    Frantz Fanon, "On National Culture"
    Ngugi wa Thiong'o, "The Language of African Literature"
    Homi K. Bhabha, "On Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse"
    Gayatri C. Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?: Speculations on Widow Sacrifice"
    Chandra Talpade Mohanty, "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses"
    Edward Said, "Narrative and Social Space"
    Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza
    Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "Talking Black: Critical Signs of the Times"
    Renato Rosaldo, "Imperialist Nostalgia"
    Ann duCille, "Discourse and Dat Course: Postcoloniality and Afrocentricity"
    Susan Koshy, "The Fictions of Asian American Literature"
    Rey Chow, "The Interruption of Referentiality: Poststructuralism and the Conundrum of Critical Multiculturalism"
    See also selections by Bauman, Hall ("Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation"), hooks ("Essentialism and Experience" and "The Oppositional Gaze"), Jameson, and Rose
    Reader Response
    Stuart Hall, "Encoding/Decoding"
    Barbara Herrnstein Smith, "Value/Evaluation" (1990, 1995)
    Stanley Fish, "Introduction: Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Interpretation," from Is There a Text in This Class?
    H-Dirksen L. Bauman, "Towards a Poetics of Vision, Space, and the Body: Sign Language and Literary Theory"
    Lisa Zunshine, "Theory of Mind and Experimental Representations of Fictional Consciousness"
    See also selection by Barthes ("The Death of the Author"), Brecht, hooks ("The Oppositional Gaze"), and Mulvey