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How To Interpret Literature

Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies

Third Edition

Robert Dale Parker

Publication Date - July 2014

ISBN: 9780199331161

416 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $59.95

A lively, accessible, and affordable volume that brings students into the most challenging ideas and debates in literary theory


Offering a refreshing combination of accessibility and intellectual rigor, How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies, Third Edition, presents an up-to-date, concise, and wide-ranging historicist survey of contemporary thinking in critical theory. The only book of its kind that thoroughly merges literary studies with cultural studies, this text provides a critical look at the major movements in literary studies since the 1930s, including those often omitted from other texts. It is also the only up-to-date survey of literary theory that devotes extensive treatment to Queer Theory and Postcolonial and Race Studies. How to Interpret Literature is ideal as a stand-alone text or in conjunction with an anthology of primary readings such as Robert Dale Parker's Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies.

Distinctive Features
* A conversational and engaging tone that speaks directly to today's students
* Wider coverage than any book of its kind
* A rich assortment of pedagogical features (charts, text boxes, photos, and suggestions for further reading)

New to this Edition

  • New accounts of ecocriticism and disability studies, unmatched by any other survey of contemporary theory
  • Revised and updated throughout, including new discussions of intersectionality, queer of color critique, Jacques Rancière, and debates around paranoid, suspicious, symptomatic, and surface reading

About the Author(s)

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


"How to Interpret Literature takes on an immense and formidable task--presenting to students the corpus of twentieth-century literary theory and its differing schools, conflicts, and developments--and it succeeds with a minimum of fuss, grandstanding, ponderousness at synthesizing all of this in one handy volume. Parker's sensitive, responsive, measured, ethically minded, and dazzlingly well-informed approach makes theory lucid, accessible, and inviting while also acknowledging that it is an irreducibly complex, simultaneously graspable intellectual project that demands a lifetime's worth of repeated inquiry."--David Greven, University of South Carolina

"How to Interpret Literature is a clearly written and accessible guide to critical theory for students of English Studies. In this book students will find a friendly and readable guide to complex and often intimidating theoretical concepts."--Richard Zumkhawala-Cook, Shippensburg University

Table of Contents

    Every chapter ends with Further Reading
    1. Introduction
    2. New Criticism
    Before New Criticism
    How to Interpret: Key Concepts for New Critical Interpretation
    Historicizing the New Criticism: Rethinking Literary Unity
    The Intentional Fallacy and the Affective Fallacy
    How to Interpret: A New Critical Example
    The Influence of New Criticism
    3. Structuralism
    Key Concepts in Structuralism
    How to Interpret: Structuralism in Cultural and Literary Studies
    The Death of the Author
    How to Interpret: The Detective Novel
    Structuralism, Formalism, and Literary History
    The Structuralist Study of Narrative: Narratology
    How to Interpret: Focalization and Free Indirect Discourse
    Narrative Syntax, and Metaphor and Metonymy
    4. Deconstruction
    Key Concepts in Deconstruction
    How to Interpret: A Deconstructionist Example
    Writing, Speech, and Différance
    Deconstruction beyond Derrida
    Deconstruction, Essentialism, and Identity
    How to Interpret: Further Deconstructionist Examples
    5. Psychoanalysis
    Clinical Psychoanalysis
    Key Concepts in Psychoanalysis: The Psychoanalytic Understanding of the Mind
    Sigmund Freud
    How to Interpret: Models of Psychoanalytic Interpretation
    From the Interpretation of Dreams to the Interpretation of Literature
    How to Interpret: Further Psychoanalytic Examples
    Jacques Lacan
    How to Interpret: A Lacanian Example
    6. Feminism
    What Is Feminism?
    Early Feminist Criticism
    Sex and Gender
    How to Interpret: Feminist Examples
    Feminism and Visual Pleasure
    Intersectionality and the Interdisciplinary Ethos of Contemporary Feminism
    7. Queer Studies
    Key Concepts in Queer Studies
    How to Interpret: A Queer Studies Example
    Queer Studies and History
    Outing: Writers, Characters, and the Literary Closet
    Homosociality and Homosexual Panic
    Queer of Color Critique
    How to Interpret: Another Queer Studies Example
    Questions that Queer Studies Critics Ask
    8. Marxism
    Key Concepts in Marxism
    Lukács, Gramsci, and Marxist Interpretations of Culture
    Contemporary Marxism, Ideology, and Agency
    How to Interpret: An Example from Popular Culture
    How to Interpret: Further Marxist Examples
    9. Historicism and Cultural Studies
    New Historicism
    How to Interpret: Historicist Examples
    Michel Foucault
    Cultural Studies
    How to Interpret: A Cultural Studies Example
    Cultural Studies, Historicism, and Literature
    10. Postcolonial and Race Studies
    From Orientalism to Deconstruction: Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
    How to Interpret: A Postcolonial Studies Example
    Race Studies
    How to Interpret: Postcolonial and Race Studies Examples
    Postcolonial and Race Studies and Literary Studies
    11. Reader Response
    Ideal, Implied, and Actual Readers
    Structuralist Models of Reading and Communication
    Aesthetic Judgment, Interpretive Communities, and Resisting Readers
    Reception Theory and Reception History
    Readers and the New Technologies
    12. Recent and Emerging Developments: Ecocriticism and Disability Studies
    Ecocriticism and Environmental Criticism
    Disability Studies
    A Future for Critical Theory
    Works Cited
    Photographic Credits