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A Handbook of critical approaches to literature


A Handbook of critical approaches to literature Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

For over twenty-five years a favorite of instructors and students around the world, this comprehensive guide to the major critical approaches to literature has been thoroughly revised to reflect the explosion of critical theories and the radical expansion and revision of the literary canon that have taken place in recent decades. Two entirely new chapters cover feminist approaches and structuralism and poststructuralism, and there are substantial new sections on recent neo-Marxist theories, dialogics, hermeneutics, the new historicism, and reader-response criticism. In addition, bibliographic references have been updated and expanded throughout.

Combining the best features of competing texts, the Handbook not only defines and outlines the development of all the major critical-interpretive perspectives, with copious references to the most important and influential sources, but offers detailed practical applications of the various approaches to the same four literary works--a unique feature that gives students both a dramatic demonstration of the strengths of each approach and a memorable set of models for the interpretation of other literary works. Organized for flexibility, the Handbook can be taught as a continuous unit or adapted to fit courses organized by genre, and is equally successful as an introductory survey for beginning students and as a reference and bibliographic guide for graduates.

Offering a practical yet scholarly blend of applied criticism and pedagogy in an engaging style and an accessible format, this new edition of the Handbook is an invaluable companion for today's students of literature and literary criticism.


Includes bibliographical references (p. 365-374) and index.

Table of Contents


1 Traditional Approaches

I. Nature and Scope of the Traditional Approaches

A. Textual Scholarship: A Prerequisite to Criticism

B. Types of Traditional Approaches

1. Historical-Biographical

2. Moral-Philosophical

II. The Traditional Approaches in Practice

A. Traditional Approaches to Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"

1. The Text of the Poem

2. The Genre of the Poem

3. Historical-Biographical Considerations

4. Moral-Philosophical Considerations

B. Traditional Approaches to Hamlet

1. The Text of the Play

2. A Summary of the Play

3. Historical-Biographical Considerations

4. Moral-Philosophical Considerations

C. Traditional Approaches to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

1. Dialect and Textual Matters

2. The Genre and the Plot of the Novel

3. Historical-Biographical Considerations

4. Moral-Philosophical Considerations

D. Traditional Approaches to "Young Goodman Brown"

1. The Text of the Story

2. The Genre and the Plot of the Story

3. Historical-Biographical Considerations

4. Moral-Philosophical Considerations

2 The Formalistic Approach

I. Reading a Poem: An Introduction to the Formalistic Approach

II. The Process of Formalistic Analysis: Making the Close Reader

III. A Brief History of Formalistic Criticism

A. The Course of a Half Century

B. Backgrounds of Formalistic Theory

C. The "New Criticism"

IV. Constants of the Formalistic Approach: Some Key Concepts, Terms, and Devices

V. The Formalistic 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"

C. Romance and Reality, Land and River: The Journey as Repetitive Form in Huckleberry Finn

D. Dialetic as Form: The Trap Metaphor in Hamlet

IV. Limitations of the Formalistic Approach

3 The Psychological Approach: Freud

I. Aims and Principles

A. Abuses and Misunderstandings of the Psychological Approach

B. Freud's Theories

II. The Psychological Approach in Practice

A. Hamlet: The Oedipus Complex

B. Rebellion against the Father in Huckleberry Finn

C. "Young Goodman Brown": Id versus Superego

D. The Turn of the Screw: The Consequencces of Sexual Repression

E. Death Wish in Poe's Fiction

F. Love and Death in Blake's "Sick Rose"

G. Sexual Imagery in "To His Coy Mistress"

III. Other Possibilities and Limitations of the Psychological Approach

4 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. Syntheses of Jung and Anthropology

C. Myth Criticism and the American Dream: Huckleberry Finn as the American Adam

IV. Limitations of Myth Criticism

5 Feminist Approaches

I. Feminism and Feminist Literary Criticism: Definitions

II. Historical Overview and Major Themes in Feminist Criticism

III. Four Significant Current Practices

A. Gender Studies

B. Marxist Feminism

C. Psychoanalytic Feminism

D. Minority Feminist Criticism

IV. Four Feminist Approaches

A. The "Marble Vault": The "Mistress" in "To His Coy Mistress"

B. Frailty, Thy Name Is Hamlet: Hamlet and Women

C. Men, Women, and the Loss of Faith in "Young Goodman Brown"

D. Women and "Sivilization" in Huckleberry Finn

V. The Future of Feminist Literary Studies: Some Problems and Limitations

6 Structuralism and Poststructuralism

I. Structuralism

A. Context and Definition

B. The Linguistic Model

C. Russian Formalism: Estrangement and Deformalization in "To His Coy Mistress" and Other Works

D. Semiotics or Semiology

E. Nouvelle Critique (French Structuralism): Decoding "Young Goodman Brown" and Other Works

F. Anglo-American Interpreters

II. Structuralist Approaches to Huckleberry Finn

III. Hamlet: A Parable of Ambiguity

IV. Poststructuralism: Deconstruction

7 Additional Approaches

I. Aristotelian Criticism (Including the Chicago School)

II. Genre Criticism

III. The History of Ideas

IV. Linguistics and Literature

V. Stylistics

VI. The Rhetorical Approach

VII. Phenomenological Criticism (The Criticism of Consciousness)

VIII. Source Study and Related Approaches (Genetic Criticism)

IX. Hermeneutics

X. Dialogics

XI. The Marxist Approach

XII. The New Historicism

XIII. Reader-Response Criticism



"To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell

"Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne



Product Details

Reesman, Jeanne C.
Morgan, Lee:
null, John R.
Reesman, Jeanne C.
null, Earle G.
Guerin, Wilfred L.
null, Jeanne C.
John R. Willingham
Labor, Earle G.
null, Lee
Morgan, Lee
null, Wilfred L.
Oxford University Press
New York :
Literature/English | Literary Theory
Edition Number:
Series Volume:
no. 1
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
8.25 x 5.5 x 0.753 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » Literary Reference

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