Author: Peter Barry
Publisher: Manchester University Press
So many textbooks pimp literary and cultural theory that it may seem hard to distinguish among them. Although they all necessarily cover much the same ground, this expanded, updated edition of Beginning Theory is notable for including newer movements such as ecocriticism. Succinct examples elucidate major approaches, and a short list of points summarises perspectives without too much oversimplification. These features make up for the annoying “Stop-and-Think” suggested activity sections (“Do you distrust the example because of its elaborateness?”). Although these asides tend to lead the witness, this is just a quibble. Peter Barry’s lucid survey is one of the best. The money quote here, which Barry uses as an epigram, is from B.B. King: “You’d better not look down/If you want to keep flying.”
Who is it for? A practical introduction for undergraduates.
Presentation Well organised, with useful subheadings.
Would you recommend it? Yes, especially because it is relatively affordable.
Deborah D. Rogers
The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms
Author: Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray
Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin’s
This expanded glossary provides over 900 definitions that extend theory to a variety of texts shaping our experience not only of literature, but also of popular culture and of everyday life. Consult this comprehensive, straightforward dictionary for reference, read it cover-to-cover, or browse it for the sheer pleasure of what the authors call “glossarizing”. Examples come from canonical as well as previously marginalised figures and from both literary and nonliterary forms. Shakespeare resides easily alongside Borat and hip-hop. According to my dipstick, this volume has it all. The traditional literary genres. The contemporary terms. The emerging fields. The classical rhetoric. The literary theory. I like to order reference books that students will retain on their bookshelves. This one’s a keeper!
Who is it for? Students of literature at all levels.
Presentation Well laid out. Clear cross-referencing and easy-to-read entries.
Would you recommend it? Without hesitation. Rivals the Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, and that is saying quite a bit. If I may Americanise, it offers “a lot of bang for your buck”!