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Paperback Critical Theory Today : A User-Friendly Guide (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities) Book

ISBN: 0815328796

ISBN13: 9780815328797

Critical Theory Today : A User-Friendly Guide (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities)

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Book Overview

Providing in-depth coverage of the most common approaches to literary analysis, this guide can be used as the only text in a course or as a precursor to the study of primary theoretical works. It aims to motivate readers by showing them what critical theory can offer in terms of their practical understanding of literary texts and in terms of their personal understanding of themselves and the world in which they live. The text offers a how-to book...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Taking media seriously

Prof. Tyson's text is a worthy companion to Mcluhan, Chomsky and even Joseph Campbell. The idea that one can find a "skeleton key" for literature is certainly not a new one, but forging your own key has become deliciously less difficult now that Lois Tyson's book is available. Don't like The Great Gatsby, that's okay, apply lit. theory to any available piece of writing, music, art...anything. That's the beauty of the whole process of critical discernment. The question of "what makes good art?" is always relevant, and now a substantial answer may be esier to come by. I return to this book every time I encounter a new concept in psych., sociology, philosophy...it applies to everything. Literature is only the begining.

The book made my class a joy.

Lois Tyson's Critical Theory Today transformed the 200-level Intro to Literary Studies class that I teach at Aquinas College. Other texts have frustrated and silenced students, but Tyson's book has made my class come alive. Tyson assumes that her readers are intelligent and capable people who need information, examples, and guidance (whereas other texts assume that readers should be crushed and abandoned), and she gives them all that they need in friendly prose. The clear explanations and applications made my students lively and willing to try new ideas. They not only understood the methodologies but also could apply them. I didn't change my teaching style; the credit for the improvement in my class goes to Tyson's excellent text. Please read it.

a model of lucidity and comprehensiveness

This work is true to its sub-title: "a User-Friendly Guide." Most textbooks on critical theory are exercises in jargon and (self-) mystification. Little is made clear except the notion that talk about literature is the preserve of an initiate community. Tyson's book is a refreshing break with usual practices. First, because the author knows that to understand something means that one can restate it in other terms, terms that make difficult concepts available to a large audience. Second, because the author is a superb practical critic who ends each chapter of the book with an application of the theory considered to Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY. Each interpretation is illustrative, original, and provocative. Two purposes are thereby served: (1) readers get a clear sense of how each theory under discussion "works" when theories are joined with careful, sensitive reading rather than dogmatic application (as is so often the case); (2) a larger understanding of Fitzgerald's novel is evolved and through it an understanding of how a variety of critical theories might be usefully combined. Again, this is a nice contrast to the usual practice in the profession--where most professors latch onto one theory, use it dogmatically to generate "interpretations," and then oppose their theory to other theories. Tyson's book patiently constructs another posssibility: that competence in many theories is desirable because it offers us the possibility of developing an understanding of literature that builds toward a genuine community of interpreters. I should add that a further quality of the book is the number and range of theories that Tyson presents--14. Most texts offer at best 4 or 5. The energy and work that has gone into this text is remarkable. Tyson has read widely--and sympathetically. She is never taken in by jargon or guilty of it. What we have here is a work of uncommon clarity--the best introductory text of its kind, a work suitable for a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses in theory and its applications.

Lois Tyson's book is a godsend.

From teacher to teacher: Gretchen S. Cline, Muskegon Community College professor of English. I've used Tyson's book for the introduction to literature and composition course that I teach at an open admissions community college in Michigan. Lois Tyson's Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide (1999) is a godsend. Professor Tyson's book is the answer to what I've long envisioned as the ideal reference book for teachers wanting to introduce their students to critical theory, to increase their repertoire of literary "readings," and to implement diversity issues in the college classroom. This much needed reference guide has helped me to better understand and apply different critical approaches to literature, as I prepare, create, and develop meaningful classroom activities and writing assignments involving analysis and reading comprehension for both new and seasoned students. Indeed, Tyson's succinct overview of the different issues each theory raises along with the extremely helpful questions at the end of each chapter is truly user-friendly. Specifically, her book has helped me to raise issues and create questions for such works of literature as Ibsen's A Doll's House, Miller's Death of a Salesman, Wilson's The Piano Lesson, Bambara's "The Lesson," Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," and Chopin's "Desiree's Baby" to name a few. While some of my colleagues might think that "this critical theory stuff" goes over the heads of community college students, frequently I encounter students who are curious and want to know more about "those critical essays" that already appear in their "introduction to literature" anthologies. In fact, most of the "introduction to literature" anthologies that I've reviewed contain cursory, vague, and overly complicated excerpts from a wide range of "established" academic critics. Tyson's book helps students and teachers create a "cultural" context for the different theories with language that is accessible to those new to theory. Furthermore, as a pedagogical tool, Tyson's book helps teachers help students to make connections between different kinds of value/belief systems that underlie the way they interpret literature and, more importantly, how they think about the world. Honest and straightforward, the tone of Tyson's book reflects a teacher who loves teaching and is thoroughly dedicated to her students; I will be forever grateful to her for sharing this huge and extremely important undertaking. Any community college, university, and even high school instructor wishing to incorporate lively discussions, multicultural/diversity sensitivity, and creative assignments into the classroom will benefit from Tyson's phenomenal book. You owe it to your students to read this one.
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