Critical Terms for Literary Study, Second Edition

University of Chicago Press
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Since its publication in 1990, Critical Terms for Literary Study has become a landmark introduction to the work of literary theory—giving tens of thousands of students an unparalleled encounter with what it means to do theory and criticism. Significantly expanded, this new edition features six new chapters that confront, in different ways, the growing understanding of literary works as cultural practices.

These six new chapters are "Popular Culture," "Diversity," "Imperialism/Nationalism," "Desire," "Ethics," and "Class," by John Fiske, Louis Menand, Seamus Deane, Judith Butler, Geoffrey Galt Harpham, and Daniel T. O'Hara, respectively. Each new essay adopts the approach that has won this book such widespread acclaim: each provides a concise history of a literary term, critically explores the issues and questions the term raises, and then puts theory into practice by showing the reading strategies the term permits.

Exploring the concepts that shape the way we read, the essays combine to provide an extraordinary introduction to the work of literature and literary study, as the nation's most distinguished scholars put the tools of critical practice vividly to use.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
May 15, 2010
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Pages
496
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ISBN
9780226472096
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / General
Literary Criticism / Reference
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This content is DRM protected.
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Everybody’s got a theory . . . or do they?
Thomas McLaughlin argues that critical theory—raising serious, sustained questions about cultural practice and ideology—is practiced not only by an academic elite but also by savvy viewers of sitcoms and TV news, by Elvis fans and Trekkies, by labor organizers and school teachers, by the average person in the street.
Like academic theorists, who are trained in a tradition of philosophical and political skepticism that challenges all orthodoxies, the vernacular theorists McLaughlin identifies display a lively and healthy alertness to contradiction and propaganda. They are not passive victims of ideology but active questioners of the belief systems that have power over their lives. Their theoretical work arises from the circumstances they confront on the job, in the family, in popular culture. And their questioning of established institutions, McLaughlin contends, is essential and healthy, for it energizes other theorists who clarify the purpose and strategies of institutions and justify the existence of cultural practices.
Street Smarts and Critical Theory leads us through eye-opening explorations of social activism in the Southern Christian anti-pornography movement, fan critiques in the ‘zine scene, New Age narratives of healing and transformation, the methodical manipulations of the advertising profession, and vernacular theory in the whole-language movement. Emphasizing that theory is itself a pervasive cultural practice, McLaughlin calls on academic institutions to recognize and develop the theoretical strategies that students bring into the classroom.


“This book demystifies the idea of theory, taking it out of the hands of a priestly caste and showing it as the democratic endowment of the people.”—Daniel T. O’Hara, Temple University, author of Radical Parody: American Culture and Critical Agency after Foucault and Lionel Trilling: The Work of Liberation.

“McLaughlin takes seriously the critical and theoretical activity of everyday people and does so in a way that will empower these very populations to take seriously their own activities as theorists. . . . A manifesto that is sure to be heard by the younger generation of thinkers in American cultural studies.”—Henry Jenkins, MIT, author of Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture

Lucchesi and The Whale is an unusual work of fiction by noted author and critic Frank Lentricchia. Its central character, Thomas Lucchesi Jr., is a college professor in the American heartland whose obsessions and compulsions include traveling to visit friends in their last moments of life—because grief alone inspires him to write—and searching for secret meaning in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Himself a writer of “stories full of violence in a poetic style,” Lucchesi tells his students that he teaches “only because [his] fiction is commercially untouchable” and to “never forget that.” Austerely isolated, anxiety-ridden, and relentlessly self-involved, Lucchesi nonetheless cannot completely squelch his eagerness for love.
Having become “a mad Ahab of reading,” who is driven to dissect the “artificial body of Melville’s behemothian book” to grasp its truth, Lucchesi allows his thoughts to wander and loop from theory to dream to reality to questionable memory. But his black humor-tinged musings are often as profoundly moving as they are intellectual, such as the section in which he ponders the life and philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein in relation to the significance of a name—and then attempts to share these thoughts with a sexy, middle-aged flight attendant—or another in which he describes a chance meeting with a similarly-named mafia don.
Despite apparent spiritual emptiness, Lucchesi in the end does find “a secret meaning” to Moby-Dick. And Lentricchia’s creations—both Lucchesi and The Whale and its main character—reveal this meaning through a series of ingeniously self-reflective metaphors, in much the way that Melville himself did in and through Moby-Dick. Vivid, humorous, and of unparalleled originality, this new work from Frank Lentricchia will inspire and console all who love and ponder both great literature and those who would write it.
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