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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Adventures in Academia: Critical Theory Invades My Mailbox

I'm amused.  I didn't ask for them, but Oxford University Press sent me two books on critical theory and interpreting literature.  They are:

  1. How to Interpret Literature:  Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies by Robert Dale Parker
    (A fairly small book containing sections exploring the major fields of criticism -- structuralism, postcolonialism, deconstruction, etc.)
  2. Critical Theory:  A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies by Robert Dale Parker
    (A much larger book providing actual readings from the major fields of criticism -- Fanon, Marx, Foucault, Derrida, White, Propp, and so on and so forth.)

Now, I suspect these are meant to be texts assigned together, since they are by the same author and serve drastically different functions for learning goals.  Unfortunately, I don't teach critical theory on its own...yet.  I might one day.  I do, however, teach literature courses, which I find are benefited by intense discussion of literary theory, for which the first, smaller book might prove useful.  I'm currently using a book called Texts and Contexts:  Writing and Literature and Critical Theory by Steve J. Lynn from Pearson; I quite like it, but have run into the awful problem of students not reading the assigned readings.

Parker's smaller book, however, might prove more beneficial to me in the future, as its sections are broken down into smaller pieces (Lynn's book couples together all the schools of cultural and historical criticism into one chapter, whereas Parker splits them out).  Likewise, it seems to get into the particulars of these discourses in a way Lynn's book does not, though this is from a very limited, cursory glance which might prove false in the future.

This does not mean I'm going to suddenly drop Lynn for Parker; rather, it means I have some thinking to do for future courses.  Either way, I am excited to have these books, even if I can't justify teaching the monstrous tome containing some amazing selections from important figures in critical theory.  Now I really want to teach such a class...desperately... I wonder if OUP would let me create a book that crams together parts of each book.  That would be amazing.


(Originally posted on Google+ in a slightly different form.

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