Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition)

ISBN : 9780199691340

Jonathan Culler
184 ページ
112 x 174 mm
Very Short Introductions



  • Previous edition sold 114,000 copies
  • Revised and updated, including new material about the 'death of theory'; the links between the theory of narrative and cognitive science; trauma theory; and ecocriticism, as well as a new chapter on 'Ethics and Aesthetics'
  • A short and clear exposition of a notoriously difficult subject matter
  • Instead of offering summaries of theories, it explores particular problems and approaches to solving them, including aspects of language, identity, and meaning
  • Jonathan Culler is an extremely lucid commentator, much admired in the field of literary theory
  • An understanding of literary theory is useful to students of any literature, making this an excellent introduction for literature undergraduates
  • Part of the bestselling Very Short Introductionsseries - over three million copies sold worldwide

New to this Edition:

  • Includes new material looking at the 'death of theory'; the links between the theory of narrative and cognitive science; trauma theory; and ecocriticism, as well as a new chapter on 'Ethics and Aesthetics'
  • Updated bibliographies

What is literary theory? Is there a relationship between literature and culture? In fact, what is literature, and does it matter? 

These are some of questions addressed by Jonathan Culler in this Very Short Introductionto literary theory. Often a controversial subject, said to have transformed the study of culture and society in the past two decades, literary theory is accused of undermining respect for tradition and truth and encouraging suspicion about the political and psychological implications of cultural projects rather than admiration for great literature. 

Here, Jonathan Culler explains 'theory', not by describing warring 'schools' but by sketching key 'moves' theory has encouraged, and speaking directly about the implications of theory for thinking about literature, human identity, and the power of language. In this new edition Culler takes a look at new material, including the 'death of theory', the links between the theory of narrative and cognitive science, trauma theory, ecocriticism, and includes a new chapter on 'Ethics and aesthetics'. This lucid introduction is useful for anyone who has wondered what all the fuss is about or who wants to think about literature today.


1: What is theory?
2: What is literature and does it matter?
3: Literature and cultural studies
4: Language, meaning, and interpretation
5: Rhetoric, poetics, and poetry
6: Narrative
7: Performative language
8: Identity, identification, and the subject
9: Ethics and aesthetics
Appendix: Theoretical schools and movements
Further Reading


Jonathan Culler, Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Cornell University
Jonathan Culler taught at Cambridge University and Oxford University before moving to Cornell, where he is Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature. His Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature, won MLA's Lowell Prize and established his reputation as analyst and expositor of critical theory. He has published short introductions to Ferdinand de Saussure and to Roland Barthes, but he is known especially for On Deconstruction and Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, which has been translated into some 20 languages. He has been President of the American Comparative Literature Association and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and to the American Philosophical Society in 2006.

Review from previous edition 
It is impossible to imagine a clearer treatment of the subject, or one that is, within the given limits of length, more comprehensive. Culler has always been remarkable for his expository skills, and here he has found exactly the right method and tone for his purposes. - Sir Frank Kermode

A must read for all literature students. - Bookwise