The Literary Animal

In recent years, articles in major periodicals from the New York Times Magazine to the Times Literary Supplement have heralded the arrival of a new school of literary studies that promises-or threatens-to profoundly shift the current paradigm. This revolutionary approach, known as Darwinian literary studies, is based on a few simple premises: evolution has produced a universal landscape of the human mind that can be scientifically mapped; these universal tendencies are reflected in the composition, reception, and interpretation of literary works; and an understanding of the evolutionary foundations of human behavior, psychology, and culture will enable literary scholars to gain powerful new perspectives on the elements, form, and nature of storytelling.

The goal of this book is to overcome some of the widespread misunderstandings about the meaning of a Darwinian approach to the human mind generally, and literature specifically. The volume brings together scholars from the forefront of the new field of evolutionary literary analysis-both literary analysts who have made evolution their explanatory framework and evolutionist scientists who have taken a serious interest in literature-to show how the human propensity for literature and art can be properly framed as a true evolutionary problem. Their work is an important step toward the long-prophesied synthesis of the humanities and what Steven Pinker calls “the new sciences of human nature.”

Time and the Literary

Time and the literary: the immediacy of information technology has supposedly annihilated both. Email, cell phones, satellite broadcasting seem to have ended the long-standing tradition of encoding our experience of time through writing. Paul de Man’s seminal essay “Literary History and Literary Modernity” and newly commissioned essays on everything from the human genome to grammatical tenses argue, however that the literary constantly reconstructs our understanding of time. From eleventh-century France or a science-fiction future, Time and the Literary shows how these two concepts have been and will continue to influence each other.

Critical Terms for Literary Study, Second Edition

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.

Literary Criticism of the Old Testament

This well-written introduction to the method of literary criticism gives the reader an awareness and appreciation of the rich diversity of thought found in the Old Testament. The student is shown how to identify the elements of structure, style, form, language, and composition in the books of the Old Testament. Norman Habel demonstrates how literacy criticism works with examples which are familiar and well-suited for a beginner’s level of study. The literary features of Genesis 1-9 are fully explored, then the author focuses on the importance of the Yahwist and priestly sources for the whole Pentateuch. This book’s explanation of techniques used in the process of literary criticism will be valuable to both student and professor.

The Book of Literary Terms

The best-selling author of The Book of Forms — now in a third edition — has created the same codification and systematization for all nonfiction forms of writing, and for all forms of fiction other than poetry. In The Book of Literary Terms, Lewis Turco provides a comprehensive guide to, and definitions of all significant terms, forms, and styles in all genres of literature except poetry. For each, all sub-genres and their historical examples are described and defined, all significant terms explicated, and all important styles represented.

Wonderful for browsing as well as for reference, it is a book for students and teachers of all genres of literature, for serious general readers of literature, and for writers and critics. Turco writes in an authoritative yet engaging manner, providing endless unsuspected opportunities and avenues for readers to explore.

From abecedarius, Bardolatry, cliffhanger, docudrama, epistle, foreshadowing, gagline, hypallage, invective, jestbook, kabuki play, litotes, and muckraker, to non sequitur, one-liner, pulp fiction, quartet, recognition scene, spoonerism, triple-decker, Utopian novel, videotape, writing surfaces, yellow journalism, and zeugma, and including everything in-between, it’s all there in The Book of Literary Terms.

Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction

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 Introduction to 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. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

A Dictionary of Literary Devices

‘Common-sense, ‘ the Romantic critics told us, was all that was needed to understand and interpret literary texts. Today, we know this is not generally true. Modern criticism has joined with pre-Romantic criticism to expose common-sense as appropriate (because simple-minded), inadequate to comprehend and interpret verbal structures which are frequently ‘non- common]sensical, ‘ anti-commonsensical, or even nonsensical. The difference between readers today and their earlier counterparts is that we have lost the full vocabulary of criticism and the consciousness of the literary and rhetorical devices with which texts are created. Yet these devices are still available to us, still practised even if unwittingly and on an impoverished scale. “Gradus,” originally published in French in 1984, was designed to make good that loss, to reanimate those skills. Comprising some 4000 terms, defined and illustrated, it calls upon the resources of linguistics, poetics, semiotics, socio-criticism, rhetoric, pragmatics, combining them in ways which enable readers quickly to comprehend the codes and conventions which together make up ‘literarity.’ Skilfully translated into English, and adapted for an English-language audience with illustrations taken from an astonishing range of contemporary texts, literary and popular, drawn from literature, radio, television, and the theatre, “Gradus” will be a constant source of information and delight.

The Economy of Literary Form

In the first half of the nineteenth century, technological developments in printing led to the industrialization of English publishing, made books and periodicals affordable to many new readers, and changed the market for literature. In The Economy of Literature Lee Erickson analyzes the effect on literary form as authors and publishers responded to the new demands of a rapidly expanding literary marketplace.

These developments, Erickson argues, offer a new understanding of the differences between Romantic and Victorian literature. As publishing became more profitable, authors became able to devote themselves more professionally to their writing. The changing market for literature also affected the relative cultural status of literary forms. As poetry became less profitable, it became hard to publish. As periodicals grew in popularity, essays became the center of reviews, and their authors the arbiters of culture. The novel, which had long sold chiefly to circulating libraries, found an outlet in magazine serialization — and novelists discovered a new popular audience.

With chapters on William Wordsworth, Thomas Carlyle, and Jane Austen, as well as on specific literary genres, The Economy of Literary Form provides a significant new synthesis of recent publishing history which helps to explain the differences and continuities between Romantic and Victorian literature. It will be of interest not only to literary critics and historians but also to bibliographic historians, cultural or economic historians, and all who have an interest in the commercialization of English publishing in the nineteenth century.

Essays in Arabic Literary Biography: 1350-1850

The three volumes of Essays in Arabic Literary Biography contain entries by leading specialists in the field of Arabic literature studies devoted to the major representatives of the literary heritage of Arabic culture within three specific periods: 950-1350 (ed. Terri DeYoung); 1350-1850 (ed. Joseph E. Lowry and Devin Stewart); and 1850-1950 (ed. Roger Allen). Each volume attempts to refl ect larger movements of cultural development and change within the realms of literary production and commentary during the given period. While the major names associated with each period are to be found, a particular effort has also been made to reflect the geographical diversity of the Arabic-speaking regions in the different historical periods involved. This volume contains biographical studies of thirty-eight Arabic literary fi gures who lived between 1350 and 1850, a neglected period of Arabic literary history. The essays situate the authors and their writings in local contexts of literary and cultural production, from Morocco to Iran, India and Indonesia, in many cases offering the fi rst comprehensive assessments of their lives and works. What emerges from the collection as a whole is a period characterized by institutional change, competition, conspicuous virtuosity, and diversity – when Christian and Shiite writers also played important roles. Although modern scholarship has seen these centuries as mired in cultural decadence and decline, the literary figures in this volume display astonishing inventiveness, both in their understanding and appropriation of the Arabic literary tradition as well as in their many formal innovations.

Modern Chinese Literary Thought

This volume presents a broad range of writings on literature from the period of the inception of literary modernity in China. Of the 55 essays included, 47 are translated here for the first time, including two essays by Lu Xun.

In addition to the selections themselves, the author has provided, in an extensive General Introduction and shorter introductions to the five parts of the book, historical background, a synthesis of current scholarship on modern views of Chinese literature, and an original thesis on the complex formation of Chinese literary modernity. In the author’s view, literary discourses were actively reshaped by Chinese writes and critics as responses to deep-set cultural problematics and the socio-historical imperative of the times.

The selection of the essays reflects both the mainstream Marxists interpretation of the literary values of modern China and the marginalized views proscribed, at one time or another, by the leftist canon. With both the canonical and the marginal, this collection offers a full spectrum of modern Chinese perceptions of fundamental literary issues: the nature of the creative act; the relationship between the literary text and reality; the moral, social, and political role of literature; and the filiation of language, literary form, and content.

In presenting the Western reading with a Chinese discourse (in the more traditional sense of the term) about literature, the editor attempts to construct a cultural context for the production of texts in modern Chinese literature. Why did modern Chinese writers write? What goals did they have? How did they think about literature and its relation to its audience and the world? To read the response to these questions is to deepen our understanding of the experience of modernity that lies at the root of works of modern Chinese literature.

The selections were translated by 33 leading scholars in the field of modern Chinese literature.