Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Two Books About Literature

As I've been toying with the idea of grad school, I've done some reading in the field of literary theory over the past few weeks.  Two books I've found both helpful and enjoyable:

Critical Theory Today by Lois Tyson
From the back cover:  "Critical Theory Today is the essential introduction to contemporary critical theory.  It provides clear, simple explanations and concrete examples of complex concepts, making a wide variety of commonly used critical theories accessible to novices without sacrificing any theoretical rigor or thoroughness."  This is probably the most helpful book I could have read--a genuinely interesting refresher.

Six Walks in the Fictional Woods by Umberto Eco
From the back cover:  "We see, hear, and feel Umberto Eco, the passionate reader who has gotten lost over and over again in the woods, loved it, and come back to tell the tale... Eco tells us how fiction works, and he also tells us why we love fiction so much."  This book is a series of lectures given by Eco on how authors write and how we read.  Although the first chapter was a bit esoteric for my taste, Eco's genial humor and incredibly wide-ranging taste in reading matter made this short book a fun read.

Essay Challenge


  1. "Six Walks" seems like a really interesting read. Although I don't usually read essays, I think this one may be really insightful, as he must know what he is writing about. Added it to the TBR list for the future :)

    1. Oh goodness, you've just reminded me that they are essays--I need to link this post to the Essay Challenge. (Smacking my forehead.)

      Yes, it was really interesting, especially some of the later chapters, because he was talking about digressions backward in time and how authors use them and what effect they have on the reader, and I had just posted about Les Miserables, which contained many such digressions.

  2. Critical Theory Today sparked my interest. I have never learned to be truly critical about a book. I usually just write from a "gut feeling". Must investigate this book! BTW..grad school, now that is a challenge! :))

    1. Same here. Although my Bachelor's was in English, when I write about books it's generally a personal response, not a critical analysis. If, and that's a big IF, I go back to school, I'd have to switch to "critical" mode. Somebody on a grad school forum recommended Critical Theory Today as refresher reading. It's very accessible and non-intimidating.