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u/Arhadamanthus · 2 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

First off, good on you for taking the initiative.

For introductory books, I'd recommend Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled. Now, I haven't read it myself, but it's been mentioned on this sub often enough for me to feel comfortable mentioning it. It might also be a good idea to pick up a miscellaneous collection of poems in order to get an understanding of the variety and depth of the subject matter. A more informal volume might be something edited by Garrison Keiler, like Good Poems. While that specific book is more bent towards Modern American poets, there's still a lot to draw from. A more academic book would be The Norton Anthology of Poetry ot The Norton Introduction to Poetry, which has a lot more to choose from. These two also give you a bit of structure – my copy of the Introduction has clear headings, like "Symbol" or "The Sonnet," with neat little introductory essays and poems chosen to help you understand how these concepts work. That being said, Norton tends to be a little expensive, though if you live in a college town you can probably find a cheaper copy. The benefit of these kinds of collections lies in helping you to find a poet whose style or subject matter you particularly like.

Regarding online sources, there's The Poetry Foundation, which has archives of poems and articles on the poets themselves. Their monthly articles can vary from the interesting to the banal, however, so keep your bullshit detector on. You can probably also find podcasts that deal with the subject. A personal favorite of mine is called "Entitled Opinions," and is run by a professor of Italian Studies over at Stanford by the name of Robert Harrison. Mind you, this particular podcast deals with philosophy and literature as well, so while I'd recommend listening to all their episodes you would have to do a little bit of searching in order to find a particular episode on poetry – though I would reccomend the one on "Dante and Prufrock." I imagine these kind of examinatioms would be useful because they can give you a sense of what poetry 'does' or 'how it means' beyond a surface play with words.

As for the writing of poetry, the first thing I'd recommend is that you read and meditate on a lot of poetry, good and bad, in order to get a sense of how its all done. Learn certain conventions – like, say, that of the sonnet – in order to see how poets follow through with them, or how they play with them. Learn prosody so you can understand how the precise meter, or 'beat,' of each line can affect the reader. I can't really give concrete advice with regards to this, save for a metaphorical "go west, young man!"

u/reassemblethesocial · 2 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

A few more come to mind, less literature but more about stylistic and analytic skills you'll require in your advanced years in the Humanities.

People say to read a good style guide like Strunk & White, which is just okay. But I'd highly recommend Pinker's A Sense of Style--he also unpacks some of the problems with Strunk & White's core edicts.

Stanley Fish is just a great person to read in general. From his op-ed stuff in the NY Times to his class How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One. I'd also highly recommend reading the full introduction of the Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism or the introduction to Rifkin & Ryan's Literary Theory: An Anthology. When it comes to the lit theory stuff there are some good torrents with a lot of anthologies and canonical texts lumped together as PDFs. I also find a lot of good stuff with my Scribd membership.

u/selfabortion · 5 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

Definitely have a working knowledge of Psychoanalytic theory as it pertains to literary criticism. This was a pretty important influence on Joyce as well as many other writers associated with Modernism.

Poststructuralism is probably the other most important school that comes to mind that would make for an ideal lens through which to discuss the book, particularly in light of how much it subverts received forms that were "permissible" for the novel. However, both Structuralism and Post- would yield worthwhile understandings of the text. When I say "ideal" however, you should understand that even more recent schools of literary theory that were developed long after "Ulysses" can be just as interesting to retroactively examine a book. (Structuralism would have been roughly contemporary, while Post- would have been a bit after and is usually associated with Postmodernism).

I think if you aren't especially versed in a particular theoretical approach, Rivkin and Ryan's "Literary Theory: An Anthology" is a great introduction to most of the fields of literary criticism, though it probably doesn't have much on the most recent developments. It ends at Hypertext Theory, with which you could probably do some interesting things on Ulysses.

Part of the difficulty of cherry-picking some of these is that it's a little easier to follow them if you're studying them chronologically, because many schools of thought are either evolutions of or reactions to those that came before. The Anthology I posted above covers them in chronological order in a way that I found very helpful when I was studying as an undergrad.

It might be a worthwhile exercise to read a chapter in Ulysses, then read a particular literary theory in the anthology and analyze the chapter through that, then move onto the next chapter and theory, etc.

u/EventListener · 4 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

Umberto Eco's Six Walks in the Fictional Woods is a very accessible introduction to thinking about literature in a way that blends narratology and semiotics. It generally sticks pretty closely to talking about the stories he has in mind, so I wished while reading it that I'd had a copy of Gérard de Nerval's Sylvie on hand, among others.

David Lodge's The Art of Fiction used to be popular as a supplementary textbook in creative writing classes because it just uses nice examples to provide a basic language for talking about literature.

John Sutherland has a number of books intended for a general audience that either introduce basic concepts of literary criticism or that just make careful reading fun, e.g. How Literature Works, A Little History of Literature, and The Literary Detective: 100 Puzzles in Classic Fiction (an omnibus edition of the books he's probably most well known for).

Gaston Bachelard comes to mind as someone who, like Gass, is just a delight to read: The Poetics of Space, Air and Dreams, etc. I'd put some other writers writing about their personal relationships to reading in a similar category: Nicholson Baker, U and I; Virginia Woolf, A Writer's Diary; and even Alison Bechdel, Fun Home.

u/annowiki · 3 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

You might try

  • Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth
  • Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces
  • this Carl Jung Reader is pretty good

    Technically these deal with mythology, but they're sufficiently enlightening on the meaning of myth symbolic myth content to serve you for literature.

    One other thing worth reading: the Bible. Particularly a literary Bible like this or this.

    Much of the symbolism in literature hearkens back to religion or mythology (which is just old religion). So it's never a bad idea to study the most read religions in their own right. Snake, Apple, Water, Flood, Rain, Fire, Smoke. These are all fairly omnipresent symbols with a wealth of genesis in books like the Bible.
u/Malo-Geneva · 4 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

It's hard to suggest a single text, but there are many histories of the different strands of literary criticism available. There are some written by practicing specialists, and others by historians of literature. There is a multi volume work published by Cambridge UP that deals with the history of lit-crit that is very valuable, but not easily accessible, or very concise.

My suggestion would be to break down your time-frame to maybe 50 year chunks and read some of the seminal works on the major movements in lit crit during those times. This is one that's used a lot in Universities, though I must admit it wouldn't be one of my favourites (though I can absolutely support it as an introductory work).

Otherwise, there's the text based approach--where you read different texts from the history of lit crit, using an anthology. The uber-bible of this sort is the There are smaller, more specific (and probably overall more helpful in a non-reference way) ones too, like this one:

Hope that might be of some help.

u/r4bidw0mb4t · 12 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

Is there a particular reasons you're drawn to Lacanian psychoanalysis? Your teacher is right that Lacan is notoriously dense and confusing, partly because he has no major tome. Most of his philosophy comes from his seminars and a few keys texts. Moreover, you're going to have a difficult time understanding Lacan if you don't have a pretty solid foundation in Freud. If you want to put your feet in the waters, check out The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious; it's not his most approachable text, but it's his most cited, and it will give you a taste of what you're in for. If you're interested in language and psychology, you might try Freud's A Note Upon the Mystic Writing Pad first, or if you're just into psychoanalysis and literature, [The Uncanny] ( is widely cited and Freud himself derives his theory from reading literature. If none of those are up your alley and you're still interested in Lacan, I'd start with secondary sources--it's what most graduate students would do. Zizek's Understanding Lacan is written to be approachable from a non-specialist's perspective.

I hope that helps, and kudos for going to secondary sources at all. Don't be discouraged by Lacan--most Ph.D.'s wouldn't hesitate to call him one of the--if not the--most difficult philosophers to make heads or tails of, and his reputation is always in such flux that most don't bother.

u/SimplyTheWorsted · 3 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

/u/savdec449 is right - you ask a tough question. One little (literally) resource that I've found helpful is the Oxford Very Short Introduction to Literary Theory, which sketches out some of the big 'moves' over the history of theory, and has a decent Further Reading section for whatever takes your fancy.

I find it quite difficult to keep straight how the different schools and traditions relate to one another, and I don't really think it's the kind of thing you can totalize without years of experience or, I suppose, living through one of the sea changes in its epicentre (which I haven't done, but I imagine would be rather intense, and possibly not very pleasant in terms of day-to-day collegiality when Old and New crash together).

One strategy that you could use to combat the overwhelming nature of All of the Theory is to pay attention to your own scholarly disposition: what are you, personally, interested in when you read texts? Is it their structure, their nuts-and-bolts, and how they keep the illusion of mimesis alive? Maybe focus on structuralism or narratology. Are you interested in why certain texts arose when they did? Check out the history (ha!) of New Historicism, or maybe print culture studies or even materialist criticism. Are you into how the words sound, and how they create images and arguments? Look into poetics, rhetoric, and aesthetic theory. Are you interested in how certain key aspects of the human condition are represented and dealt with? Check out memory studies, posthumanism and animal studies, or ecocriticism. Are you drawn to certain genres of texts? Genre criticism!

Remember, it's easiest to figure out how a puzzle comes together when you have a little section done first. Work within your preferences and likes to develop some knowledge on a piece of the puzzle that you enjoy, and then build out from there towards things that are wheelhouse-adjacent, and then beyond.

u/thomaskyd · 3 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

I've read an extensive amount of Romantic poetry, but I've never found Bloom to be particularly insightful. Most of his insights tend to be shallow or tangential, and he likes to simplify things to basic historic trends.

If you are not interested in English Romantic poetry and do not intend to read any of it, I would suggest you look elsewhere for a good book about novelists. I don't know offhand of any Grand Theory of Prose a la Harold Bloom encapsulation, but books such as this about specific subject matters may prove amenable to your interests.

u/A_Man_Has_No_Name · 1 pointr/AskLiteraryStudies

I personally enjoy reading Aristotle and he's pretty foundational to a lot of medieval and renaissance criticism so there's no good reason not to start with him. The thing about criticism (like most philosophy) is that it rapidly became a series of responses to other critics/philosophers which can be hard to follow. Like jumping into a story halfway through. So it's best to start with the greeks. Plato's got some interesting thoughts too, but more on the philosophical purpose of literature in a society so that might not be germane to your interests. On the other hand, I can't think of a good reason anyone shouldn't read The Republic at some point in their life.

If you're largely unfamiliar with literary criticism, then I would recommend this book

u/Wegmarken · 4 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

Dubliners might be his most accessible work, but I think if you're interested in Joyce as a modernist, then Portrait is a more explicit display of the methods he would develop.

Also OP, I'd recommend Modernism: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Butler. It's cheap, easy and can be read in an afternoon.

u/firstroundko108 · 3 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

I agree. Thankfully, there are plenty of fun ways to learn grammar now. I especially like using the poetry activities in Teaching Grammar Through Writing and the website NoRedInk.

u/kyrie-eleison · 1 pointr/AskLiteraryStudies

My Intro to Lit Study course was taught with the Norton Intro to Poetry. It has a great assortment of poetry (from Shakespeare to modern/contemporary stuff) and does a good job of introducing the different aspects of poetry and how to appreciate it.

u/pourawaytheocean · 2 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

If you're into postmodernism then Baudrillard's 'Simulacra and Simulation' which questions reality and its representation.
Also, Shklovsky's 'Art as a Technique', which focuses on how art / literature 'defamiliarises' the habitual nature of life, it is really interesting.
You can get course books on literary theory, I used this one for my undergrad:
They use excerpts from useful theory to make it easier to read, might be worth a look into.

u/Marshmlol · 1 pointr/AskLiteraryStudies

Hello goirish2200.

As someone who is obsessed with Lacan and Derrida I highly recommend that you do not read their works directly. Why? Because they are extremely heavy for someone like you, who is not exposed to the literary terminologies/theory.(I also personally find it absurd that people here are recommending you to read excerpts of Lacan/Derrida's work).

You will, I can guarantee, find yourself frustrated with their works and waste your time trying to decipher their writing.

Where to start then?

For Derrida there are two friendly books that you should check out before even considering reading his works:

Introducing Derrida by Jeff Collins and Derrida For Beginners by Jim Powell

As you read those two books constantly refer to this book when you encounter words that you do not understand:A Derrida Dictionary by Niall Lucy

Some hardcore Derrida fans will criticize me for linking you this book since any kind of Dictionary defining Derrida's terms will be controversial(for example, every time someone uses the word "deconstruction" everyone's eye brows raise up because there is technically no definition to what deconstruction is).

After reading these two books then maybe you can tackle The Cambridge Introduction to Jacques Derrida

This will be plenty of reading for you to do on Derrida.

"Introducing Lacan" and "Lacan for Beginners" are also books that you should check out. "The Cambridge Introduction to Lacan" should be the next book you tackle after it or How to Read Lacan by Zizek and Critchley

Remember my friend, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a godly resource that you should always refer to.

Also, don't be scared of Wikipedia; you should go there first. If you have no idea who Saussure is, then read up on him before even reading Derrida.

Have fun! :]

u/loefflerorama · 1 pointr/AskLiteraryStudies

The tough thing about translated work is that the same poem can vary widely depending on the translator so you need to make sure you find a good one. I recently been working through The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry and it's one of the most well curated consistent anthologies I've come across and a good way to get your feet wet.

u/Achillesbellybutton · 3 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

I really loved Literary Theory: An Introduction By Terry Eagleton. Definitely worth a look.

u/[deleted] · 2 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

If you're into textbooks, this book gets mentioned all the time in this sub and /r/literature and I bought it and found it incredibly helpful as an introduction to the field. It will drastically increase your understanding of theory and allows you to be active in the process. But of course, it's just a book and a classroom would do that x1000 but definitely start here.

u/TheDukeofMilan · 1 pointr/AskLiteraryStudies

Owen Barfield (Poetic Diction) and Northrop Frye (The Great Code) to name a couple, and I'm sure there are many more.

u/mrkeked · 2 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

Generally speaking, Beginning Theory is a nifty wikipedia-esque sort of book that helps in organizing your mind regarding what goes where.

u/mimnermos · 1 pointr/AskLiteraryStudies

although i haven't used it personally, something like this might be helpful

u/ur_frnd_the_footnote · 3 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

Northrop Frye's The Great Code: The Bible and Literature is probably what you want.

The other commenter mentions Bloom, and he's also fair game. His controversy is largely due to his petulance at every major development in literary studies since he graduated college, as well as his over-compensations in the face of his critics. But if you ignore his straw men and his defensive posturing, he does have a deep knowledge of canonical European literature.

u/pporkpiehat · 1 pointr/AskLiteraryStudies

Seconded, though a more easy-going introduction might be Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory: An Introduction.

u/Baru84 · 2 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

There is this quite unknown online store, they have it:

If you do not want to have a mobi-version you can try e.g. for an epub-version. At least for Germany they offer the title too.

u/exit---ghost · 8 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

I use a text called Beginning Theory when I teach into to literary theory. That'll give you a pretty basic overview of the more modern stuff, plus point you in the direction of other texts.

A theory and criticism textbook like another commenter mentioned is a good idea too, though it might be a little overwhelming at first. A solid-ish, basic understanding of Western philosophy is generally, because it underpins literary criticism and theory. What we think of as "literary criticism" proper didn't even really fully emerge until the 19th century, so philosophical or hermeneutic approaches to texts are sort of the only game in town for much of history.

Another thing you can check it out are craft essays, which are written by writers about writing. Some of these will be classics, Wordsworth's Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, for instance. Some will be quite modern. And in between.

Also, if you're reading things in canon, you can always find critical work on whatever you're reading. It might be a bit tough to wade through at first, but you can usually figure out what the big stuff is. And as always, just ask!

u/MegasBasilius · 4 pointsr/AskLiteraryStudies

'The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism' is my go-to as an introductory anthology source. I think that warrants inclusion.