Beginning theory

Third edition

By Peter Barry

Beginning theory

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-8477-9399-7
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: January 2013
  • BIC Category: Literature & literary studies / Literature: history & criticism, Philosophy: Epistemology & Theory Of Knowledge, EDUCATION / Higher, PHILOSOPHY / Epistemology, Higher & further education, tertiary education, Literature: history & criticism, Literature
  • Series: Beginnings


Beginning theory has been helping students navigate through the thickets of literary and cultural theory for well over a decade now. This new and expanded third edition continues to offer students and readers the best one-volume introduction to the field.

The bewildering variety of approaches, theorists and technical language is lucidly and expertly unravelled. Unlike many books which assume certain positions about the critics and the theories they represent, Peter Barry allows readers to develop their own ideas once first principles and concepts have been grasped.

The book has been updated and includes two new chapters, one of which (Literary theory - a history in ten events) innovatively surveys the course of theory, while the other (Theory after 'Theory') maps the arrival of new 'isms' since the second edition appeared in 2002.

Liberal humanism - Structuralism - Post-structuralism and deconstruction - Postmodernism - Psychoanalytic criticism - Feminist criticism - Lesbian/gay criticism - Marxist criticism - New historicism and cultural materialism - Postcolonial criticism - Stylistics - Narratology - Ecocriticism - Presentism/Transversal poetics/ New aestheticism/Historical formalism/Cognitive poetics.


Always reassuringly urbane, and often witty...Barry's book remains important, especially as a work of mediation between those who would innately be inclined to 'take' or 'leave' theory.
Martin Blocksidge, The Use of English: The English Association Journal for Teacher of English, 01/03/2012


1. Theory before 'Theory' - Liberal humanism
2. Structuralism
3. Post-structuralism and deconstruction
4. Postmodernism
5. Psychoanalytic criticism
6. Feminist criticism
7. Lesbian/gay criticism
8. Marxist criticism
9. New historicism and cultural materialism
10. Postcolonial criticism
11. Stylistics
12. Narratology
13. Ecocriticism
14. Literary theory - a history in ten events
15. Theory after 'Theory'
Edgar Allan Poe: 'The Oval Portrait'
Dylan Thomas: 'A Refusal to Mourn'
William Cowper: 'The Castaway'

Where do we go from here: Further reading


Peter Barry is Professor of English at the University of Aberystwyth

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