Literary Theory and Criticism: An Oxford Guide.
Literary Theory and Criticism: An Oxford Guide. Patricia Waugh, editor. Oxford University Press. [pounds sterling]65.00. xx + 598 pages. ISBN 0-19-929133-0. This collection of thirty-seven essays, by an international team of experts, is introduced by the editor who points out that 'literary theories ... are provisional, historical constructs just as open to the vagaries of dissemination, popularization, and hermeneutic instability as any other mode of writing'. With this in mind the contributions are divided into four parts. The first two, with nineteen essays, are concerned with 'the broader context of history and criticism'. The first four essays are concerned with 'concepts of criticism and aesthetic origins'--ancient Greek theory, the Romantic theory and hermeneutics. The second group of fifteen is concerned with the twentieth century with essays on I.A. Richards, T.S. Eliot and the idea of tradition, F.R. Leavis, William Empson, Freud, and the Russian debate on narrative just to mention a few. In the collection's third part the emphasis is on 'literary theory: movements and schools' with ten essays on, for example, structuralism and narrative poetics, psychoanalysis after Freud, deconstruction, feminism, post-colonialism, sexuality and postmodernism. The fourth part looks at how theory has been 'assimilated to literary critical practices' and investigates new directions. The eight essays here are concerned with the responsibilities of the writer, the role of psychoanalysis, psychology and trauma theory, the relation between environmentalism and ecocriticism as well as cognitive literary criticism to mention only four. This collection puts together in one volume not only the latest insights into literary theory and criticism but perspectives on a future in which 'textualism is on the wane ... and a new ethical turn to criticism is apparent', one that is free of the subject's positivist inheritance. (A.C.)