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50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know (50 Ideas You Really Need to Know )

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  276 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
This is a guide to all the important forms, concepts, themes and movements in literature. It contains concise essays on a wide variety of literary concepts among the 50 entries, and everything you need to know about literary techniques and genres.
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published January 6th 2011 by Quercus (first published 2010)
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Paul Bryant
May 08, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
Shelves: litcrit

Here is a quick summary of the 50 ideas. Aren't I good to you?

literary inundation

The scale of production of new books is frankly terrifying. You all know that. How do we make our way in our little coracles through this tsunami of words? Well, this very site helps a bit. But Sutherland hadn't heard of it, apparently.

We live in interesting times. It's hard to figure out what you should be reading - you know you don't want to read that utter crap your friend (what was she thinking) insisted on lend
Mike Puma
Sep 05, 2013 Mike Puma rated it liked it
Shelves: lit-fic, 2013

Okay, in a nutshell, here it is: this book is perfect —

Perfect for:
1) when you have 5-10 minutes while waiting to see the doctor, dentist, barber, beautician, whoever the heck you might end up waiting to see. One could do worse than reading this one.
2) just before going to sleep and you want to read something, without commitment or the investment of much thought. Very good for that, indeed.
3) Brushing up on a subject of interest to you before seeking out more exhaustive sources of information

Scribble Orca
Dec 22, 2012 Scribble Orca rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
Hamburg, Thalia Buecherei

Er: Guck was ich gerade gefunden habe. Ich dachte Du wuerdest...

Ich: Ja, hab's gesehen. Aber der Wal (I still haven't finished Moby Dick)....und dann noch Fuenfzig Ideen - muesste Alles jetzt immer mit Fuenfzig verbunden sein? Bin aber nicht sicher ob ich das Buch wirklich kaufen moechte.

Er: Es dauert eine Weile bevor wir hier fertig sind. Und die Warteschlange ist sehr lang. Lies einfach ein biss'l.

Ich: Naja....gut. Kann nichts schaden.

(Seated on a one of those cube cou
Jun 06, 2015 Ralph rated it did not like it
I didn't really need an introduction to literary criticism, but I thought it would be a quick read that might refresh me on some terms I haven't used since school. It wasn't.

I should explain that I don't expect much from an introductory text. Writing one of these, you can't explain every little detail. Abstraction is the purpose in writing such an introduction in the first place, and quibbling over details misses the point entirely. Simplification, however, does not excuse the number and type of
This is not a comprehensive reference for students of literary criticism. It is lit-crit hard candy -- enjoyable to suck on for a while, but may give you a stomachache if you take on too much at once. You will quickly gather that Sutherland is old, white, Anglo-centric, male, and elitist, but he very much enjoys accusing others of their elitism. He is convinced he is quite witty, and now and then, he is. Now and then he says brilliant things, and now and then he says hideously obvious or ...more
Jerome Parisse
Jan 08, 2011 Jerome Parisse rated it liked it
I was given “50 literature ideas you really need to know” by John Sutherland as Christmas present this year. I thought this was a great idea… and it shows how well those who gave it to me know me. On its inside cover, it says that the book is “the essential guide to all the important forms, concepts, themes and movements in literature”. Does it attain its stated goal? I am not so sure… The “literature ideas” covered by Sutherland are varied and include hermeneutics, intentionalism, translation, ...more
Jul 21, 2014 Melora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was fun. Nice short pieces on a wide variety of literature-related topics. There were quite a few terms -- "reception theory," "textuality," etc. -- which I was unfamiliar with, either because I never learned them or I've forgotten them, and Sutherland explained them nicely. And I particularly enjoyed the book's last sentence, a quotation from Arthur Schopenhauer, in the section on "Literary Inundation," : "Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in." ...more
Al Bità
Jan 05, 2011 Al Bità rated it really liked it
Not so much literature ideas as ideas about literature, this is a fascinating and easily engaged 'de-briefing' that saves one from the otherwise odious task of learning about them 'the hard way'. Each of the 50 ideas are encapsulated in four pages (no more), and the author presents them all in an easy-to-read style with, I suspect, a little tongue-in-cheek. They range from the basics (Mimesis; Hermeneutics; etc.) through the ways literature works (Culture, Genre, Paradigm Shift, etc.), its ...more
Jul 21, 2014 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, borrowed
Why did I pick up this book? Because of too many book club discussions that went like this:

Person A: Did you like the book?
Rest of the Group: Yeah.

End of discussion. Now, please don't get me wrong. The book club I was in did often have some interesting discussions on the books we read, but, especially since I'm no longer active with the group, I've often felt that I don't have a good framework for my own personal reading. My critical reading muscles have gone soft over the last twenty-one years
Nov 12, 2011 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Ever wonder what the heck mimesis was? Or why you should ever use "hermeneutics" in a sentence? This is the book for you. I found parts of it to be very useful indeed, and other portions to be extremely ho-hum. I don't think that, really, it lives up to its rather grandiose title. It does at least try to accomplish an over view of important literary concepts. Where it really falls down, imo, is that the organization of the book did not, to me, make logical sense and some of the sections decided ...more
Nisah Haron
Jan 01, 2014 Nisah Haron rated it it was amazing
I wish I had found this book while writing my thesis last year. This book explains a lot if literary concepts.
عمر الحمادي
لم يجذبني الكتاب إلا في بعض فصوله، لم يكن بجاذبية الكتب الأخرى في نفس السلسلة...

في المحاكاة يقوم الفرد بإلقاء ذاته خارج ذاته ومن ثم يتصرف كما لو كان قد دخل بالفعل إلى جسد آخر وشخصية أخرى، كان أرسطو يرى بأن العاطفة التي تنتج عن الأدب هي التي تؤدي إلى تطهير النفس، فالفن يحرك مشاعرنا، فترى العيون تتبلل بالدموع عندما ترى مشهد وفاة "ليناردو دي كابريو" غير أنها لا تتأثر برؤية شحاذ خارج باب السينما..،

في مقاله (خارج الحوت) يرى جورج أورويل أن المنفى هو المكان المثالي للكاتب تماماً كما كان الحوت بالنسبة ل
Sep 25, 2014 Danielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book How Literature Works summarizes 50 key concepts everyone should know when studying literature. These concepts can even be useful to writers who want to have a better understanding of all that is put into writing. It shows different criteria that not only authors, but also critics have deemed that literature needs to live up to. Also, we can tend to miss out on original meaning the authors intend because we don’t understand a lot of the concepts that were around in that era. John ...more
Bruna Dantas Lobato
Sutherland explains literary terms in a very simplistic way that doesn't always strike me as accurate. I imagine this book would be more appropriate for someone who hasn't studied a lot of literature and would like to learn more about literary criticism. If you've taken a high school-level lit class, I would not bother reading it. And I find this book problematic--

The author writes, "In general, [postcolonial writers] use English -- with whatever dialect variation (Hindi words in Rushdie, for ex
I was introduced to John Sutherland via The Teaching Company's "Classics of British Literature." I enjoyed his teaching, especially when he tossed out a section of Beowulf or The Canterbury Tales in original language. The man has credentials: he chairs the judges for the Man-Booker prize.

As much as I love reading literature, I've never made it completely through a book of literary criticism. Long ago I determined my life could be full and complete without it. So it's peculiar that I find myself
Christopher Rush
I rated this 3 stars not because I liked it but because it is about halfway helpful between 1 and 5 stars. John Sutherland lets his postmodern affinities slip fairly early on, even though he tries to downplay "deconstruction" as something that is possibly past its prime (one could only hope). Because he is clearly postmodern in his analytical tendencies, Sutherland also proves early on his title is a misnomer - he has no real intention to demonstrate "how literature works"; he just wants to sell ...more
Ject Toons
Jan 28, 2016 Ject Toons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He visto repetidamente estos títulos que llevan la convincente premisa de "50 cosas que hay que saber sobre..." una u otra cosa, y desde el principio me han llamado la atención. Me preguntaba si lograrían condensar un listado de temas básicos con éxito o si el tema se les saldría de las manos a los autores, así que decidí adquirir este ejemplar que se centra en la literatura. Debo decir que me llevé una agradable sorpresa.

Aproximándose a los temas de una manera básica y entendible, sin ser conde
Mar 11, 2013 Ian rated it liked it
This books covers a lot of ground in 208pp. Some of the fifty ideas are pretty straightforward, some even tending to be trite ('the e-book' for example). But others give a masterful summary of a trend in literary criticism or general theory.

One page prompted me to write to the publisher, thus:
"Its a lovely book and beautifully presented, but my trust in John Sutherland’s judgement… or is it in Quercus’ editorial department… was deeply shaken by the asseveration, on p46 of 50 literature ideas, th
Dec 18, 2013 Luis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essay, 50-ideas
Este título de la colección '50 cosas' es un compendio de términos muy útiles al critico literario, así como a los interesados en literatura. Se analizan conceptos como hermenéutica, canon o posmodernismo, a la par que se desglosan corrientes y formas de literatura. Como viene siendo habitual, la tónica de la colección se conserva, durando cada capítulo unas 4 páginas.

Una lástima es que mayoritariamente se analizan obras inglesas y norteamericanas, dejando más desnudas otras literaturas muy impo
W.D. County
Feb 01, 2014 W.D. County rated it it was amazing
In my library are over two dozen books on writing. Some are reference books: dictionaries, thesauri, and such. Some are craft books: plot, character development, scene, conflict, and the like. John Sutherland’s book, 50 Literary Ideas You Really Need to Know, doesn’t fit any of my existing categories. Yet I’m delighted to have it.

This book isn’t intended as a tool to improve an author’s writing, but gives, in only a two hundred pages, a mind-expanding experience for understanding and appreciati
Richard Martin
Mar 11, 2016 Richard Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Read intelligently, it is one of the very highest pleasures life has to offer." (Introduction). Author John Sutherland helps to achieve this by presenting fifty "concepts" of literature. Each entry is comprised of a preface often defining the term, a brief essay, relevant quotes, highlighting sidebars, a timeline, and a "condensed idea" statement as summary. The book is an easy read due to Sutherland's conversational style/idiolect. One of the most interesting topics deals with the "continental ...more
I bought this because I escaped learning about postcolonialism and deconstructionism in literature at university and thought it might illuminate my hazy ideas about what all these -isms are about.
It did, a little bit, but like Sarah at I found that the format necessarily made it a bit shallow. The explanations were pithy and droll, but some of the more complex ideas needed more page space than they were allocated.
But to be honest, if I ever wanted to kn
Ryan Mishap
Jul 21, 2014 Ryan Mishap rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clever little book that cheerfully and intelligently explains those pesky appellations encountered in school or in books of literary criticism like Allusion, Deconstruction, Irony, and so forth. The two or three page summaries are amended by quotes, asides, and timelines that trace the origin and embellishment of the topic. Each section ends with a cheeky one sentence explication.

Brilliant, really, though it is easy to see that reading these entries is a bit like consuming the placard on the
Jul 21, 2014 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started off good with nice, pithy explanations of various concepts and theory but kind of petered out towards the end when it got into 'Word Crimes' and 'Literary Futures'. The differences between obscenity, libel and  blasphemy, permissiveness (wait, isn't that obscenity by another name?) etc while real don't exactly seem worth dealing with in their own (albeit short) chapters. Also, it felt like the author was holding back on really analyzing the potential changes ebooks and alternative ...more
Jan 19, 2015 Jimyip rated it liked it
This is not a book on recommending 50 "must-read" on literature, nor is it a book on telling what elements a literature contains.

It is a book on looking into what makes a literature, what affects the creation of literature, how to read a literature, and what is beyond literature.

People usually just read fiction for entertainment, but there are a lot of perspectives in reading a literature. Narrative, writing style, intention, historical background, etc.

A book is never just a book. This is an i
Apr 13, 2015 Michael rated it did not like it
This book was not uninteresting as such, and I would lie if I were to say I hadn't learned anything from it. However, the main gripe I have with it is its at times very strange tone, its sloppy editing, and the fact that many of the things the author seeks to define are left undefined at the end of the chapter in favour of anecdotes or diatribes. Very hazy and quite hard to get through.

Please note that this is, like any opinion, a highly subjective one; just as in real life, there are certain p
E. Kahn
Oct 12, 2014 E. Kahn rated it it was ok
50 (too) short essays explaining important concepts in literature and criticism. The book is written in a very chatty style, some of the ideas aren't clearly explained, and the author makes at least one ridiculous mistake in asserting that "we" (by which he means Anglo-Saxons) were conquered by the Romans; every English-speaking schoolchild knows or ought to know that the Anglo-Saxon invasion and settlement of Britain is post-Roman. These make it hard to take the book completely seriously.
Jul 10, 2016 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010s
Reasonable essays on the elements of fiction, although a poor cousin to David Lodge's "The Art of Fiction." Suffers from attrocious book design, which is presumably no fault of Sutherland's, but he is complicit in allowing a million little sidebars and inset quotes to be strewn all over the place in a collection of three-page essays. This has the same effect as would including two parenthetical comments in every paragraph.
Grumpus McGrouchy
One of my favorite books, even if I don't agree with everything he says. The style of the book (short entrees, timelines, peppered with pertinent quotes, etc) is perfect for my short-ish attention span. Plus, it's just more fun.

It's a short book, also. I liked it.
The perfect medium between tedious academia and frivolous pop-lit shit.
Wray Finks
Jul 21, 2014 Wray Finks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wealth of information on all things literary: concepts, genres, literary criticism, the future of the field, etc. Enjoyed the layout. The timeframes, selected quotes, sidebars pulled your eye this way and that as you are reading. Sent me to the web quite a few times to check out references. Nice one!
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John Andrew Sutherland is an English lecturer, emeritus professor, newspaper columnist and author.

Now Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, John Sutherland began his academic career after graduating from the University of Leicester as an assistant lecturer in Edinburgh in 1964. He specialises in Victorian fiction, 20th century literature, an
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