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The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism
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The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,754 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
This anthology of critical writing (2624 pp. + XXXVIII) ranges from Gorgias and Plato to Sigmund Freud and Mikhail Bakhtin. Each of the 147 contributions has a headnote introducing the writer and making connections to other critics, theorists and movements. An introduction surveys the history of theory and criticism.
Hardcover, 2662 pages
Published June 19th 2001 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published June 13th 2001)
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Feb 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I strangely became endeared to this book after loathing its weight in physical, emotional, and mental proportions and now often crawl back to it seeking advice. NERD.
Mar 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: English Students, Armchair Adventurers
Shelves: literary
This book does offer a huge selection of important critics. It is nice and heavy, and has a cool dust cover. As an introduction to theory for students, however, it is a bit overwhelming and doesn't offer much in the way of engagement with texts that other lit crit anthologies, such as Shirley Staton's "Literary Theory in Praxis" do. The elephant in the room with this book is that the editors lean heavily toward the theory of Derrida and Stanley Fish. Derrida may have the most extensive selection ...more
Sep 19, 2010 added it
Shelves: theory-criticism
obviously didn't read all 3k pages. the intro's perspicuous. selections include all the texts I've always heard of and wanted to read. a broad, broad, oversimplified categorical summary:

1. Classical (Plato, Aristotle/Horace)

2. Medieval (Augustine, Dante, exegetical traditions)

3. Renaissance = Neoclassical (Pope, Spenser; genres, 3 unities, verisimilitude; growth of vernacular)

4. Romanticism (Hegel's/Kant's subjectivity; American/French revolutions; play of consciousness; individual genius)

5. Mar
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dusty by: Lynn Wilkinson
Shelves: partial-reads
Of the (too) many collections of essays on literary theory I have been compelled to buy by graduate school professors who refuse to agree upon one standard textbook -- this one is probably my favorite. At least, it's the one I'm most likely to refer back to. I say that despite the fact that it's seriously skimpy on texts written before 1900 (all of which are crammed into the first third of the book) and in Latin America (none, unless you count Gloria Anzaldúa, an American). These (glaring) omiss ...more
Apr 21, 2010 rated it liked it
This is an excellent compendium of criticism for anybody seriously interested in literature. Its only flaw is its complete lack of non-Western criticism. The entire time I was reading it, I kept thinking, "What about Taoist literary theory or Confucian?" Then for that matter, what about the Sanskrit tradition or any Japanese or Arabic theory tradition? Simply nonexistent. It's a decent look at criticism, but it's very, very far from complete.
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Theory madness! Marvelously informative. More lit crit than the mind can manage. Handily content-tabled by movements and issues (e.g., "The Body," "Marxism," "Gay and Lesbian Criticism and Queer Theory") as well as by author and historical period. Really a book about thinking and sociocultural-historical-philosophical-artistic developments in all areas.

Tome doubles as doorstop. Actual philosophers and crazy intellectual writers sold separately.
Aug 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Studied this massive tome my junior year in college. It was where I first met the likes of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Freud, and scores of other cultural critics. It was the first time I realized how many interesting ideas are out there. A good reference and introduction for people interested in training their critical thinking skills. (Favorites; 2500+ pages)
Now that's I've completed Literary and Critical Theory, I'm honestly not sure what to say about it. I do think it's far to say I will never forget some of what I've learned, and I think more and more aspects of these theories will pop up in my life as I go along.
Feb 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: critical theory students
Recommended to Gemma by: English professors
Shelves: read-for-uni
Obviously have not read the whole thing! Its a beast of a book to carry around uni. But from what I did read I liked Postcolonialism the best and I really liked reading Freud's essays. Having studied him in A-level psychology I really liked being able to read the actual essays on dreams.
Sep 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: academics
Recommended to Lesliemae by: Nick Mount
I have to give the Norton Anthology a 'really liked' it rating even though it was intensely painful to read and to carry around twice a week. This book is both a back and ball breaker. Toss away any notions of easy reading and delve into the introductions of most of the main theoretical arguments beginning with Plato and rounding out with "Theory is dead" criticism. I especially enjoyed the psychoanalytic theorists (especially Jacques Lacan), felt as though my discarded feelings regarding women' ...more
Sep 28, 2009 rated it liked it
This anthology does a good job of providing salient works by a wide variety of authors on the various theories of literary criticism. Some of the strengths of this work are that it is organized in such a way that it is easy to find a work on a particular theory or by a specific author. Also, each author is given an introduction that can help to understand their background as well as the theory they are known for.
For me, the largest weakness of this anthology is that aside from a very brief synop
Mary Lynn
Sep 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a monstrous anthology; it was used as the primary textbook for my Critical Theory and Literary Criticism course (ENGL 602 at University of Maryland). I liked the course very much but it's a little hard for me to rate "how good" this Norton Anthology is; the excerpts were sometimes highly chopped up versions of much larger works. (And the material itself was, of course, dense and challenging.) One thing I found very helpful in this book were the author biographies before each of the criti ...more
Zach Thomas
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research
If you need one book on literary theory, this monster is just about all you need. I've owned this book since 2003, back when I took an intro. to lit. theory class as an undergraduate at UC. Since then, I've constantly referenced the writings contained inside as an undergrad of English, then as a graduate student of journalism (interested most in ideas of replication, what it means to be "original") and finally working on my thesis, in which this book has illuminated my understanding of hegemonic ...more
Nov 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most useful/favorite books in my library, which is to say that the (bible-thin) pages are wrinkled and dirty from my fingertips paging over them--and that's saying quite a lot, since I take ridiculously good care of my books. This is also the only book of mine with writing (pencil) in the margins. It was necessary to break the cardinal rule against defacing texts, since I need little notes to jog my memory and make chains of connection while I'm reading... and I could never ha ...more
This book was also for my lit crit class, but we only read a few essays and snippets from this huge anthology. Most of the readings I did not understand, though I would try to read the whole section, but I sometimes gave up. There were a couple of readings that I found interesting, but not enough to keep me from selling this book back.

*Taken from my book reviews blog:
Marc LeBlanc
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I used this anthology in my Lit. Theory class last semester. Now, obviously we didn't read all 2500+ pages, but we did tackle a great deal of the essays. It is probably one of the most important/useful books in my library, one I find myself coming back to again and again for reference, or even just for fun. All in all it's a great collection of highly important and influential critiques and theories that should be owned by anyone who is even remotely serious about literature.
Feb 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Oh boy - an anthology of literary criticism. It's for a class. We're trying to touch on all the major periods and modes. It's useful for someone, like me, who does not have time to read all of those philosophers and poets in-depth while taking two other classes and raising a child. How I sometimes wish this could be my only class this quarter - it's an enormous quantity of various and complex ways to look at the world through literature.
Nov 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
As much as I've hated carrying this doorstop around for an entire quarter, it's introduced me to some amazing critics and given a literary twist to a lot of authors that I had only read politically (Foucoult, Said, etc.). I look forward to reading more from it, if I ever have time, and I'm sure it will be a valuable reference tool for the future.
May 23, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
I have to read this for a class in the fall. I'm an English Lit major and theory and philosophy are not my areas of interest or expertise- Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze, oh my! I'm a little intimidated and don't know how well I'm going to do with this material, but another student said read it, don't worry about understanding it; the penny will drop in a few weeks. I sure hope so.
Donna Rae
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I am just starting this and I will be at it for a long time, it is quite a tome. But I like how it is set up... Just for starters it has 2 Table of Contents. I think this read will be an education in itself. I will read other books in between philosophers. More to come as I dive in.
Dec 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Adriana by: Lit Crit Professor
My biggest regret of last semester (maybe of my whole educational career so far, but I'm probably just being dramatic) is selling this book. I really wish I kept it, just for the sheer amount of articles it had from so many different scholars. UGH!
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
I love this book. Great introductions to theory and pithy excerpts from everyone from Aristotle to Stanley Fish. It's not the sort of thing you read through cover to cover. It's more of a reference book. Actually, I'm not going to lie, I know people who would enjoy reading this cover to cover :)
Muhammad Yahya Cheema
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best anthology of literary theory and criticism out there. Read much of it during the research for my M. Phil. dissertation.
Dec 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fall-2009
Obviously, I didn't read all of it . . .
Jan 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I used this bible of theory and criticism in college and still use it today to stay on top of literary criticism.
Dec 21, 2010 added it
come on it is an anthology lol
read part of it ... It helped me during my Masters research
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm saying goodbye to my theory class for now.
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read the whole thing, twice -- one time forward, and one time backwards, chewing gum. Same stick the entire time.
J. Alfred
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
In a life full of reading books, there are few books that have given me so much satisfaction to be done with. This complement is backhanded but sincere: I'm glad that I know more about the theories and history: I'm glad I won't have to toil through this thing any more.

Since reading this felt like a marathon, let's hand out some awards:

Cleverest rhymer: Pope
Most impossible to understand: Kant (narrowly edging out Hegel)
Most surprisingly interesting and variously talented (also a composer): Schi
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although pricey for a student on a budget, in the process of my degree, this book has become invaluable. I bought this book before my first semester, and it has never been far out of hand since. The exemplary footnoting and headnotes make studying and referencing straightforward, and the vast array of theories included means that this Norton edition is useful to many areas of study. 10/10 would recommend
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