Beginning Theory by Peter Barry
Category: Non-fiction (textbook)
My Thoughts: Normally I would not review one of my textbooks here but I thought it fit with the general theme of bookblogging and that maybe someone would find it useful.
We have used this book for my introductory lit. theory class this semester and I have found the book to be readable and helpful. Barry has a way of talking TO you, not down to you. Yes he expects that you don’t know about lit. theory before but he does expect you to know about literature. It is written in a rather “chatty” way which I like. I felt like I was sitting in his class and he was talking to me.
In many of his examples he makes use of Shakespeare plays for his examples. This lends a certain amount of universality to his examples. It is also interesting to see how he uses the same play for different critical approaches. This does mean that you need to have at least a passing familiarity with several Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night) with Hamlet being the play that is used the most.
Each chapter has a Stop and Think section which is useful in thinking about the material already covered. In addition he often sets out the points he is making in bullet point form, which, I for one, find incredibly helpful. It is easy to flip back to these sections to see the point of a particular section (or for me when I have been answering essay questions). These sections are often titled “What a X critic does”. So helpful!
Overall I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to start looking at Theory of Literature. It is very accessible.