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  • Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysisby Mads Rosendahl Thomsen et al.
  • Xiaoxia Lin (bio)
Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysis. By Mads Rosendahl Thomsen et al.London; New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc., 2017. ix + 454 pp. Paper $29.95.

Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysisis a handbook for literary studies, not only intended for use in first and second year university courses on the introduction to literature, but also for literature teachers, or ordinary [End Page 763]readers who are interested in literary theory and practice. In this book, the editors sketch a vivid picture of the solutions to literary studies: "a deeper engagement with analyzing literature makes it possible to appreciate how mesmerizing texts can be as one is stuck in a stanza, thrown off by a metaphor (if it really is a metaphor), or befuddled by trying to figure out how the quintessential traits of a character can be best be expressed" (1). As to the background of the book, J. Hillis Miller emphasizes in the foreword: " Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysisis based on a highly successful volume published in Danish and in Swedish translation in 2012 and used as a textbook in all five major Danish universities. This English version, however, has nineteen new chapters written by American, British, and European scholars. All the other chapters have been modified for the larger intended audience. It is now a genuinely international book, suitable for use in courses taught in English anywhere in the world." Being perceived as an uneven and asymmetrical sphere of transcultural global literary exchange, the value inherent in this book is that it can be regarded as "the cornerstone of an introductory course to literary studies" (2), not only for English-speaking students and readers, but also for non-English-speaking students and readers.

This book is divided into three parts: Texts, Contexts, and Practices, which includes thirty-three short chapters, each by a different specialist and each on a different topic in literary study. In order to "clarify how to engage fruitfully with recurrent topics in literary criticism," the editors compile the book "from definitions of literature and essentials of textual theory to contextualizing theories and perspectives on the uses of literature" (1–2). Part I "Texts": In the eleven chapters comprising this part, editors concern the notions of interpretation, genre, characters, narrative, tropes, and intertextuality, which are indispensable in literary analysis. Here, take Chapters 4 and 11 for examples. Chapter 4 "Narrative," through a discussion of "How do narratives work?", "Why are we dawn to fictional narratives?", charts "Further reading" in two ways: "By moving recursively between the thematic and the formal, a reading of plot and progression can function as a major part of a fuller, systematic understanding of any particular piece of narrative fiction" (52); and then recommending works on narratology. Chapter 11 "Intertextuality" offers a philosophical and theoretical perspective to elaborate that the text is not an isolated fact by presenting "Intertextuality as philosophy of the text," "Intertextuality as a theory of the text," "Intertextuality," "Paratextuality," "Metatextuality," "Hypertextuality," "Architextuality," "A transtextual reading of Death Fugue," and so on. According to Elisabeth Friis, "Good writers are also good readers" because "writers read their texts are always connected to [End Page 764]other texts, and this is what is usually called the intertextuality of the text." And as T.S. Eliot contend, "this effect is reciprocal" (131). Inspired by the Russian theoretician Mikhail Bakhtin, Julia Kristeva began to use the term "intertextuality" at the end of the 1960s. To Kristeva, "an intertextuality in the space of a given text, several utterances, taken from other texts, intersect and neutralize one another" (Kristeva 1980, 36). Graham Allen's Intertextualityand Mary Orr's Intertextuality: Debates and Contentsare included in the further reading.

Part II "Contexts" takes up the vast variety of themes literature addresses such as author, reader, history, politics, gender, ethnicity, and memory, showing how form and content work together. Through an extensive discussion of contexts, Part II of this book effectively demonstrated how texts are developed by writers and critics from an altogether different tact...


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