By Steven J. Venturino
Alpha Books/Penguin USA, 2013 (distributed in the UK by DK)
While not exclusively related to Victorian studies, this book, written by a literary theorist who would be nowhere without George Eliot, provides an authoritative, humorous, and affordably priced introductory guide to literary theory and criticism, from Plato to the present. The book is organized into twenty-two chapters exploring fundamental questions of reading, notions of the text, and the importance of society in literature. Instructors and students alike will find accessible and conversational discussions of classical views of literature, formalist approaches, and critical perspectives ranging from Romanticism, Marxism, and Freudianism, to structuralism, deconstruction, and cultural criticism of various stripes.
In his review, Haun Saussy, University Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago wryly asked, “Is this book serious? Or a parody? (A parody of literary theory, or a parody of Idiot's Guides?) Or just self-referential? Should we ask the author? Or is meaning in the eye of the beholder? Before getting past the cover, you're already in the world of literary theory and the questions it asks. Never more serious than when cracking a joke, Steven J. Venturino banishes dullness and gets to the point of literary theory, which has always been to spark the delight of understanding.” Narratologist Monika Fludernik of the University of Freiburg pronounced the book “A very readable and—would you believe it—extremely enjoyable introduction to literary theory. This book presents complex thoughts in easily graspable and quite memorable sentences. Guaranteed to appeal to anyone who loves to juggle with concepts and ideas.”