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Formalist Criticism and Reader-Response Theory

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This invaluable guide offers an accessible introduction to two important movements in the history of twentieth-century literary theory. A complementary text to the Palgrave volume Postmodern Narrative Theory by Mark Currie, this title addresses a host of theoretical concerns, as well as each field’s principal figures and interpretive modes. As with other books in the Transitions series, Formalist Criticism and Reader-Response Theory includes readings of a range of widely-studied texts, including Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, among others.

Formalist Criticism and Reader-Response Theory provides a suggestive way of engaging with modern criticism. . . . Davis and Womack have their favorites—Northrop Frye among them—but they don’t ‘play favorites.’ They hold the ring judiciously and justly. This is a notable achievement, in contexts of such ferocity. And then every few chapters they step forward and do their own reading, regardless of methodic nicety. Or rather: they employ the difficult method that T. S. Eliot recommended, that of being very intelligent.”—Denis Donoghue, Henry James Professor in English and American Letters, New York University

“When criticism made its ‘turn to history,’ formalists were despised for their supposed suppression and belittlement of context, politics and history. . . . This book, then, represents the welcome return of the formalist repressed, helping us to see that formalism and historicism are not enemies: on the contrary, they need each other, and we can’t have a truly interesting and vital literary studies if we don’t have both. The arrangement of the book is clarity itself. . . . Its language is clear, engaged, and direct, and the authors are willing to be forceful and outspoken when the topic demands it.”—Peter Barry, Reader in English, University of Wales, Aberystwyth

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