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Modern North American Criticism and Theory

A Critical Guide

Edited by Julian Wolfreys

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Modern North American Criticism and Theory presents the reader with a comprehensive and critical introduction to the development and institutionalization of literary and cultural studies throughout the twentieth century and at the beginning of the twenty-first.

Focusing on the growth and expansion of critical trends and methodologies, with particular essays addressing key figures in their historical and cultural contexts, the book offers a narrative of change, transformation, and the continuous quest for and affirmation of multiple cultural voices and identities. From semiotics and the New Criticism to the identity politics of whiteness studies and the cultural study of masculinity, this book provides an overview of literary and cultural study in North America as a history of questioning, debate, and exploration.

A further reading list accompanies each chapter.

Key Features:

  • Breadth of coverage from Northrop Frye to Fredric Jameson and from The New Criticism and the Chicago School to New Historicism, African-American Studies and Canadian Literary Studies.
  • Focus on the history of modern criticism.
  • Accessibly written.
  • Theoretical debates are set in full historical, cultural and philosophical contexts.


1. Charles Sanders Peirce and Semiotics, Kenneth Womack
2. The New Criticism, Charles Altieri
3. The Chicago School, William Baker
4. Northrop Frye, Imre Salusinszky
5. The Encounter with Structuralism and the Invention of Poststructuralism, Mark Currie
6. Reception Theory and Reader-Response: Norman Holland, Stanley Fish and David Bleich, Jeremy Lane
7. The Yale Critics? J. Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Hartman, Harold Bloom, Paul de Man, Ortwin de Graef
8. Deconstruction of America, William Flesch
9. Fredric Jameson and Marxist Literary and Cultural Criticism, Carolyn Lesjak
10. Edward W. Said, John Kucich
11. American Feminisms: Images of Women and Gynocriticism, Ruth Robbins
12. Feminisms in the 1980s and 1990s: The Encounter with Poststructuralism and Gender Studies, Megan Becker-Leckrone
13. Psychoanalysis and Literary Criticism, Megan Becker-Leckrone
14. Feminists of Color, Anne Donadey
15. Stephen Greenblatt and the New Historicism, Virginia Mason Vaughan
16. Lesbian and Gay Studies/Queer Theory, David Van Leer
17. Postcolonial Studies, Malini Johar Schueller
18. Cultural Studies and Multiculturalism, Marcel Cornis-Pope
19. African-American Studies, Yun Hsing Wu
20. Chicano/a Literature, Amelia Mariá de la Luz Montes
21. Film Studies, Toby Miller
22. Feminist Film Studies and Film Theory, Julian Wolfreys
23. Ethical Criticism, Kenneth Womack
24. Postmodernism, Marcel Cornis-Pope
25. The Role of Journals in Theoretical Debate, Kate Flint
26. Whiteness Studies, Betsy Nies
27. Masculinity and Cultural Studies, David Alderson
28. Comics Studies, Christopher Eklund
29. Anglophone Canadian Literary Studies, Fiona Tolan
30. Francophone Canadian Literature, Elodie Rousselot

About the Author

Julian Wolfeys is Professor of English Literature at the University of Portsmouth, where he is also Director of the Centre for Studies in LIterature. He is author and editor of more than 40 books on nineteenth- and twentieth-century English literature and literary theory. Most recently he has published Dickens’s London and The Derrida Wordbook, both with Edinburgh University Press. He recently published his first novel, Silent Music.