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Contemporary Cultural Texts and Critical Approaches

Peter Childs

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Being able to analyse different types of text is an essential skill for students of literature. Texts is a new kind of book which shows students how to use literary theory to approach a wide range of literary, cultural and media texts of the kind studied on today's courses. These texts range from short stories, autobiographies, political speeches, websites and lyrics to films such as The Matrix and Harry Potter and from television's Big Brother to shopping malls, celebrities, and rock videos.

Each chapter combines an introduction to the text and aspects of its critical reception with an analysis using one of sixteen key approaches, from established angles like feminism, postcolonial studies and deconstruction to newer areas such as ecocriticism, trauma theory, and ethical criticism. Each chapter also indicates alternative ways of reading the text by drawing on other critical approaches.


  • is the first student guide to examine visual, virtual and performance texts alongside written texts reflecting the broadening range of the contemporary literature syllabus
  • demonstrates clearly how students can analyse a familiar text in different ways, a core skill which many find difficult
  • provides a student introduction to contemporary culture via well known popular texts and literary theories.


Introduction: Starting Points
1. Film: The Matrix and The I-pod
Approach: Cyberphilosophy
2. Building: Shopping in Utopia
Approach: Spatial Criticism
3. Movie Poster: Alien Nature
Approach: Ecocriticism
4. Pop video: Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' and 'race'
Approach: 'Race' Studies
5. Celebrity: Diana and Death
Approach: Trauma Theory
6. TV show: Big Brother after the big Other
Approach: Performativity Theory
7. Newspaper article: The Gulf War in Real Time and Virtual Space
Approach: Hyperreality
8. Photograph(er): Cindy Sherman and the Masquerade
Approach: Feminism
9. Political speech: Margaret Thatcher's Hymn at the Sermon on the Mound
Approach: Historicism
10. Critical text: Alan Sokal's Sham Transgression
Approach: Reading Postmodernism
11. Popular novel: The Ethics of Harry Potter
Approach: Ethical Criticism
12. Short story: Barthelme's Balloon and the Rhizome
Approach: Deleuzian Criticism
13. Lyric: 'Where's my Snare?': Eminem and Sylvia Plath
Approach: Psychoanalytic Criticism
14. Autobiography: Martin Amis's Experience
Approach: Self-Life-Writing
15. Virtual text: Amazonian Democracy
Approach: Globalization Studies
16. World media event: It's About Time: Cultural History at the Millennium
Approach: Cultural Studies.

About the Author

Peter Childs is Dean of Research and Professor of Modern English Literature at the University of Gloucestershire where he teaches twentieth-century and post-colonial literature. He has published widely in the areas of modern writing, British culture and critical theory.