Understanding Contemporary American Literary Theory

Michael P. Spikes

This work is an appraisal of six theorists who have shaped America's literary landscape; Stanley Fish, Susan Bordo, Paul de Man, Henry Louis Gates Jr, Edward W.Said and Stephen Greenblatt. Underscoring the largely heterogenous mix of strategies and suppositions that these critics represent it offers concise analyses of their principle claims and illustrates how their works reflect a range of critical perspectives, from deconstruction, African American studies, and reader-response theory to political criticism, the new historicism and feminism. The study is prefaced with a short history of theory and criticism in the twentieth century and each of the theorists is placed within the larger context of contemporary criticism. It explains their specific strategies for interpreting literature, identifies the philosophical assumptions underlying those strategies, cites specific examples of how the strategies are applied to the reading of particular works, and notes possible objections to their theories.

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