Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Golden, Leon. "Review of M. A. R. Habib's A HISTORY OF LITERARY THEORY AND CRITICISM." BRYN MAWR CLASSICAL REVIEW May 27, 2008.
Habib, M. A. R. A History of Literary Theory and Criticism from Plato to the Present. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. In this work Professor Habib embarks on an ambitious and rewarding task. To understand the thorough and complex kind of literary history which Habib has written we should note the five goals which he explicitly says have motivated the shaping of his study. First comes the recognition that literary theory is not a discrete entity but is embedded in one or more philosophical traditions that require some exposition and clarification for students and general readers if they are to grasp the depth and significance of that theory; secondly while the text is impressively comprehensive it does not in its 838 pages attempt to cover every important figure. It does select influential theorists, movements, and critics for focused attention and close reading, and together with this close analysis of selected texts Habib provides an account of the historical background, political, social, intellectual in which these works were written. A third feature of the book is that while it recognizes and indicates the influence of prior philosophical and critical theories on later ones, it is organized so that the reader can access information about particular theories without first reviewing their antecedents. A fourth principal followed by Habib is to challenge a currently popular assumption that modern manifestations of literary theory have bypassed or even erased the importance of earlier important contributions to the subject. Habib emphasizes the continuity of influence of past great philosophical orientations as well as the continuing relevance of those positions. Finally there is an aspiration on Habib's part to break through the barrier of unnecessarily obscure jargon in which some critical theories are framed so as to make those theories more readily accessible to students and general readers. In the program he has defined for himself, Habib has achieved considerable success although not perfection. . . . Read the whole review here: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2008/2008-05-27.html.