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Postcolonialism and American-- WORDS anywhere (This is a keyword search.)
Derrida, Jacques-- AUTHOR (last name first) (This finds books by the author.)
Reader-response criticism-- SUBJECT begins with (IRIS has specific subject headings for many critical/theoretical approaches.)
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Students encountering recent literary criticism for the first time often find the concepts to be alien and the vocabulary, confusing. Articles in the venerable MLA International Bibliography often use terms like "discourse", "intertextuality", "dialectic", "ecocritical", "signifier", and "deconstruction". Where does all of this come from? As Mary Klages puts it,
'Literary Theory,' with the capital letters, points to sets of ideas that have greatly influenced the way we have thought about, taught, and produced scholarship on 'literature' within colleges and universities in the past 30 to 40 years. 'Literary Theory' is a big umbrella term that covers a variety of approaches to texts ('literary' or not); if these approaches have anything in common, it is that all of them examine factors that shape how a text is written and how we are able to read it. 'Literary Theory' comes from all kinds of disciplines, including linguistics, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, history, economics, gender studies, ethnic studies, and political science; much of what falls under the heading 'Literary Theory,' as you'll see, has little to do directly with what we think of as 'literature.' (pp. 3-4)
--Mary Klages, Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed.
Furthermore, as Peter Barry explains in Beginning Theory, so many different literary theories exist because each literary theory arises in "reaction against something which went before" (p. 2). Therefore, Literary Theory is constantly changing and developing, giving the reader a whole bag of tools for looking at texts and their meaning.
Before Literary Theory, Western civilization had literary criticism going all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Here is a smattering of significant public domain texts about literary criticism on the Web.
Since Literary Theory is a relatively recent concept, most of the primary material is still under copyright. Therefore, the way to read most originals (or translations) in their entirety is to read them in book form. Excerpts and explanations can, of course, be found on the Web. See Alan Liu and Jack Lynch above for some online sources.
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