For people who are interested in literary theory, there are many introductions and many anthologies. What I am looking for is slightly different: an anthology of literary theory that illustrates each theory by applying it to one or more works of literature, with the additional "constraint" that it is the same works that are selected to illustrate each theory. I once held such a book in my hands. I think one of the works that was used as an illustrated was Kate Chopin's The Awakening. One of the other works may have been a Shakespeare play (probably Hamlet). Since the book was an anthology, the essays had not been written specifically for this book.

The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism doesn't match my criteria because the essays were not chosen based on the works they discuss. Literary Theory: An Anthology, edited by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan is also a good anthology but does not match my criteria either.

The book I am looking for selects two or three works of literature (let's call them A, B and C) and a number of theories. The book was then be built up as follows:

  1. Theory 1, e.g. formalism: an essay applying formalist criticism to work A, another essay from the formalist school applying it to work B, etc.
  2. Theory 2, e.g. structuralism: a structuralist interpretation of work A, another structuralist interpretation of work B, etc.

As I mentioned before, I once held such a book in my hands, but searching the web has not helped me find it.

  • 2
    Critical Theory Today is what you're looking for. Every chapter uses a different branch of literary theory to better understand The Great Gatsby.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 19:25
  • 1
    @Anonymous Your answer was apparently so short that it was converted into a comment. You should be able to avoid that by providing a more detailed description.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


I managed to locate the book: it is Contexts for Criticism by Donald Keesey (second edition, Mayfield Publishing, 1994). It contains seven chapters, each with three examples of theory and three "applications" that illustrate the theory. Each chapter contains one "application" for Shakespeare's Hamlet, one for Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and one for Kate Chopin's The Awakening.

The chapters and their subchapters are the following:

  1. Historical Criticism I: Author as Context
    • E. D. Hirsch: Objective Interpreation
    • George Watson: Are Poems Historical Acts?
    • Alastair Fowler: Intention Floreat
    • Fredson Bowers: Hamlet as Minister and Scourge
    • Allen C. Austin: Toward Resolving Keats' Grecian Urn Ode
    • Nancy Walker: Feminist or Naturalist: The Social Context of Kate Chopin's The Awakening
  2. Formal Criticism: Poem as Context
    • Cleanth Brooks: Irony as a Principle of Structure
    • W. K. Wimsatt, Jr.: The Structure of the Concrete Universal
    • Monroe C. Beardsley: Textual Meaning and Authorial Meaning
    • Robert Ornstein: Historical Criticism and the Interpretation of Shakespeare
    • Cleanth Brooks: Keats's Sylvan Historian: History without Footnotes
    • John R. May: Local Color in The Awakening
  3. Reader-Response Criticism: Audience as Context
    • Louise M. Rosenblatt: The Quest for "The Poem Itself"
    • Wolfgang Iser: Readers and the Concept of the Implicit Reader
    • Norman Hollland: The Miller's Wife and the Professors: Questions about the Transactive Theory of Reading
    • Norman Halland: Hamlet-My Greatest Creation
    • Douglas B. Wilson: Reading the Urn: Death in Keats's Arcadia
    • Pat Shaw: Putting Audience in Its Place: Psychosexuality and Perspective Shifts in The Awakening
  4. Mimetic Criticism: Reality as Context
    • A. D. Nuttall: The Two Languages of Criticism
    • Bernard Paris: The Uses of Psychology
    • Josephine Donovan: Beyond the Net: Feminist Criticism as a Moral Criticism
    • Jacqueline Rose: Hamlet-the Mona Lisa of Literature
    • Eva T. H. Brann: Pictures in Poetry: Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
    • Cynthia Griffin Wolff: Thanatos and Eros: Kate Chopin's The Awakening
  5. Intertextual Criticism: Literature as Context
    • Northrop Frye: The Critical Path
    • Jonathan Culler: Structuralism and Literature
    • Mikhail Bakhtin: From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse
    • Phyllis Gorfain: Toward a Theory of Play and the Carnivalesque in Hamlet
    • Lore Metzger: "Silence and Slow Time": Pastoral Topoi in Keats's Odes
    • Sandra M. Gilbert: The Second Coming of Aphrodite: Kate Chopin's Fantasy of Desire
  6. Poststructural Criticism: Language as Context
    • Jacques Derrida: Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences
    • Paul de Man: Semiology and Rhetoric
    • Stanley Fish: What Makes an Interpretation Acceptable?
    • David J. McDonald: Hamlet and the Mimesis of Absence: A Post-Structuralist Analysis
    • Barbara Jones Guetti: Resisting the Aesthetic
    • Patricia S. Yaeger: "A Language Which Nobody Understood": Emancipatory Strategies in The Awakening
  7. Historical Criticism II: Culture as Context
    • Terry Eagleton: Literature and History
    • Catherine Belsey: Literature, History, Politics
    • Stephen Greenblatt: Culture
    • Annabel Patterson: The Very Age and Body of the Time His Form and Pressure
    • Daniel P. Watkins: Coming to the Sacrifice
    • Margit Stange: Personal Property: Exchange Value and the Female Self in The Awakening

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