An Introduction to Criticism: Literature, Film, Culture

An Introduction to Criticism: Literature, Film, Culture

An Introduction to Criticism: Literature, Film, Culture

An Introduction to Criticism: Literature, Film, Culture


An accessible and thorough introduction to literary theory and contemporary critical practice, this book is an essential resource for beginning students of literary criticism.
  • Covers traditional approaches such as formalism and structuralism, as well as more recent developments in criticism such as evolutionary theory, cognitive studies, ethical criticism, and ecocriticism
  • Offers explanations of key works and major ideas in literary criticism and suggests key elements to look for in a literary text
  • Also applies critical approaches to various examples from film studies
  • Helps students to build a critical framework and write analytically


Criticism is the analysis of human cultural life. What science does to physical life criticism does to cultural life. It takes it apart and studies it and figures out why it works the way it does.

Such analysis ranges from the techniques used to make cultural artifacts such as novels, movies, music, and paintings to the ideas contained in such artifacts, the world out of which they arise, and their implications in our lives.

The specific region of culture that criticism analyzes is stitched into a larger cultural web that includes money, language, mathematics, engineering, commerce, digital computing, religion, and law. Without such culture in the larger sense, there would be no human life on earth. It is our most important creation as humans. It allows us to manipulate things without laying our hands on them, and it allows us to make the world work by using symbols or signs such as currency and words rather than hammers and levers.

The region of human culture that criticism addresses, the culture of plays, movies, novels, poems, public discourse, and songs, has an important function within that larger culture. It directs human thought, feeling, and belief in ways that help maintain human physical existence. It reinforces norms that guide behavior, and it remakes old assumptions about how we should behave that have lost their adaptive usefulness. Cultural artifacts promote ideas that motivate action and they provide moral instruction. They are teachers, ministers, advertisers, politicians, and parents all in one. They help us manage our lives by providing us with useful examples of how to live. Culture in this sense is akin to biochemistry. It does not do the actual work of life, but without the instructions it provides, that work could not occur.

The arts, including poems, novels, and plays, were invented at the same moment in human history as large-scale communities because the arts spread norms, and norms ensured that we humans could live together . . .

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