Five of the Best Books about Literary Theory

The best introductions to literary theory

Most English Literature students will encounter, at some point during their English degree, that strange beast known as ‘literary theory’. Whether it’s postmodernism or poststructuralism, feminism or postcolonialism, Marxism or reader-response theory, ‘literary theory’ (or, sometimes, ‘critical theory’) will rear its imposing head somewhere on the average degree course. Below are five of the most accessible and helpful introductions to studying literary theory.

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A Short Analysis of ‘Sumer Is Icumen In’

A summary of a classic medieval poem

English poetry begins with a stag breaking wind. Or, at least, it does if you pick up the wonderful The Oxford Book of English Verse, where the short song, ‘Sumer is icumen in’, begins the book’s chronological selection from eight centuries of English poetry. Dating from the mid-thirteenth century, over a hundred years before Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, ‘Sumer is icumen in’ is therefore one of the earliest examples of English poetry. Here is this wonderful medieval poem along with a short analysis of its meaning and language.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Georgette Heyer

The life and work of Georgette Heyer

We’ve recently been enjoying Jennifer Kloester’s Georgette Heyer Biography, published in 2011. Subtitled The Biography of a Bestseller, it’s a fascinating look at the life of an extraordinary writer or ‘publishing phenomenon’, as the phrase often used of bestselling writers has it. Here are five of our favourite facts about Georgette Heyer’s life and work, several of which we learnt from reading Kloester’s book.

1. Georgette Heyer’s earliest stories were written to cheer up her brother, Boris. Boris was haemophiliac and Georgette – the family surname is pronounced ‘hair’ rather than ‘hay-er’ – came up with her earliest forays into fiction as a way of entertaining him.

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Five of the Best Books about Charles Dickens

The best books about Dickens

From detailed biographies of Dickens to ground-breaking works of literary criticism, there have been hundreds of books published about Charles Dickens‘s life and work. Here are five of our favourites – five of the finest books about Dickens for the reader seeking to negotiate their way through the great novelist’s work.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Karel Čapek

Interesting trivia about one of science-fiction’s greatest voices

1. Čapek’s most famous work introduced the concept of the ‘robot’. Čapek’s 1920 play R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) was the first text to use the word ‘robot’ to denote man-made creatures – the word comes from the Czech roboti meaning ‘slave’ or ‘drudge’. In Čapek’s play, the robots are built in a factory for the purpose of undertaking menial labour for their human masters – but, as with The Terminator over sixty years later, they eventually turn against their owners and destroy the human race.

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