Humanities › Literature The 10 Best Literary Theory and Criticism Books of 2020 Share Flipboard Email Print Literature Classic Literature Top Picks Lists Authors & Texts Study Guides Terms Best Sellers Plays & Drama Poetry Quotations Shakespeare Short Stories Children's Books By Esther Lombardi Literature Expert M.A., English Literature, California State University - Sacramento B.A., English, California State University - Sacramento Esther Lombardi, M.A., is a journalist who has covered books and literature for over twenty years. our editorial process Esther Lombardi Updated March 26, 2019 Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links. Literary theory and criticism are steadily evolving disciplines devoted to the interpretation of literary works. They offer unique ways to analyze texts through specific perspectives or sets of principles. There are many literary theories, or frameworks, available to address and analyze a given text. These approaches range from Marxist to psychoanalytic to feminist and beyond. Queer theory, a recent addition to the field, looks at literature through the prism of sex, gender, and identity. The books listed below are some of the leading overviews of this fascinating branch of critical theory. 01 of 10 Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism Buy on Amazon This hefty tome is a comprehensive anthology of literary theory and criticism, representing the various schools and movements from antiquity to the present. The 30-page introduction offers a concise overview for newcomers and experts alike. 02 of 10 Literary Theory: An Anthology Buy on Amazon Editors Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan have divided this collection into 12 sections, each of which covers an important school of literary criticism, from Russian formalism to critical race theory. 03 of 10 A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature Buy on Amazon This book, aimed at students, offers a simple overview of more traditional approaches to literary criticism, beginning with definitions of common literary elements like setting, plot, and character. The rest of the book is devoted to the most influential schools of literary criticism, including psychological and feminist approaches. 04 of 10 Beginning Theory Buy on Amazon Peter Barry's introduction to literary and cultural theory is a concise overview of analytical approaches, including relatively newer ones such as ecocriticism and cognitive poetics. The book also includes a reading list for further study. 05 of 10 Literary Theory: An Introduction Buy on Amazon This overview of the major movements in literary criticism comes from Terry Eagleton, a well-known Marxist critic who has also written books about religion, ethics, and Shakespeare. 06 of 10 Critical Theory Today Buy on Amazon Lois Tyson's book is an introduction to feminism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, reader-response theory, and much more. It includes analyses of "The Great Gatsby" from historical, feminist, and many other perspectives. 07 of 10 Literary Theory: A Practical Introduction Buy on Amazon This short book is designed for students who are just beginning to learn about literary theory and criticism. Using a range of critical approaches, Michael Ryan provides readings of famous texts such as Shakespeare's "King Lear" and Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye." The book shows how the same texts can be studied using different approaches. 08 of 10 Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction Buy on Amazon Busy students will appreciate this book from Jonathan Culler, which covers the history of literary theory in fewer than 150 pages. Literary critic Frank Kermode says that "it is impossible to imagine a clearer treatment of the subject or one that is, within the given limits of length, more comprehensive." 09 of 10 Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory Buy on Amazon Deborah Appleman's book is a guide to teaching literary theory in the high school classroom. It includes essays on various approaches, including reader-response and postmodern theory, along with an appendix of classroom activities for teachers. 10 of 10 Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism Buy on Amazon This volume, edited by Robyn Warhol and Diane Price Herndl, is a comprehensive collection of feminist literary criticism. Included are 58 essays on topics such as lesbian fiction, women and madness, the politics of domesticity, and much more.