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Thread: reading list ideas

  1. #1
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    Default reading list ideas

    to be honest i mainly read novels and poetry and i am someone who managed to get through H E without reading any theory - yes i am that old! recently i hav read Eagleton's After Theory and found it enjoyable, if, at times slightly perplexing, so i thought i'd visit my bookshop to try and bone up on some contemporary theory. the problem is this - there was so much of the stuff that i didn't know where to start ( and it wasn't cheap either).
    my question is this: what would some of you lot recommend? something entry level - i ahve currently got Role's book on derrida (old hat, i dunno) which i am just clinging on to and a beginner's guide to Isiah Berlin - i liked the cover!
    i know this is vague and if someone came to me wanting to knwo where to start with contemporary novels i would want a bit more help but i really enjoy my visits to this forum but at times the blizzard of unfamiliar names makes me wonder what it is i might be missing.
    thanks

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    Well, a bit self-referentially, I would recommend you to read Badiou's collection of essays entitled, *ahem*, 'Infinite Thought'. Short, concise and relevant. Also Zizek's 'Welcome to the Desert of the Real' (about the state of politics/thought post-September 11th). Frederic Jameson's 'Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism' is useful, perhaps some Deleuze interviews ('Negotiations' or 'Dialogues'). Baudrillard is always interesting. Especially in the bath.

    As someone who doesn't distinguish very sensibly between 'theory'/philosophy/politics/journalism/thought, I never think that any book is necessarily off-putting. Difficult sometimes, perhaps, but always amenable to one kind of interpretation or another. Hope these suggestions are helpful.

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    Fredric Jameson is a good place to start, for a general entry (The 'Postmodernism' one), as is Eagleton's 'Literary Theory'. I suggest these because they are a handy way to fill yourself in on the most general shape of the conversation, before getting into the very 'meaty' stuff. Or perhaps just randomly pick one of the names that you have seen flying by, and pursue them if they sound interesting? One entry point is probably as good as another, so long as you remember that your biases tend to remain with whoever you read first. (Well, that's been my experience, at any rate ) Above all, don't panic if you pick something horribly difficult. With this sort of reading, it seems that you often need to read at least two or three things before you start to form a context for yourself and feel somewhat more 'in the picture'.

    It's really quite good fun In a rigorous kind of way.

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    I second Eagleton.

    Ramon Selden's A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory is a really straightforward, good entry level book to theory/lit crit. - it also comes with a handy companion Practising Theory and Reading Literature in which Selden goes through each type of criticism and shows how it works in practice. It can be a bit like the Noddy Guide to Theory, but if you're after an entry-level introduction it's unbeatable.

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    Royle's book on Derrida is pretty good, but many of those little introductory squibs leave you none the wiser really, they're a waste of time, as I know from long experience. Eagleton's Ideology of the Aesthetic and Robert Young's White Mythologies are useful surveys that explore the terrain from particular angles, though both are slightly dated. But the best way to begin is to find someone you like and plough through their work unfortunately. It seems to me there are three overlapping and contending areas of european thought at the moment (to be reductive): Zizek, Badiou and that who are interested in a new universalism as a basis for political critique; Deleuze's various epigones many of whom are exploring the virtual and the digital and the post-human; and then the Derrida/ Levinas/Blanchot lot who are into ethics, literature and otherness. So its probably worth trying to find out which of these crews interests you the most and then going for it. Zizek's The Sublime Object of Ideology is a pretty accessible and informative book I think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Melmoth
    many of those little introductory squibs leave you none the wiser really, they're a waste of time
    Sure, the introductory things are an abridged version of the menu, rather than the meal itself, but I still think it's helpful to have some idea (even if the idea is revised radically at a later date) of what the terrain is. It saves you pulling out your hair, if you are of the disposition to panic. (Which I was when I started, but then, I think I also had essays bearing down on me at the time, so that sort of reaction is probably quite understandable )

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    whatever you do don't read the cheap and deceptively nice looking 'postmodern encounters' books, they're little essays on the usual suspects (lacan, foucault, etc etc) - i bought them as an undergrad as an intro to this sort of bizness and they put me off 'theory' for years.
    not sure about all the eagleton love here, i find him incredibly annoying...but starting with zizek is a good idea as he is deceptively easy to read and will make you laugh.

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    I think as a theorist Eagleton probably is difficult to get on with, but in the introductory things I've read (and I'm not a lit theorist by trade, so I've not read any of his more substantial books), he comes across as a good teacher - passionate, lucid, that sort of thing.

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    Re: the Eagleton, Zizek, Jameson love: the post-Marxists write good intros, no? All that dialectically incorporating everything, Hegel-style... It makes them comprehensive, if nothing else

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    You people really need to read something other than critical theory all the time. Maybe a bit of science now and then, otherwise you just end up in an endless circle-jerk of Aspergic reading, re-reading and Re:-re-reading the same tatty old texts.

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    Hey, I read plenty of different stuff. Only about 1/2 of it's theory ...

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    erm, I also occasionally try and read Chomsky's linguistics works and any recent anthropology research, does this count?....what science stuff do you recommend, Mr non-autistic HMG?

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    Quote Originally Posted by infinite thought
    Well, a bit self-referentially, I would recommend you to read Badiou's collection of essays entitled, *ahem*, 'Infinite Thought'. Short, concise and relevant. Also Zizek's 'Welcome to the Desert of the Real' (about the state of politics/thought post-September 11th). Frederic Jameson's 'Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism' is useful, perhaps some Deleuze interviews ('Negotiations' or 'Dialogues'). Baudrillard is always interesting. Especially in the bath.

    As someone who doesn't distinguish very sensibly between 'theory'/philosophy/politics/journalism/thought, I never think that any book is necessarily off-putting. Difficult sometimes, perhaps, but always amenable to one kind of interpretation or another. Hope these suggestions are helpful.
    coo. thanks for these infinite thought. if i get half an hour one day (please lord!) i shall investigate with relish. theory - it's pretty cool innit.
    keep it road-ish

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by HMGovt
    You people really need to read something other than critical theory all the time. Maybe a bit of science now and then, otherwise you just end up in an endless circle-jerk of Aspergic reading, re-reading and Re:-re-reading the same tatty old texts.
    Outstanding. Somebody writes in asking for suggestions with regard to critical theory, people post their suggestions, and you conclude that all they read is critical theory

    I actually just wanted to say that if you're interested in Derrida, the best place to start is with his interviews which are actually very enjoyable. The secondary literature on Derrida can be divided into:
    1. Stuff which is such a partial take as to be useless or just plain wrong.
    2. Extremely detailed and careful readings which assume a knowledge of Derrida in the first place.

    I take &Catherine's point that books that fall into the first category can be useful for blagging essays, but if you're looking into this stuff just because you're interested in it, they really are a waste of time.

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    I had never heard of Zizek until K-Punk began to excerpt passages from him. Now he's at the top of my reading list. Along with Spinoza. Had paged through the "Ethics" several years ago, but figure I must now make concerted effort. In any case, any recommendations as to where to begin with Spinoza?

    As for Deleuze, I've been intermittently paging through "Thousand Plateaus" for the past year or so. Find some chapters accessible and highly stimulating, as with the chapters on "Bodies w/o Organs" and "Nomad Thought," but other chapters impenetrable and seemingly not worth the buck for the bang

    Also have copy of Jameson's "Postmodernism," but I don't rate it. Don't think I finished it, either.

    GETTING BACK TO THE QUESTION, for a short primer I'd suggest "Modern French Philosophy" by Vincent Descombes . . . . Also worth checking out is Stanley Rosen's "Hermeneutics as Politics"

    However, at the end of the day, there's no better place to start than with the Big Names themselves. Which is something that I need to get into habit of doing again

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