This is the most accessible and wide-ranging introduction to critical theory currently available. Providing a comprehensive overview of the practice, role and importance of theory across the humanities and social sciences, the book not only maps a notoriously complex area, but it also enables the reader to take the arguments and apply them in practice. Starting with an explanation of how theory relies on implicit assumptions that inform interpretations, the book moves on to depict the long-term philosophical problems that have fed into much twentieth century thinking and also more recent debates. The philosophical grounds of contemporary thought are traced from Plato through Descartes to the work of Heidegger and Freud and on to recent developments in structuralism and deconstruction that critically revise many of the previous terms of debate.
The individual sections treat key concepts in detail and may be read independently. Sections that provide a thorough grounding in notions like the critical, theory, the political and modernity pave the way for in-depth accounts of the basic arguments of structuralism, psychoanalytic theory and deconstruction. Attention is paid to ensuring clarity throughout the book; the critical theory described is demonstrated via readings of verbal and visual texts. A serious guide to the practicalities of the use of critical theory in the humanities today this book should be on the shelves of all students of literature, cultural studies and social science.