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Beginning Theory by Peter Barry – book review

Alok Mishra reviews Peter Barry’s book Beginning Theory. In this book review, he emphasises on the points which make Beginning Theory a must-have book for students.

Can you ignore Peter Barry’s magnum opus as a critic – Beginning Theory? I will directly say that this is the best book for the students of English literature and literary theories! There is no better book than Beginning Theory in the market which can do what this book does, be sure about it. Students, teachers, research scholars and even professors can use the book without problems. This is simply meant for all and that’s it. Nevertheless, for the students who are worried about the choice of a good book for literary theory and criticism part of their syllabus, I will tell why Beginning Theory will be the best they can get.

The Content: Simply written and highly useful! If I am said to define the content in Peter Barry’s book, I will write what I have written in the incomplete sentence which is followed by the current. Peter has passed only the information which will be useful and beneficial for the readers who are supposed to ‘beginning their studies’ in literary theory and literary criticism. And therefore, they don’t need a scholarly vision or arguments which make their minds baffled and they give up before they actually take on. There are no language tantrums and there is not so much of the foggy air like we see in Patricia Waugh’s book on the same subject. For a simple example, Peter will tell you what the theory Structuralism mean in the literary context rather than beating around the bush and keeping the readers astray. He will define what needs to be defined and he will give examples where it needs to be given. In short, the content of the book is precise and informative and very simply written so that a student of an undergraduate school can also understand.

The Method: Peter Barry will tell you what do the critics of a particular school of a theory do. He will also give you examples if needed that no other book has yet done so eloquently. He will define; give a historical context in brief; move to the applications by the theorists and shut down the case with some obvious examples and his remarks. And believe me, each of his chapters will be instantly understood without any need of reading it twice. Yes, if you want to read again, you can surely re-read as per your wish.

Must Read: If you buy the book and start reading it, the best way, always, is to read the book in an orderly manner. Chapter by chapter and one by one. However, if you feel over-studied at times, you can surely jump to the chapter number 14 and there you will find a very wonderful analysis of the major events which changed the discourse in the field of literary theory at times when the events took place. Literary Theory – a history in ten events is the title of the chapter and it is very informative.

The Verdict:
It clearly comes like this – there is no better book for the beginners in literary theory than Beginning Theory by Peter Barry. You MUST get this book if you want to understand the basics as well as the advances of various literary theories and also understand how these theories affect the reading of literary texts.

You can get this book from Amazon online store by following the link below. The link will open in a different tab and it will take you to Amazon’s buying page of the book:

Peter Barry – Beginning Theory – Buy from Amazon

Beginning Theory - reviewed
  • Content & Analysis
  • Language & Reading Ease
  • Usefulness


A must-read book for the students of English literature… you will find no match for this book in the field of literary criticism and literary theory.

Alok Mishra

First and foremost a poet, Alok Mishra is an author next. Apart from these credentials, he is founder & Editor-in-Chief of Ashvamegh, an international literary magazine and also the founder of BookBoys PR, a company which helps writers brand themselves and promote their books. On this blog, Alok mostly writes about literary topics which are helpful for literature students and their teachers. He also shares his poems; personal thoughts and book reviews.

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