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This Thing Called Literature : 2nd Edition - Reading, Thinking, Writing - Andrew Bennett

This Thing Called Literature

2nd Edition - Reading, Thinking, Writing

By: Andrew Bennett, Nicholas Royle

Paperback | 22 January 2024 | Edition Number 2

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What is this thing called literature? Why study it? And how?

Relating literature to topics such as dreams, politics, life, death, the ordinary and the uncanny, This Thing Called Literature establishes a sense of why and how literature is an exciting and rewarding subject to study. Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle expertly weave an essential love of literature into an account of what literary texts do, how they work and the sort of questions and ideas they provoke.

The book's three parts reflect the fundamental components of studying literature: reading, thinking and writing. The authors use helpful and wide-ranging examples and summaries, offering rich reflections on the question 'What is literature?' and on what they term 'creative reading'. The new edition has been revised throughout with extensive updates to the further reading, and a new chapter on creative non-fiction.

Bennett and Royle's accessible and thought-provoking style encourages a deep engagement with literary texts. This essential guide to the study of literature is as an eloquent celebration of the value and pleasure of reading.

About the Authors

Andrew Bennett is Professor of English at the University of Bristol, UK. He publishes on Romantic and twentieth-century literature and on literary theory. His books include An Introduction to Literature, Criticism, and Theory, Sixth Edition (2023; with Nicholas Royle), Suicide Century: Literature and Suicide from James Joyce to David Foster Wallace (2017) and Ignorance: Literature and Agnoiology (2009).

Nicholas Royle is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Sussex, UK. He is the author of many critical books, including How to Read Shakespeare (2014) and Veering: A Theory of Literature (2011), as well as creative works such as An English Guide to Birdwatching (2017) and David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the Sun Machine (2023).
Industry Reviews

Praise for the first edition:

'Literature, it turns out in Bennett and Royle's invigorating introduction to the topic, is anything but a thing: it is an activity, a provocation, an experience, a conundrum. This highly readable book is an important contribution to debates about why literature matters at the same time as offering a practical guide to the understanding and enjoyment of literary works, the task of writing about them, and the challenge of creating them.'


Derek Attridge, Professor of English, University of York, UK

'Some versions of Cole Porter's 'What is This Thing Called Love?' open with references to the humdrum. There is, however, nothing remotely humdrum about Bennett and Royle's This Thing Called Literature-a playful, pleasurable, passionate defence of "what is strange and slippery about literature". In light and lucid prose, and with plenty of well-chosen examples, the authors offer a timely and provocative introduction to literary study and creative-critical response.'


Neil Badmington, Professor of English Literature, Cardiff University, UK

'The seasoned authorial duo of Bennett and Royle has pulled it off again. Avoiding both simplification on one side, and over-abstraction on the other, this new book will engage and appeal to all readers with doubts or hopes about studying literature seriously.'


Rachel Bowlby, Professor of Comparative Literature, University College, London, UK

'A very shrewd, lively, and at times irreverent introduction to literary study, which explains that thinking about literature is thinking about everything else, including thinking.'


Jonathan Culler, Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Cornell University, USA

'Combining a precis of literary theory with advice on how to read and write creatively, This Thing Called Literature, the third book from Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, is a neat little guide for undergraduates, or anyone who wants to know more about literary studies. It is the kind of book tutors and lecturers could enjoy and learn from, as well as their students.' Rachel Darling, TLS

'Clear, fair-minded, and patiently elaborating, this is an invaluable field guide for seasoned teachers and scholars as well as beginning students.'


Wai Chee Dimock, William Lampson Professor of English & American Studies, Yale University, USA


'This Thing Called Literature

is another triumph by Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle. They are our most trusted guides to literary study writing today. Their exemplary pedagogy opens up the wonders and complexity of both literature and study itself. The future of reading has been given a fighting chance by this wonderful book, which will benefit everyone who reads it from the A Level student to the Emeritus Professor.'

Martin McQuillan, Professor and Director of ICE, Edge Hill University, UK

'What the duo of Strunk and White is to writing well the duo of Bennett and Royle is to reading carefully and, especially, to thinking deeply about literature. This Thing Called Literature is a fun, fresh take on why we study literature and how to do it and is a useful and accessible read for students just beginning their study; it is also a rewarding, heartening read for those of us who got into the business of literary study for the love of reading, thinking, and writing.'


Daniel Robinson, Homer C. Nearing Jr. Distinguished Professor of English, Widener University, USA

'Reports on the so-called "death of literature"-its increasing irrelevance in an age of digital reason-are, we have long suspected, greatly exaggerated. Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle confirm this with a timely and robust case for the defence, repositioning literary studies at the centre of the humanities. With their eloquent readings, witty apercus and compendious range of reference, the authors provide the kinds of insightful pleasures that, they argue, are central to the literary arts themselves. The book's brevity is no indication of its ambition: if This Thing Called Literature does not make you a better reader, writer, critic and thinker, you haven't been reading it closely enough.'

Paul Sheehan, Associate Professor in English, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

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