Peter Barry, Literature in Contexts (MUP, 2007)
Times Higher Education
18 October 2012
The author challenges a prevailing tendency in recent literary theory: to reduce the ‘text’ to a ‘context’ of historical associations which takes one further and further away from the imaginative challenge of the work itself. This ‘contextualism’, by subordinating the intrinsic merit of the text to endlessly extrinsic speculation, ends up missing the point of what is being studied. Barry demonstrates his alternative: to focus on the text, while bringing in contexts which are genuinely literary. A bracing argument, well sustained.