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Polity has a cutting-edge list in literary studies and cultural theory, and publishes many distinguished authors who have shaped the debates in this field. Alongside works by continental writers such as Adorno, Barthes, Benjamin, Baudrillard, Cixous, Habermas, Derrida, Robbe-Grillet, Rancière, Bourdieu and Primo Levi, we also publish innovative new books by leading British and North American scholars.
Visit our highlights page for more information on our new and forthcoming general interest titles.
Peeters: Derrida: A Biography
"A real tour de force. Assimilating a vast amount of material – Derrida’s own voluminous publications, unpublished documents and correspondence, and conversations with a host of acquaintances – Benoit Peeters has produced a compelling narrative that sheds light on all aspects of Derrida's remarkable career."
Jonathan Culler, Cornell University
In writing this compelling and authoritative biography, Benoît Peeters talked to over a hundred individuals who knew and worked with Derrida. This book gives us a new and deeper understanding of the man who will perhaps be seen as the major philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century.
Cixous: Eve Escapes
"Eve Escapes is all at once a poetic meditation on aging, a performative novel on the powers of writing, and a passionate description of a literary family. This book, published in a beautiful translation, is a high point in Cixous's narrative oeuvre, whose singularity and magic are simply inextinguishable."
Laurent Dubreuil, Cornell University
"I get up every day with one day more," says Eve, the writer’s 97-year-old mother. She is escaping into the New Life and the writer must race to catch up. Things slip away and fall into oblivion, as her mother's world and thus her own relentlessly shrinks.
Papastergiadis: Cosmopolitanism and Culture
"This compelling book opens up once again the whole question of the social imagination. This is the context in which Papasteriadis begins to effect a paradigm shift in the understanding of art and creative industries in our, increasingly cosmopolitan, global culture."
Scott Lash, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Through the analysis of artistic practices across the globe this book extends the debates on culture and cosmopolitanism from the ethics of living with strangers to the aesthetics of imagining alternative visions of the world. Timely and wide-ranging, this book will be essential reading for students and scholars in sociology and cultural studies.
Barthes Travels in China
"What's delicate and even discreetly political about these engaging notes on a brief trip to China is the liveliness of Barthes's resistance to the obvious, his continuing quest for the oblique and curious. He was too subtle a thinker simply to endorse the unpredictable; but he knew when to worry about predictability, even in a good cause."
Michael Wood, Princeton University
In 1974 Roland Barthes travelled in China as part of a small delegation of distinguished French philosophers and literary figures. Published now for the first time more than thirty years after the trip, these notebooks offer a unique portrait of China at a time of turbulence and change, seen through the eyes of the world’s greatest semiotician.
Khader and Rothenberg: Zizek Now
Arguably the most prolific and most widely read philosopher of our time, Slavoj Žižek has made indelible interventions into many discplines of the so-called human sciences that have transformed the terms of discussion in these fields. Although his work has been the subject of many volumes of searching criticism and commentary, there is no assessment to date of the value of his work for the development of these disciplines. Žižek Now brings together distinguished critics to explore the utility and far-ranging implications of Žižek's thought and provide an evaluation of the difference his work makes or promises to make in their chosen fields.
Parikka: What is Media Archaeology?
"The most comprehensive coverage to date of this fascinating area of study. Parikka's book offers an excellent overview of connections between the material and social aspects of media technology. He provides a thorough review of the diverse and sometimes contrasting theoretical foundations and provides a host of concrete examples of media-archaeological practice that serve to bridge the gap between heady theoretical trajectories and the concerns of practicing artists, users and other readers who take their technology seriously."
Paul DeMarinis, Stanford University
This cutting-edge text offers an introduction to the emerging field of media archaeology and analyses the innovative theoretical and artistic methodology used to excavate current media through its past.
"From railways to C3 systems, Kipling to Kittler, Alex Goody draws deftly on a remarkable range of examples to chart the modern technological imaginary. She produces a useful and accessible overview of technology’s politico-cultural manifestations and an excellent survey of the theoretical underpinnings of recent scholarly approaches to the field."
Debra Rae Cohen, University of South Carolina
"Professor Sussman has written an admirably lucid, lively book which conveys an enormous amount of up-to-the minute scholarship with concision, elegance, and lightness of touch. The book combines well selected thematic discussions and detailed readings of essential texts, with fascinating historical material in ways that will answer the readers' questions and open out vistas for further reading and research. A valuable introduction to the literature of this period for undergraduate and postgraduate readers."
Karen O’Brien, Warwick University
“Alison Finch's superbly written book brings the cultural dimension of French literature fully into focus. While revealing how the agenda of literary study has changed, she demonstrates that we can engage with the great canonical texts of French literature in new and exciting ways. The book is to be commended for its clarity, its shrewd analyses, and its sheer readability.”
Tim Unwin, Bristol University
This book is the first to offer a cultural history of French literature from its very beginnings, analysing the relationship between French literature and France’s evolving power structures from the Middle Ages through to the present day.
“Professor Crain's book offers undergraduates an invaluable means of studying the biblical texts, systematically demonstrating how applying a host of different literary techniques can help illuminate the biblical writers' message. By analyzing the writers' use of such rhetorical devices as image, metaphor, archetype, narration, and character portrayal, Dr. Crain equips students to interpret the Bible responsibly and effectively.”
Stephen Harris, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Sacramento
This book provides the ideal entry-point to the process of reading, understanding, and assessing what many recognize to be the important and powerful literature of the Bible. The book introduces the tools of literary analysis, including: language and style, the formal structures of genre, character study, and thematic analysis.
Wachtel and Vinitsky: Russian Literature
“The authors accomplish a rare tour de force: in remarkably few pages readers are exposed to the entire sweep of Russian literary culture, not as a summary but as an intellectual commentary on a great world literature. A terrific book for students and general readers alike.”
Jeffrey Brooks, John Hopkins University
“To transmit the evolving spirit of a culture takes as much magic as chronology, and this mesmerizing volume delivers the best of all worlds. At flashpoints over a thousand years, select persons, artworks, and events are triangulated into miniature stories, each alive with human faces at thrilling creative risk.”
Caryl Emerson, Princeton University
Hallamore Caesar and Caesar: Modern Italian Literature
“A brilliant book that moves with agility through the centuries, authors, and historical events. It is a cultural and literary guide that any student of Italian should rely on.”
Graziella Parati, Dartmouth College
A synoptic overview at the beginning of the volume is designed to help the reader get her or his bearings in the detail of the nine chapters which follow. Using an essentially chronological framework, the book is divided into three major cultural time-spans: the long eighteenth century, the decades of national identity formation and the creation of modern', industrial Italy between 1816 and 1900, and the twentieth century with its constant renegotiation of national cultural identity. A final epilogue provides a snapshot of Italian literary culture in the near-present.
“If I had possessed Professor Dicker/sun’s “Companion” forty-one years ago, it would have saved me hundreds of research hours. Her book answers all the questions my students asked about black theatre.”
James Hatch, City University New York
Written in a clear, accessible, storytelling style, this book shines a bright new light on the culture which has historically nurtured and inspired African American Theatre. It is rich with myths, history and first person accounts by ordinary people telling their extraordinary stories.
Smith: Terry Eagleton
“This is the first full treatment of Terry Eagleton's work. And, since Eagleton has written three careers' worth of work, the book is remarkable for its effortless coverage. It's also remarkable for digging up Eagleton's early work on religion. If you want to find out about Eagleton's work, this book will be a standard.”
Jeffrey Williams, Carnegie Mellon University
This book undertakes a lucid and detailed analysis of Terry Eagleton’s influential oeuvre. It gives close attention to the full range of Eagleton’s major publications, examining their arguments and implications, as well as how they have intervened in wider debates in cultural theory.
Watt: Medieval Women’s Writing
“I am delighted by the appearance of this book. Lucidly written for a general audience, Medieval Women’s Writing is by far the most interesting, balanced, and up-to-date study now in print. But it is more than this: it is also a collection of original readings of major women writers, which has new and often powerful things to say about how we think about women’s writing in the premodern period, and about what it means to describe this writing as a 'women’s literary tradition'. Flexible, passionate, ethically engaged, Medieval Women’s Writing will be a valuable and much-discussed resource for scholars, teachers, students, as well as general readers.”
Nicholas Watson, Harvard University
Trotter: Modern Irish Theatre
“Modern Irish Theatre is generous and thorough in its engagement with recent scholarship, provides succinct readings of key plays, and shows an eye for the detail or anecdote that will push the historical narrative forward.”
Times Literary Supplement
“Through a set of superbly constructed phases, Trotter situates twentieth-century Irish theatre in its evolving socio-political contexts. She covers theatrical activities from Belfast to Cork and from Dublin to Galway, analysing along the way a vast array of texts and performances from the high modernism of the early Abbey through to the community theatre of Charabanc.”
Brian Singleton, Trinity College Dublin
Clark: Renaissance Drama
“Sandra Clark's long and distinguished career as a Shakespeare scholar illuminates every page of this magisterial study. Familiar with so many works of Renaissance drama, she draws on her extensive knowledge of early modern culture to demonstrate just how the theatre reflects the society. Clark’s study will be widely adopted for use in sixth-form and university classrooms.”
John W. Mahon, co-editor, Shakespeare Newsletter
Cartelli and Rowe: New Wave Shakespeare on the Screen
“In case anyone thought the tide was ebbing on Shakespeare and film, here are Cartelli and Rowe riding the "new wave" like pro surfers. As brilliant as film analysts as in their understanding of Shakespeare and his current cultural contexts, they are expert guides to a fascinating range of film adaptations and to subtle and provocative ways of thinking about the motive to adapt Shakespeare, about the strategies these films use, and about the theoretical models we can use to understand them.”
Peter Holland, University of Notre Dame
The past fifteen years have witnessed a diverse group of experiments in ‘staging' Shakespeare on film. New Wave Shakespeare on Screen introduces and applies the new analytic techniques and language that are required to make sense of this new wave.
Gupta: Globalization and Literature
“Gupta sheds a clear light on this little explored field through his comprehensive coverage of the scholarship, his multipronged approach to the topic, and his sure-footed negotiation of theoretical issues”
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, New York University
This book presents a state-of-the-art overview of the relationship between globalization studies and literature and literary studies, and the bearing that they have on each other. It engages with the manner in which globalization is thematized in literary works, examines the relationship between globalization theory and literary theory, and discusses the impact of globalization processes on the production and reception of literary texts.
The last 20 years has seen an explosion of work on literary modernism and its cultural and historical contexts. In this innovative study aimed at a general audience, Tim Armstrong seeks to define modernism not only by its aesthetics and literary genres but also by its links with broader cultural areas in which the ‘modern' is implicated and debated, and which inform its representational modes.
Whitmarsh: Ancient Greet Literature
This book will be important reading for undergraduates, in their first year and above, of ancient Greek literature and culture. All texts in the volume are translated, and no knowledge of ancient Greek literature is assumed.
Scott-Warren: Early Modern English Literature
‘Surveys and samplings of periods have a tendency to sacrifice subtlety for sweep, and clarity for coverage. When the period in question is arguably the richest in literary history then there's a real risk of summary and synthesis becoming superficial. Fortunately, Jason Scott-Warren's superb overview is as precise as it is panoramic. Clinically executed close readings of texts coupled with painstakingly elaborated cultural contexts make this a must-read volume for students and scholars alike.’
Willy Maley, University of Glasgow
Polity's innovative Cultural History of Literature series aims to explore the links between literature and culture. Each volume places literary texts in their broader cultural, political and social contexts, striving for a balance between textual and contextual analysis. Individual books focus on literary genres, periods, movements or national literatures.
The books in this series examine the uses of Shakespeare in a range of cultural forms, considering the ways in which Shakespeare's work has been adopted and adapted. As a whole, the series will provide an illuminating survey of the diverse cultural uses to which Shakespeare's work has been put.
This series is designed to fill the need for a coherent group of studies on the literature of the twentieth century in relation to wider issues of cultural history. The immediate aim of the series will be to provide innovative and accessible texts for undergraduate students of literary and cultural studies. The books in the series will focus on themes of central importance to cultural and literary developments since 1900. Forthcoming developments include books on Postmodernism, War Literature, Literature and Sexuality, Literature and Technology and Globalization and Literature.
This series makes available to a wide audience the ideas of some of the most influential thinkers of our time. Cutting across the boundaries between academic disciplines and between different traditions of thought, the series addresses European as well as Anglo-American thinkers. The books are written in a clear and concise way, making them suitable for students and for the interested general reader.
New and published titles of particular interest to literature students and lecturers are listed below. Please check other subject pages for further titles in this series.
A compelling work of autobiographical fiction, Hemlock weaves tragedy and comedy, narrative and meditation in its exploration of various human attachments between the author, her elderly but still truculent mother, her sister, and her vanished but nonetheless intensely present friend, Jacques Derrida, whose death is movingly evoked.
Cixous: Zero’s Neighbour: Sam Beckett
Zero's Neighbour is Hélène Cixous's tribute to the minimalist genius of the artist in exile who courted nothingness in his writing like nobody else: Samuel Beckett. In this unabashedly personal odyssey through a sizeable range of his novels, plays and poems, Cixous celebrates Beckett’s linguistic flair and his stylistic terseness.
Philippines is Hélène Cixous's reverie or 'true dreaming' which intertwines Freud's uneasy views on telepathy, autobiographical memories conflating Algeria and Paris, childhood and adult life, shared with her brother 'Pete', and literary evocations from Proust and George du Maurier's forgotten novel Peter Ibbetson.
Cixous: So Close
In So Close, the internationally renowned writer Hélène Cixous recounts a return to her native Algeria after a more than thirty-year absence. Before she can decide to go, she must sift through large parts of her past in a land where she never felt at home and, from a young age, knew she must leave.