Item description for The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory (Penguin Reference Books) by David Macey...
The most up-to-date and authoritative introduction to critical theory available, this acclaimed dictionary provides an ideal overview of the full range of theories, schools of thought, and theorists. Whether it's Arendt or Woolf, object relations or orientalism, postcolonial theory or postmodernism, readers will find incisive entries on the work of key figures, powerful summaries of the crucial debates, and clear explanations of both the links and differences between the various thinkers and schools.
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Studio: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.67" Width: 5.09" Height: 0.86" Weight: 0.95 lbs.
Release Date Aug 1, 2002
Publisher Penguin (Non-Classics)
ISBN 0140513698 ISBN13 9780140513691 UPC 051488018001
Availability 0 units.
More About David Macey
David Macey is the author of 'Lacan in Contexts' (1988), 'The Lives of Michel Foucault' (1993) and 'Franz Fanon: A Biography' (2000). He lives in Leeds.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory (Penguin Reference Books)?
An essential companion Mar 11, 2008
For anyone interested in recent intellectual traditions Macey's book is worth keeping on the desktop. Spare minutes can profitably be spent browsing, or the history of a particular line of thought can be traced through multiple entries. Clearly written and wonderfully informative.
More an Encyclopedia than a Dictionary Oct 8, 2007
A DICTIONARY OF CRITICAL THEORY by David Macey is one of those books that ought to be held in one hand while the other holds another text on literary theory. It is no easy task to succinctly summarize let alone analyze an imposingly long list of terms, writers, movements, and schools of critical thought, but Macey has come close. Assume that a reader is about to try to plow his way through the denseness that is the thought of Lacan. As a preliminary, that reader would be wise first to read the general background to Lacanian thought before navigating a way between Lacan's distinctions between the Real and the Imaginary stages of infantile growth. Or perhaps that reader feels a lack of understanding of Freud's oedipal issues. Macey is where to begin.
Macey's text is arranged alphabetically, as any proper dictionary should be, but this text is more encyclopedia than dictionary. Part of the not-so-obvious problem I have with Macey is the same that I have with any author who seeks to encapsulate all the knowledge of the world on one issue in one book. The question of authorial bias manifests itself not only in what is included or excluded, but also in the even-handedness of its treatment. Macey tends to smooth over any areas of political controversy that arise all too often in a discourse that is fraught with potential conflict. For example, as I was reading the entry on Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguist who has for years been an outspoken critic of both the United States and Israel, hardly anything was written that might cast an aspersion on Chomsky's own biases. What was presented was a rather technical explanation of Chomsky's linguistic theories, a matter of concern only to other linguists. I was surprised by Macey's omission of Frederick Jameson, one of the most outspoken Marxist critics of this century. Still, Macey's text is an indispensable tool for those who wish to learn how words affect ideas.
Strengths and Weaknesses Apr 23, 2006
Yes and no. For some time, I have referred to the Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy. This I have found to be particularly helpful. I thought I might find the same with the Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory. But first, what is critical theory? While there are several possible definitions, perhaps the following would make most sense. Scientific theory, in whatever field, uses "instrumental reason" for the purpose of "manipulating the external world". Critical theory might be said to be theory which examines the instrumental reason itself.
The Dictionary of Critical Theory is strong from the point of view that it is broad in the information it provides. It sketches e.g. both the origins and the outcomes of metaphysics, or both the early and the late work of Jacques Derrida -- and it gives one a good feel for the mood among academics, and for caveats one should be aware of. It is strong from the point of view that it succeeds in reducing vast and complex subject matter to concise and manageable entries -- and it is generally up to date. It also has a very useful bibliography at the back (80 pages).
I would consider it weak from the point of view that it is not as comprehensive as it might be. I looked up "systems theory". Nothing. I looked up "axioms", "coherentism", "Michael Polanyi". There was nothing -- where there might have been, at least, a single-line cross-reference. I would also consider it weak from the point of view that it sometimes seems too technical to be useful. For instance, I looked up "metalanguage". This, it says, is "a technical or second-order language used to describe and analyse a natural or first-order language". A dictionary, surely, is intended to be more explicatory than that.
The book is useful -- and I would rather have it than not. This is the first impression in paperback, and hopefully future editions would overcome some of the present shortcomings.