Over the course of the past three or four decades literary theory and criticism have come to play a central role in the academic study of the humanities and social sciences. The diverse, often apparently competing or incompatible approaches, perspectives, and modes of inquiry that continue to flourish today under the generic label " theory " have brought most scholars to a welcome awareness of the importance of attending at least to methodological concerns in critical practice. Moreover, criticism as it is currently understood (we are writing in the early months of 2004) no longer confines itself to the study of literature: its discourses now extend well beyond literature to intersect with anthropology, philosophy, psychology, linguistics, political science, and much else besides, even as the objects of critical analysis by " literary " scholars encompass all forms of cultural production, literary and nonliterary.

Criticism still embraces exegesis, interpretation, and evaluation, as it has traditionally done, but today it often encroaches upon the territory of " theory, " whether we characterize theory as discussion and debates about basic definitions, as the search for necessary and sufficient foundations for evaluating critical practice, or as the self-reflexive process of making explicit underlying social, historical, or ideological interests and presuppositions. The semantic boundaries between " theory " and " criticism " blur. We see the terms often used interchangeably. Frequently, however, they occur together to signal at once their overlapping as well as their divergent possible meanings, and this is the reason both appear in the title of this book.

The first edition of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism responded in part to the growing sense among specialists that by the early 1990s a watershed had been reached in the great literary theoretical adventure. In the ensuing decade, work in literary theory and criticism has multiplied exponentially, both in terms of the quantity of writing produced and in terms of the new theoretical directions taken. Figures and approaches that once occupied a prominent place on the critical horizon have faded, especially those critics and theories of the immediate post—World War II period from which literary " theory " as such often sought to distinguish itself. Other theorists and approaches just emerging in the early 1990s have now become centrally important to the endeavor of criticism and theory. The second edition of the Guide continues the work of stocktaking and consolidation, though it does so in changed contexts—contexts in which, for instance, pronouncements of the end or death of theory have become one of the new topics of theory.

The aim of the Guide is to make accessible in clear and concise form a body of material that has become overwhelming. We hope it will continue to have a wide audience in the academy, an audience composed not only of professors and graduate students in literary studies but also of many others working in adjacent fields that have been significantly influenced by recent developments in literary theory and criticism.

Intended for use by scholars as well as by students and others seriously interested in theoretical issues but without specialized knowledge, the Guide endeavors to act as an informative, reliable introduction to the principal manifestations of this large and challenging area of inquiry. Our hope is that the Guide will answer most of the questions that occur to teachers, students, and others as they traverse the critical and theoretical landscape and that it will show them where to turn for instruction beyond the range of the Guide itself.

As evidence of the widespread interest in literary theory and criticism, there has been a proliferation of study aids, tools, and reference guides that either touch upon or deal extensively with the subject. Valuable as many of them are, these books—anthologies of primary texts, dictionaries, narrative surveys of one sort or another—nonetheless do not offer readers an accessible means of establishing a context broad, deep, and flexible enough to engage directly the many definitional difficulties and discursive complexities that abound in literary theory and criticism.

The second edition of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism is designed to furnish readers with the means to establish just such a context. Its chronological range extends from Plato and Aristotle to the present, with wide geographical and cultural coverage. In deference to the probable needs of the majority of potential users, however, we have concentrated on the vast outpouring of modern criticism and theoretical research. While thus deliberately foreshortened on the twentieth century, the Guide is decidedly historical in orientation: topics are weighted in terms of their importance in the field of literary studies, as seen from the vantage point of today and especially as pursued in North America, although allowances have been made for unusually complex or technical subjects. To accommodate developments in theory and criticism since the publication of the first edition in 1994, 45 new entries on a wide range of topics, themes, and theorists have been added to the Guide and more than half of the entries from the first edition have been revised, while some previous entries have been consolidated into existing or new ones.

The second edition of the Guide consists of 241 alphabetically arranged entries on individual critics and theorists, critical and theoretical schools and movements, and the critical and theoretical innovations of specific countries and historical periods. It also treats figures who did not explicitly deal with, but who still deeply affected, literature, literary theory, or literary criticism, as well as figures and kinds of inquiry from other fields that have been shaped by or have themselves shaped literary theory and criticism. Each entry includes a selective primary and secondary bibliography, and there are extensive cross references both within and at the conclusion of each entry. The indexes are designed to allow readers to locate substantive discussions of people and topics wherever they occur in the Guide. A complete list of entries immediately follows the last Guide entry. Given the multiplicity of access points provided—alphabetically arranged entries, ample cross references, bibliographies, indexes—the reader should be able to make use of what the Guide offers in a variety of ways.

Mindful of the political, if not polemical, cast of contemporary literary studies, we face squarely the question of bias. Entry topics have been selected as objectively as possible, with the benefit of a great deal of outside advice, and we are convinced that the editorial contours of the volume do indeed accurately reflect the coverage and focus described above. We have tried to be as inclusive as possible in the range of topics that we have chosen to cover. The guiding motive behind both the first and second editions of the Guide has been to provide readers with informed access to the field as a whole rather than to present the field through any one critical or theoretical lens.

Representing the combined effort of more than 270 contributors, the book is multivocal and inclusive. As was the case with the selection of entry topics, the selection of contributors reflects the advice of hundreds of scholars and experts. We sought specialists who were able to place their subjects in the context of the larger intellectual environment, and ideally their entries provide reliable, accurate, and also interesting accounts in which their own positions neither dominate nor are obscured. We read and assessed all the completed entries, which were also appraised by external readers chosen by the publisher. Entries are signed by their authors, and a complete list of contributors precedes the indexes.