The fourth edition of this classic beginner’s guide to literary studies has been fully updated throughout. Mario Klarer offers a concise and accessible discussion of central issues in English and world literature. Starting with the basics of what constitutes a literary text, the book moves through an analysis of major genres, major periods, and key theoretical approaches to literature. It also looks at the practicalities of finding and referencing literature when writing a research paper.

The expanded new edition has been updated to include:

  • a wider range of examples from world literature, cinema, and TV series
  • additional references to contemporary streaming formats
  • updated chapters on postcolonial theory, cultural studies, gender theory, feminism, and queer theory
  • new sections on digital humanities, ecocriticism, literary translations, and paratexts
  • extended explanations of traditional genres, e.g., the epic, drama, and poetry
  • a completely revised chapter on the most recent MLA guidelines with rules for citing new media formats

The detailed glossary ensures that the book is accessible to readers of any level, making this an ideal self-study guide or a course book for Introduction to Literature classes.

List of Figures

Preliminary Remarks

Preface to the Fourth Edition


1. What Is Literature? What Is a Text?

Genre, Text Type, and Discourse

Primary and Secondary Sources


2. Major Genres in Literary Studies





3. Periods of Literature

4. Theoretical Approaches to Literature

Text-Oriented Approaches

Author-Oriented Approaches

Reader-Oriented Approaches

Context-Oriented Approaches

Literary Critique or Evaluation

Film Theory

5. Where and How to Find Secondary Literature

6. How to Write a Research Paper

7. Suggestions for Further Reading

General Literary Terminology

Authors and Works

Literary Theory


Literary History

How to Write a Research Paper

Glossary of Literary and Cinematographic Terms


Author and Title Index

Subject Index