Imre Szeman


Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory: The Johns Hopkins Guide

Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory: The Johns Hopkins Guide is a clear, accessible and detailed overview of the most important thinkers and topics in contemporary literary and cultural studies. Intended for use by scholars, students and others interested in contemporary theoretical issues, the Guide provides an informative and reliable introduction to this vast, challenging area of inquiry. Written by specialists from across the disciplines, its 101 entries cover every aspect of contemporary theory from A (Adorno) to Z (Zizek). By establishing a context broad and flexible enough to engage directly the many definitional difficulties and discursive complexities that abound in literary and cultural theory, this Guide is designed to answer the questions that occur to teachers, students, and others as they traverse the contemporary critical and theoretical landscape, and to show them where to turn for additional help. With extensive cross-referencing both within and at the conclusion of each entry, and bibliographies and indexes designed to help readers find the information they are looking for, Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory is the tool every student of contemporary literature and culture needs on their desk.

“The very thoroughness and high quality of each entry, as well as attentive editing, are what makes The Johns Hopkins Guide to Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory an essential tool for anyone looking for an at once in-depth and accessible study of some of the major concepts of literary theory today.”
— Alice Braun, Cercles

After Globalization

In lively and unflinching prose, Eric Cazdyn and Imre Szeman argue that contemporary thought about the world is disabled by a fatal flaw: the inability to think “an after” to globalization. After establishing seven theses (on education, morality, history, future, capitalism, nation, and common sense) that challenge the false promises that sustain this time-limit, After Globalization examines four popular thinkers (Thomas Friedman, Richard Florida, Paul Krugman and Naomi Klein) and how their work is dulled by these promises. Cazdyn and Szeman then speak to students from around the globe who are both unconvinced and uninterested in these promises and who understand the world very differently than the way it is popularly represented. After Globalization argues that a true capacity to think an after to globalization is the very beginning of politics today.

“Cadzyn and Szeman begin with the idea that the current economic crisis has historicized globalization, turning it from a process that looked as inevitable as, say, global warming still does, into an episode in the history of capitalism: hence the possibility not just of more globalization but of an “after globalization.” And hence also, they argue, the renewed possibility of an “after capitalism.” In powerful critiques of what they describe as the common sense of capital today they sketch out the terms in which changes more radical than substituting generous and honest leaders for the greedy and dishonest ones we’ve currently got might begin to be imagined.”
—Walter Benn Michaels, University of Illinois at Chicago

“Relentlessly, remorselessly, endlessly, we are told there is no alternative to globalization, whether our lecturers are bourgeois economists, progressive journalists, or imaginative litterateurs. Eric Cazdyn and Imre Szeman dare to go beyond the standard thinking of the day and query the very heart of mobile capital and its impact on daily life. Their alternative vision breathes new life into our sense of evolution and inevitability.”
—Toby Miller, author of Globalization and Sport and Global Hollywood

“Part 1 [of After Globalization] argues that the economic crisis of 2008 and its aftermath exposed capitalism as the rotting core of globalization, which had been hidden away for years while globalization was treated as a quasi-natural phenomenon. However, the public and scholars alike have failed to come to grips with the need to conceive an alternative to capitalism, given its once again obvious deficiencies as a fundamental organizing system for human interaction. Part 2 provides relatively fine-grained critiques from this same perspective on the writings of Richard Florida, Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Naomi Klein, plus the film Michael Clayton. Part 3 consists of interviews with students ages 18-30 at a number of sites around the world. The students, like the authors, ‘see a troubled world in need of fundamental change,’ but are unable to conceive or articulate what that change would entail. They end not with easy answers but with a call not to give up on radical possibilities and utopian futures. Summing Up: Recommended.” — M. F. Farrell, Choice

Cultural Theory: An Anthology

Cover of Cultural Theory: An Anthology

Cultural Theory: An Anthology is a collection of the essential readings that have shaped and defined the field of contemporary cultural theory.

Cultural Theory constitutes a valuable resource for scholars, as well as a springboard for further discussion. Introductions to each of the six sections, which focus on key concepts, themes, or topics in cultural theory, as well as the introduction to the anthology as a whole, are clear and succinct, and enough bases are covered here to make the anthology appealing to a wide range of researchers. Lists of additional readings, and the inclusion of a glossary of terms, further enhance what is undeniably a welcome intervention in the field. In short, this is not an anthology we will be stopping doors with any time soon.” —Heather Snell, ariel

“This anthology is an extraordinarily useful toolbox for teaching cultural theory. But more than that, by organizing the texts around a series of core concepts, it not only provides students with an excellent introduction but also gives scholars a fresh perspective on the field.“
 —Michael Hardt, Duke University

“Cultural theory has expanded its influence immensely over the past two decades. Now we have a comprehensive selection of the best and most influential writers in the field, ably compiled and introduced by expert editors.“
 —Toby Miller, University of California, Riverside

“The introductory chapters for each section are uniformly cogent and well written, and the choices of material are judicious and at times refreshingly unexpected. Cultural Theory: An Anthology is set to become the standard classroom text in the field.” 
—Nicholas Lawrence, University of Warwick

“Essential reading for all students of culture, whatever their disciplinary background.“
 —Nick Couldry, Goldsmiths, University of London

Cultural Autonomy: Frictions and Connections

Cover of Cultural Autonomy

Globalization has challenged concepts such as local culture and cultural autonomy, and the rampant commodification of cultural products has challenged the way we define culture itself. Have these developments transformed the relationship between culture and autonomy? Have traditional notions of cultural autonomy been recast? 

Cultural Autonomy showcases the work of scholars who are exploring new ways of understanding the critical issue of globalization and culture. By defining culture broadly — as a set of ideas or practices that range from skateboarding to the work of public intellectuals such as Edward Said — they trace how issues of cultural autonomy have played out in various areas, including the human rights and environmental movements and among indigenous peoples. Although the contributors focus on the marginalized issue of autonomy, they offer a balanced perspective — one that reveals that globalization has not only limited but also created new forms of cultural autonomy.

Table of Contents



  1. Introduction: Cultural Autonomy, Politics, and Global Capitalism / William D. Coleman, Imre Szeman, and Petra Rethmann
  2. Our Ways of Knowing: Globalization —The End of Universalism? / Arif Dirlik
  3. Bioeconomics, Culture, and Politics after Globalization / Eric Cazdyn
  4. Globalization, Postmodernism, and (Autonomous) Criticism / Imre Szeman
  5. The World, the Literary, and the Political / Peter Hitchcock
  6. Global Public Intellectuals, Autonomy, and Culture: Reflections Inspired by the Death of Edward Said / Neil McLaughlin
  7. The Politics of Indigenous Knowledge in Environmental Assessment: James Bay Crees and Hydroelectric Projects / Wren Nasr and Colin Scott
  8. Culture, Race, and the Global Imaginary in Canadian Defence Policy: A Case Study of Roméo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil / Heike Härting
  9. Global Activism and the Visual Grammar of Nature / Petra Rethmann
  10. Making Big Noise: The Northern Resonance of Zapatismo / Alex Khasnabish
  11. Anti-Fascist Gluttons of the World Unite! The Cultural Politics of Slow Food / Susie O’Brien
  12. Autonomy on the Market: China and India Change Tracks / Anna Greenspan
  13. Dead-Stock Boards, Blown-Out Spots, and the Olympic Games: Global Twists and Local Turns in the Formation of China’s Skateboarding Community / Tim Sedo

Notes and Acknowledgments

Global-Local Consumption

Cover of Globalization and Culture

The concept of ‘globalization’ has in an extraordinarily short time become the dominant motif of the contemporary social sciences. Global-Local Consumption is the second volume of “Globalization and Culture,” four books which are part of the multi-volume collection Central Currents in Globalization, a collection that represent the systematic mapping of globalization studies.

The series sets out the contours of a field that now crosses the boundaries of all the older disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. The result is a gold-standard collection of over 320 of the most important writings on globalization, structured around four interrelated themes: Violence; Economy; Culture; and Politics.

Global-Local Consumption brings together essays that examine global-local consumption in two different, if increasingly related, ways. The processes associated with globalization have created hitherto unimaginable opportunities for cultural forms and practices to travel far beyond the indigenous sites and spaces in which they were first conceived and produced. While there have always been cultural movements and flows from one space to another, the intensity and extensity of contemporary intersections of the global and the local has forced scholars to look closely at the myriad ways in which culture is consumed —used up, made sense of, embraced, explored—at the present moment. In this sense of cultural ‘consumption’, the essays look at the difficult questions of cultural diversity and authenticity that have shaped much of the discussion around culture in/and globalization, by looking at the transformation of older cultural forms and the creation of new forms of global-local culture, such as global literatures and world music. This first sense of consumption is often haunted by the second, more common usage of the term: consumption as a central practice of consumer societies. Though explorations of culture in reference to global-local circulations highlight the emergence of new and changed cultural forms, more often the flow of the global to the local (and vice-versa) has been viewed as a process of cultural loss. This loss is in part the consequence of the spread through culture of the values of capitalist modernity, which in turn has been figured culturally as a society defined by consumption. How and why the cultural flows of globalization produce cultural forms that reinforce consumption, or how they generalize an understanding of culture that is itself intimately related to consumption (culture as the ‘purchase’ of meaning-making experiences after a day of labour”), is the second main theme addressed by these essays.

Popular Culture: A User's Guide

Cover of Popular Culture: A User's Guide, 2nd EditionCover of Popular Culture: A User's Guide

Popular Culture: A User’s Guide is an introduction to the critical study of mass culture and media. This book aims to take readers beyond the “common sense” approach to popular culture and create a level of awareness where readers understand their role not just as consumers but also as agents of popular culture.

Table of Contents (Third Edition)

  1. Introducing Popular Culture

  2. The History of Popular Culture

  3. Representation and the Construction of Social Reality

  4. The Production of Popular Culture

  5. The Consuming Life

  6. Identity and the Body

  7. Identity, Community, Collectivity

  8. Subcultures and Countercultures

  9. Space, Place and Globalization
  10. Popular Culture in the 21st Century

“Use this book! The second edition of Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman’s Popular Culture: A User’s Guide traverses a vast range of popular culture—its slippery definitions, its history as a field of study, the stakes in its production and consumption, its relevance to the construction of the body, community, space, globalization—with specificity, nuance and lucidity. As a textbook, one of its core aims is to increase students’ critical agency in their relationships to popular culture. Especially as we’re back on the treadmill of rising class sizes and diminishing resources, it also represents very welcome support for instructors.”
— Christine Bold, Reviews in Cultural Theory

Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader

Cover of Canadian Cultural Studies

Canada is situated geographically, historically, and culturally between old empires (Great Britain and France) and a more recent one (United States), as well as on the terrain of First Nations communities. Poised between historical and metaphorical empires and operating within the conditions of incomplete modernity and economic and cultural dependency, Canada has generated a body of cultural criticism and theory, which offers unique insights into the dynamics of both center and periphery. The reader brings together for the first time in one volume recent writing in Canadian cultural analysts of the postwar era.

Including essays by anglophone, francophone, and First Nations writers, the reader is divided in to three parts, the first of which features essays by scholars who helped set the agenda for cultural and social analysis in Canada and remain important to contemporary intellectual formations: Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and Anthony Wilden in communications theory; Northrop Frye in literary studies; George Grant and Harold Innis in a left-nationalist tradition of critical political economy; Fernand Dumont and Paul-Émile Borduas in Quebecois national and political culture; and Harold Cardinal in native studies.

The volume’s second section showcases work in which contemporary authors address Canada’s problematic and incomplete nationalism; race, difference, and multiculturalism; and modernity and contemporary culture. The final section includes excerpts from federal policy documents that are especially important to Canadians’ conceptions of their social, political, and cultural circumstances. The reader opens with a foreword by Fredric Jameson and concludes with an afterword in which the Quebecois scholar Yves Laberge explores the differences between English-Canadian cultural studies and the prevailing forms of cultural analysis in francophone Canada.

“The editors deserve credit for bringing together scattered and not easily accessible seminal articles focusing on Canadian economy and polity. This anthology, comprising historical, contemporary, multidisciplinary, theoretical, and critical essays, will remain an essential sourcebook on Canadian cultural studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended.” —D. A. Chekki, Choice

“This reader is a timely and provocative reflection on Canadian cultural studies. While some readers may be familiar with many of the essays, encountering them again will prove to be rewarding for the new insights that their juxtapositions in this volume offer. This volume attests to not only to the substantial history of cultural theory in Canada, but also to its vibrancy.”
—Lily Cho, ariel

Canadian Cultural Studies marks an important publication. . . . With contributions from media studies, literary studies, cultural studies, Aboriginal studies, and studies of multiculturalism, as well as government policy documents and a concerted effort to bridge the divide between Quebec and the rest of Canada, this reader does a great job of covering its ground. . . . [T]hese are essential essays and documents. It is, moreover, an accessible and useful text that I heartily recommend to instructors of Canadian studies looking to foster a sense of academic rigour in their courses.” —Kit Dobson, Canadian Literature

Canadian Cultural Studies is a brilliant study and appropriation of some of the most important issues that have been central to the history of cultural studies. But there is more at work in this book than appropriation; Canadian Cultural Studies rewrites that legacy and establishes Canada as a society in which cultural studies as a theoretical discourse and practice is being played out in ways that make this book indispensable to understanding what cultural studies has become and where it might be going in the future. This is an extraordinary book for anyone interested in cultural studies and the importance of Canada in rewriting and applying some of its most fundamental assumptions.”—Henry A. Giroux, author of Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?

“For those familiar with cultural studies in Canada, this reader offers a necessary and illuminating consolidation of key texts. For newer eyes, there is fresh inspiration. Expertly selected and organized, the material assembled here is a gilded invitation to explore this rich field of interdisciplinary and politically engaged cultural analysis. Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader is a vital contribution to contemporary currents in the study of globalization, nationhood, and identity.”—Charles R. Acland, author of Screen Traffic: Movies, Multiplexes, and Global Culture

“The greatest strengths of Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader are its rich contextualizations and, relatedly, its presentation of an implicit dialogue between the volume’s contributors. Its editors… bring together key essays contributing to the emergence of the field in Canada while providing a comprehensive map of Canadian cultural studies scholarship from the 1950s to the present.” —Susan Pell, Topia

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

Cover of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism has become the indispensable resource for scholars and students of literary theory and discourse. The long—awaited second edition includes 48 new entries and subentries and has been revised throughout, taking account of ten years of rapidly changing scholarship.

While concentrating on the explosion of contemporary critical and theoretical works, the Guide presents a comprehensive historical survey of ideas and individuals ranging from Plato and Aristotle to twentieth-century scholars. It includes more than 240 alphabetically arranged entries on critics and theorists, critical schools and movements, and the critical and theoretical innovations of specific countries and historical periods. It also examines developments in other disciplines which have shaped literary theory and criticism. An international, encyclopedic guide to the field’s most important figures, schools, and movements, the new edition reflects the state of literary theory and criticism.

“Nothing quite matches this in scope and depth. Taken as a whole, the guide provides a synoptic overview of literary theory from a twentieth-century Western point of view. The articles are succinct and pointed.” — Jeffrey R. Luttrell, American Reference Books Annual, 1995

“A massive, double-columned Yellow Pages of lit crit. If it falls between Abrams and Zola, historically between Plato and postmodernism, intellectually between Aristotle and feminism, or geographically between Japanese Theory and Criticism and Caribbean, you can probably find it here.” — Ray Carney, Partisan Review

“A superlative work of reference that can be read for information, and not just another overview. It provides a comprehensive historical survey of ideas and scholars from Plato to modern times, examining developments in other disciplines which have shaped literary theory and criticism.” — Shelley Walla, Literary Review

“Two centuries ago this jumbo-size book would have come into the world not modestly as a ‘guide’ but as a fully fledged encyclopedia. It divides a whole field of knowledge into its constituent parts and presents them in alphabetical order with great lucidity… This is a text whose coverage and the general excellence of its entries really will suit the everyday business of study and research.” — Simon During, The Australian

“This comprehensive and easily understood reference book will serve as an indispensable guide for helping students or scholars assess and discuss an overwhelming body of material, especially such ‘buzz’ topics as multiculturalism.” — Cristian Salazar, Bloomsbury Review

“Books such as Holman’s Handbook to Literature define these concepts briefly but are no substitute for the Guide’s analytical essays and their explanations of the development and significance of key critical theories and their methods. Since the Guide is more comprehensive and analytical than Wendell Harris’s Dictionary of Concepts in Literary Criticism and Theory, no academic library reference collection can do without it.” — Wilson Library Bulletin

“An uncommonly absorbing reference book that attempts to map changes wrought by an anxious new worldliness and self-consciousness among scholars, which the term ‘theory’ connotes… For writers and critics, [this] is a must, but every committed reader will want to own it.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“The new Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism is very exciting. I especially like the match up of authors with subjects. The coverage is ample and the array of topics superb. This new Guide will add to the Press’s lustre as a publisher of reference books. Beyond that, it promises to be an invaluable source of new ideas as well as information — which any reference work worth its salt should be.” — Hayden White, University of California, Santa Cruz

“In the maze of writers and positions, past and present, that surround us in the field that we refer to as ‘theory’ nowadays, this volume should indeed be an invaluable guide.” — Murray Krieger, University of California, Irvine

“First published in 1994, this title has established itself as one of the main references in the field, through well-written, in-depth articles on critics, schools, periods, and critical innovations of specific countries and ethnic traditions.” — Choice

“A satisfying offering in the discipline of literary theory; The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism endeabors to cover not only individual critics and philosophers from antiquity to the present day, but also the full range of the many diverse schools of critical thought.” — Kirkus Reviews

“This edition of the Guide is a terrific resource… I know I’ll be consulting it frequently until the third edition arrives.” — James Phelan, University of Toronto Quarterly

“In all, the Guide’s substantial essays provide an appropriately updated sense of the most important issues and figures in contemporary theoretical discussions of literature and interpretation.” — Mark M. Freed, Journal of Midwest Modern Language Assoc.

“The new version of Guide will provide a new generation of scholars and students with an exhaustive reference, but it will also serve as a valuable and critical measurement of the discipline.” — Rocky Mountain Review

“Certainly it should (and I hope — will) be adopted by research librarians affiliated with any credible institution of higher learning.” — Matthew Biberman, English Studies in Canada

Zones of Instability: Literature, Postcolonialism and the Nation

Cover of Zones of Instability

Attempts by writers and intellectuals in former colonies to create unique national cultures are often thwarted by a context of global modernity, which discourages particularity and uniqueness. In describing unstable social and political cultures, such “third—world intellectuals” often find themselves torn between the competing literary requirements of the “local” culture of the colony and the cosmopolitan, “world” culture introduced by Western civilization.

In Zones of Instability, Imre Szeman examines the complex relationship between literature and politics by exploring the production of nationalist literature in the former British empire. Taking as his case studies the regions of the British Caribbean, Nigeria, and Canada, Szeman analyzes the work of authors for whom the idea of the “nation” and literature are inexorably entwined, such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, C.L.R. James, Frantz Fanon, and V.S. Naipaul. Szeman focuses on literature created in the two decades after World War II, decades in which the future prospects for many colonies went from extreme political optimism to extreme political disappointment. He finds that the “nation” can be read as that space in which literature is thought to be able to conjoin two things that history has separated — the writer and the people.

“Szeman speaks softly (and subtly), but as a leading-edge theorist of postcolonial literature and cultural studies he has earned the intellectual authority that underlies the present bold project.” — Choice

“Szeman’s framework defamiliarizes the platitudes and pieties we associate with the invocation of such names as Naipaul, James, and Achebe. This is a book that will stir debate in the best sense.” — Peter Hitchcock, City University of New York

“Tightly written, boldly argued, and politically sophisticated, this is a major intervention in the study of postcolonial literature and globalization. Szeman retools the problem of the nation as it is usually understood in the study of national literatures, ripping out its Romantic ‘soul’ and replacing that with the much more concrete and workable concept of the zone. It’s an exciting project with enormous consequences, and it should be widely read.” — Caren Irr, Brandeis University

“Offers an interesting and valuable argument.” — Chelva Kanaganayakam, University of Toronto Quarterly

Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Culture

Cover of Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Culture

The work of Pierre Bourdieu, one of the most influential French intellectuals of the twentieth century, has had an enormous impact on research in fields as diverse as aesthetics, education, anthropology, and sociology. Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Art, Literature, and Culture is the first collection of essays to focus specifically on the contribution of Bourdieu’s thought to the study of cultural production. Though Bourdieu’s own work has illuminated diverse cultural phenomena, the essays in this volume extend to new cultural forms and to national situations outside France. Far from simply applying Bourdieu’s concepts and theoretical tools to these new contexts, the essays in this volume consider both the possibility and limits of Bourdieu’s sociology for the study of culture.

“This sparkling and unusually coherent collection of essays emphasizes the American reception and adaptation of Bourdieu’s work. It shows how Bourdieu has been resisted and embraced and discusses how his terms and methods might be both used and modified by American academics. Theoretical reflections are productively complemented by empirical investigations of non-canonical and popular artistic expressions and by discussions of the position of women in Bourdieu’s thought.” — Marshall Brown, University of Washington

“The book Pierre Bourdieu is useful to researchers who contemplate what really useful knowledge and work are in contemorary academe where social structures and cultural forms too often conform to the marketplace logic of late capitalism.” — Interchange

“Readers in different national contexts should use [this book] to reflect on the social factors affecting their responses to Bordieu’s work.” — Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Intellectual historians, sociologists, anthropologists and anyone interested in the discipline of cultural studies will want to spend some time with this book.” — International Social Science Review