This collection of essays in and on recent critical theory and its backgrounds attempts to clarify what is probably one of the most complex situations in the history of literary criticism. The classifier of methodologies can look back only with nostalgia at the simplicity of his problems with the limited warfare among New Critics, biographical and historical scholars, neo-humanists, neo-Aristotelians, and old-style Freudians and Marxists. Much more confusing these days are the challenges not only to critical method but to the very assumption that there is an object or language for criticism. The baffling array of structuralisms, post structuralisms, and phenomenologies, as well as the still-lingering versions of older positions now modified to confront these revolutionary alternatives, largely continental, calls for whatever light can be shed by knowing and intelligent observer-participants.The contributors to this volume, which appeared originally as the Summer 1976 issue of Contemporary Literature, have varying commitments and interests, but all are distinguished commentators on and makers of theory. The occasion, created to simulate them to produce studies that reflect on one another, was an imagined symposium on a half-dozen representative anthologies of recent criticism.These authors also formed the Board of Senior Fellows of the first session of the School of Theory and Criticism at the University of California, Irvine, where the journal edition was much discussed and debated.