This concise introduction to the concept of ideology provides an overview of the term and considers its impact on literary theory. James M. Decker analyzes the history of Western ideology from its pre-Enlightenment roots to its current incarnations, providing readers with both an essential overview of key terms and issues and a thoughtful assessment of some of the important critical thinkers associated with the notion, including Marx, Gramsci and Althusser. Ideological theories are introduced within three broad categories - the subjective, the institutional and the political - which helps students to synthesize a concept that sprawls across the traditional disciplinary lines of philosophy, politics, economics, history and cultural and literary studies. Close readings of key texts demonstrate the impact of ideology on critical practice and literary reputation. Texts include: - Toni Morrison's Sula - William Faulkner's 'Barn Burning' - George Orwell's 1984 Compact and easy-to-follow, Decker's study finally asks: are we now in a 'post-ideological' era?