Refreshing. Not at all ludic--which makes sense because poststructuralism/postmodernism were in their infacnies at the time of this text's publication. It's marxist, generally, but, again, refreshingly without constant calls to the authority of other marxist writers--especially irrelevant ones, such as comrade Lenin or Chairman Mao. He mentions dialectics often enough when working through contradictory positions in the argument, and generally is interested in history, as well as a materialist interpretation of same.
Much of value in the argument, which is not a straightforward history of criticism, but rather the presentation of several related issues in the history of literary theory. Definitely informative, well-reasoned, serious, with professional tone and rigorous referencing.
The volume is six essays: the first is introductory, laying out his problematics & apparati; the second is his critique of tradition; the third is the critique of US formalism; the fourth is the critique of structuralism; the fifth is further work on formalism; the last, an essay on perspective.
Highly recommended for those who like literary theory, left aesthetics, and so on. On the whole, it may appear less sexy to some students of languages & literatures because it wants an understanding of contemporary linguistics--but that's a pathetic graduate student gripe.