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Literary Criticism

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Jessica Eaton

on 7 January 2014

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Transcript of Literary Criticism

There are (at least) 6 ways of looking at literature. Each focuses on a different aspect of the written work.
Literary Criticism
An exploration of the way we interpret literature
Reader Response
Use the introduction from SpringBoard to
write your own definition
of reader response criticism:
"Reader response theory asks the teacher to begin the study of literature with the students' response. Instead of telling about literature, our job becomes helping students discover what a piece of literature can mean."
Cultural Criticism
Write a definition of what you believe cultural criticism MIGHT be.
Archetypal Criticism
A literary lens that focuses on the use of archetypes in literature and how they help a reader interpret and connect to what they are reading.

Archetype: universal symbols - images, characters, motifs, or patterns - that recur in the myths, dreams, oral traditions, songs, literature, and other texts of peoples widely separated by time and place.
Feminist Criticism
We will be reading "Cinderella the Legend," an excerpt from Kiss Sleeping Beauty Goodbye. Based on the titles, what do you think "Feminist Criticism" will be?
Marxist Criticism
What do we know about Karl Marx? What do you think a Marxist critic would look for in a text?
Historical Criticism
Probably (from my experience) most commonly used criticism in schools. What is it?
Questions to Ask
1.) What struck you about the story?
2.) What did you notice?
3.) What would you like to talk about after reading this?
4.) What issues did it raise for you?
5.) Were there parts that confused you?
6.) What questions do you have?
7.) Did anything upset you or make you angry?
8.) Is there anything you want to ask any of the characters?
9.) How did you feel after the reading? Why?
10.) What did you bring to the story that influenced the way
you reacted to it and/or interpreted it?
Record the "official" definition somewhere near the one you wrote:
Reader-Response Criticism: a literary theory that focuses on the reader and his or her experience of a literary work rather than the form, content, or author. This theory contends that a piece of literature only has meaning when a reader interprets it in light of his or her own knowledge, experiences, and values.
Read "My Papa's Waltz" on page 11 in SpringBoard. While you read,
actively mark the text in areas that you find interesting, confusing, or that you find to be emotionally charged.

When you're done,
write one sentence that conveys the ultimate meaning of the poem as you see it.

Socratic seminar to follow.
A literary lens that prompts the reader to examine how a particular culture is reflected in the text, OR how his/her own culture influences his/her understanding of a text.
Ethnicity, religious beliefs, social class, etc. (aspects of culture) are crucial components in formulating interpretations of text.
An examination or exploration of the relationship between dominant cultures and the dominated is essential.
Questions to Ask
How does this text reflect the culture from which it is derived? (How does Shakespeare reflect British culture?).
How does this text reflect the culture it is describing? (What do we learn about Ibo culture from the descriptions in the novel Things Fall Apart?)
How does this text help me better understand my own culture?
How does my own culture influence my understanding of the text?
Certain images recur in texts from diverse cultures that share a common interpretation: water, sun, colors, the tree, settings such as the garden, the desert.
Certain characters recur: the hero, the trickster, the great mother, the wise old man, the prodigal son.
Certain motifs and patterns recur: creation stories, the quest, voyage to the underworld, journey, initiation.
Questions to Ask
What aspects of this text are similar to others that I have read (seen, heard, etc.)? What symbols are there?
How does understanding this/these symbols (archetypes) help me understand the text as a whole?

A literary theory that focuses on the relationship between
genders in a text.

A pervasively patriarchal society conveys male dominance through the images of women.
Many literary texts lack complex female figures.
Issues of gender and sexuality are central to artistic expression.
Fictional female characters often reflect and create stereotypical social and political attitudes toward women.
Texts authored by women may have different viewpoints than texts authored by men.
Questions to Ask
How are women portrayed in a text? Why are they portrayed this way? What does this tell me about society?
Literary theory that asserts that economics provides the foundation for all social, political, and ideological reality - analyzes the inequality between characters of different social class, race, religion, etc.
All aspects of humanity are based on the struggle for economic power.
The basic struggle in human society is between the haves and the have-nots.
Questions to Ask
Whose viewpoint is represented - poor, middle class, or wealthy?
What values are represented for each of the social classes (poor, middle class, wealthy)?
What economic/social values are held by the main character(s)?
Who is the audience, and what does the text suggest about their values?
The use of the historical context of the time a piece was written to understand the text itself. Also, the use of the author's personal history to understand the literary piece.

Examples: To understand The Crucible, one must understand the historical context of 1.) the Salem Witch Trials/Puritan life and 2.) The Red Scare and McCarthy Era.
A text CANNOT be separated from its historical context, which is a web of social, cultural, personal, and political factors.
Consider the time period in which the text was written, the time period of the setting (if different), AND what you know about the author and his/her life that might influence the writing of a piece.
Questions to Ask
What was the social/political/economic conditions of the time the text was written?
What historical era is being represented in the text, and what historical details are emphasized?
HOW does knowing the historical context of the text itself AND the time it was written help me understand the text?
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