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literary criticism

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Heather LaFleur

on 26 February 2013

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Transcript of literary criticism

Literary Theories A Sampling of Critical Lenses The study, discussion, evaluation, and
interpretation of literature.

Did you know that there is more than one way
to read the same text?!

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?? What IS literary criticism? What this means is that we read with
different interpretations based on the
experiences we have had as

For example:
Walking in someone else's shoes...
Wearing glasses with tinted lenses... Different Lenses A feminist critic:
- sees the cultural and economic disabilities
forced on women in "patriarchal" societies
- believes women have been hindered or
prevented from realizing their creative
- sees women as being viewed as negative
objects Feminist Criticism The Importance of the Historical Perspective:
- Historical novels often make important comments on the human condition in a particular era
- Understanding the human condition and social pressures helps understand the work Historical/New Historical Criticism Assumptions and Concepts held by most feminists:

1. Our civilization is patriarchal.
2. The concepts of "gender" are
largely, if not completely, created by culture, affected by the patriarchal biases of our civilization.
3. Male bias spreads through writings that have been considered great literature... These works:
- lack independent female role models,
- are written for male readers, and
- keep female readers on the outside. Feminist Focus:
* Relationships between the genders
* Examines the patterns of thought, behavior,
values, and power in relations between the
sexes. Essential Questions:
1. How would a female respond to the story,
especially as that response would be significantly different than that of a male?
2. What messages about gender roles are being
3. How would the story change if gender roles
were shifted?
4. How would the piece differ if the author were
of the other gender?
5. What role does gender or sexuality play in this work?
6. Observe how sexual stereotypes might be reinforced or undermined?
7. Does the work reflect or distort the place of women or men in society? If so, how?
8. What are the effects of power drawn from gender within the plot or form? Two Ways to Approach Historical Criticism:

* Old Historicism: looks at the time in which a piece was written to determine how it was interpreted by its contemporaries

* New Historicism: demonstrates how a literary work reflects the ideas and attitudes of the time in which it was written New Historicism

This literary criticism ARGUES that a written work set in the past or a foreign culture is NOT a direct reflection of how the past or culture really was/is. WHY?!

1. The "truth" of a foreign or past culture can never be known as established and unchangeable.

2. A text PARTICIPATES in the culture in which it was written. In other words, its very existence changes the culture it "reflects." Essential Questions for a New Historicist Reading:
1. What events occurred in the writer's life that made him/her who he/she is? What has affected his/her view of life?
2. How powerful was the writer socially?
3. What concerned the writer about society? What did he/she do about it?
4. What was happening in the world at the time the book was written? What was occurring during the time in which it was set?
5. What were some major controversies at the time the book was written? The time in which it was set?
6. Who was on either side of the controversy? Who were the powerful? Who were the powerless? Why were the powerful in their positions of power? What qualities did they have?
7. What other types of historical documents, cultural artifacts, or social institutions might be analyzed in conjunction with particular literary works? How might close reading of such nonliterary "text" illuminate those literary works?
8. What different perspectives of history does this text represent? To what extent can we understand the past as it is reflected in the literary work? To what extent does the work reflect differences from the ideas and values of its time? Marxist/Socialist Criticism

Theories and practices are based on the communist beliefs of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

1. The history of society is determined by the changing methods of material production.

2. Social classes compete against each other for economic, political, and social advantages...the upper classes try to keep the lower classes oppressed by controlling and preserving wealth.

3. Every social system is characterized by one class's exploitation of another.

4. We must evolve beyond out current framework, obliterating the upper class, and moving into a culture where no one is exploited and everyone is equal. Essential Questions for a Socialist Reading:

1. Who are the powerful people in the text? Who are the powerless? Who receives the most attention? Why do the powerful have the power? Why are the powerless powerless?

2. Is there class conflict and struggle?

3. Is there alienation and fragmentation evident in any of the characters? If so, in whom? The powerful? The powerless?

4. Do the powerful in the text suppress the powerless? How - news? Media? Religion? Literature?

5. What can you infer about the distribution of wealth from the setting?

6. What does the society value? Are possessions acquired for their usefulness or their social value?

7. Is the text itself a product of the society in which it was created? How do you know?

8. Is the work consistent in its ideologies, or is there an inner conflict?
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