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Welcome to Schools of Criticism: Different Windows, Different Views

An introduction to the concept of literary theory and criticism and a few of its schools
by

Allyson Davidson

on 30 October 2012

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Transcript of Welcome to Schools of Criticism: Different Windows, Different Views

Welcome to the Text Schools of Criticism: windows on the text Historicist Archetypal Marxist Formalist Feminist If the house is a text.... What is literary theory? It is a LENS. This lens permits us to examine closely one aspect of the text. Theory often arises out of changes in culture and results in new methods of "criticism." Criticism is NOT about good/bad; it's about finding meaning. A "school of criticism" is a
WINDOW on the text...one that opens up a view of
some way the text functions
something it means There are
many critical
windows--
or "schools"
Cultural/New Historicist What does theory help us to understand in a text? What parts of the house does each window reveal? Examines social structures put in place by "patriarchy" a.k.a. men. Examines patterns found in various texts. Focuses on intertextual connections. For example, the tragic hero or the hero's journey. Looks at power relationships based on social class. What we do in English - close reading of a text.
The meaning is in the literary elements - doesn't require us to consider outside influences. Focused on the social, political, economic and cultural forces at work in the author's world. Formalist/New FORMALIST:
How does the author establish Cinderella's character?
How does Cinderella struggle with various conflicts to develop the major theme? New HISTORICIST/Cultural:
Conside the Grimms' use of violence and vengeance. What can we infer about the society that would have shared this story with young children?
... about this society's property and inheritance laws?
... about society's view of royalty and royal power? FEMINIST:
How is the subjugation of women portrayed
in this text?
Consider the potentially misogynist theme of abused-girl-waiting-to-be-rescued-by- prince.
Consider values conveyed in the portrayal of the "good girl" as physically beautiful and "bad girls" as physically ugly. ARCHETYPAL:
How does the story of Cinderella follow the pattern of a fairytale?
Examine the stepmother and stepsisters as archetypal villains/monsters.
Examine the chores Cinderella must complete to attend the ball as the archetypal catalogue of impossible tasks. MARXIST:
Why do the stepsisters treat Cinderella as a second-class citizen?
How did they learn this behavior?
Consider Cinderella as a representative of the "proletariat" and her stepmother/step sisters as "bourgeoisie". (and if for a moment that text is "Cinderella"...) So... In a complex work, Theory gives a focus,
a Place to start, a Lens, a window, A View, a Way to Find Meaning. These next schools of criticism are interested in "deconstructing" the text, that is"teasing out...warring forces" within it. How can we "deconstruct" the "the house" to find meaning? Now, Practice: Use each of the 5 critical lenses to evaluate "Jack and Jill." Identify what aspects of the nursery rhyme each critical theory/school would be interested in. Feminist Archetypal Marxist Jack and Jill went up a hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

Up Jack got, and home did trot,
As fast as he could caper;
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper.
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