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AP Literature Critical Theories: Biographical & Deconstructionist

Notes about the biographical and deconstructionist critical theories; and specifically how they relate to Frankenstein.

Wesley Carlsen

on 15 November 2012

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Transcript of AP Literature Critical Theories: Biographical & Deconstructionist

Rema Elmostafa, Wesley Carlsen, Kaitlyn Lewis Deconstructionists Deconstructionists believe literary works do not have one fixed, single meaning; they rather seek to destabilize meanings instead of establishing them
Believe that close examination of text reveals conflicting, contradictory meanings
Focus on gaps that prove that the text is flawed
Look for multiple different ways a piece of writing can be interpreted
Examine how diction, tone, and metaphors can provide indefinite interpretations Application to Frankenstein Knowledge that Mary Shelley had a number of miscarriages adds insight to our understanding of Frankenstein: such as the scene where Victor "aborts" creating the female monster
Knowing the part of her childhood life which she spent abroad, explains the monsters happy learning period with the DeLacey's
Mary Shelley's husband affected her outlook on relationships, and her distrust of some men is evident in Victor's selfishness and lack of responsibility
In Frankenstein, a deconstructionist would emphasize the fact that Shelley never addressed the language barrier that stood between Victor and his creation.
A deconstructionist would also point out the ignorance that Frankenstein demonstrated when confronting the monster the night of his wedding; by allowing Elizabeth to remain unprotected in her room, he exposed her to the violent wrath of the monster. If Victor were the genius scientist that Shelley had striven to portray him as, he would not have acted so foolishly as to leave Elizabeth in harms way. Biographical AP Literature Critical Theories
Biographical & Deconstructionist Knowledge of an author's life is useful for understanding his or her work more fully.
Some critics argue that an author's work should stand alone; the reader's interpretation should be based only on internal evidence rather than biographical information outside the book.
Sometimes biographical information enriches our understanding of a text instead of changing or adding to it.

The point of deconstructing a work is to destabilize meaning instead of establishing them.
Based on the argument that there can be no definite meaning of a literary work because language can never fully communicate what we intend to mean, and other pepped might interpret words differently than we do.
Focuses on gaps and contradictions in the text. The Cliff-notes Version Knowledge of an author's life helps readers understand and analyze authors' writings better (Soldier's Home, Ernest Hemingway)
Biographical information doesn't change the writings quality, it makes authors convictions and experiences clearer
Some people argue that writing should only be analyzed internally (no use of outside knowledge about the author or time period), but at the very least biographical information puts a control on interpretation
Biography allows for powerful and compelling arguments that can affirm or deny characters actions, the plot, morals, etc.
Biography can also unnecessarily complicate works as well, since sometime stories have nothing to do with an authors experiences (Story of an Hour, Kate Chopin)
Sometimes biography it simply enriches our understanding (John Milton) Biographical Questions Are facts about the writer's life relevant to your understanding of the work? Deconstructionist Questions How are contradictory and opposing meanings expressed in the work? Are characters and incidents in the work versions of the writer's own experiences? Are they treated factually or imaginatively? How do you think the writer's values are reflected in the work? How does meaning break down or deconstruct itself in the language of the text? Would you say that ultimate definitive meanings are impossible to determine and establish in the text? Why? How does that affect your interpretation? How are implicit ideological values revealed in the work?
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