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Agnieszka Bieńkowska

on 25 May 2013

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literary theories Formalism & New Criticism New criticism - was mostly developed in the United States at the turn of the 20th century (1940s-50s). The movement was created against the old criticism. The overall assumptions of new criticism concern interpretation of an author's work, regardless of his own life and social interrelations.

Traditional (old) critics consider that great masterpieces show the author's genius. A work of literature, in order to be unique must contain universal values and ultimate truth. In this theory, a text has to be judged on a basis of absolute principles and good taste. Formalism
-began in the early 20th century
-it developed against Romanticist approach
-it was then divided into 2 schools: Russian
Formalism and Anglo- American New Criticism

refers generally to kinds of criticism that emphasize the importance of the formal dimensions of literary texts, such as prose style, rhyme, narrative structure, verse-form and so on. In this respect formalism is seen to stress the importance of form as (supposedly) distinct from content, meaning, social and historical context, etc. The term can be encountered in two quite different contexts, namely Russian formalism and the formalist concerns of American New Criticism (or ‘close reading’). In fact the Russian formalists were not simply formalist: their close attention to the specificity of literary form was consistently subordinate to more general political, even revolutionary concerns. New criticism:
-can’t be called a temporary theory because it is no longer practiced by literary critics
-it left many imprints on today’s literary
studies and in some way we can conclude that it still exists
-New critics created a new
approach to the study of literary text.
They took issues with some assumptions of old critics. They said that the text meaning sometimes differs from what the author of the text intended to mean. According to the new critics the best way to understand the author’s intention or reader’s interpretation is to examine a language itself: images, symbols, metaphors, rhymes, setting, characterization, plot etc.

For them a literary work is a timeless, autonomous, verbal object. Readers and readings may differ, but the text stays the same.” They didn’t acknowledged paraphrasing, it was a herecy for them to use paraphrase and translate a text into an every-day language. Lucille Clifton
"There is a girl inside"

There is a girl inside.
She is randy as a wolf.
She will not walk away and leave these bones
to an old woman.

She is a green tree in a forest of kindling.
She is a green girl in a used poet.

She has waited patient as a nun
for the second coming,
when she can break through gray hairs
into blossom

and her lovers will harvest
honey and thyme
and the woods will be wild
with the damn wonder of it. example of New Critics' interpretation:

There is an old woman who still feels inside
like a young lady. The central tension in the poem is between youth and age. We can infer from language that the 'girl inside' is randy(sexually free) and she wants to blossom. She is sexually free and she wants to have lovers and be fertile. On the other hand there are some contrast words, which indicate her real age: 'bones' 'old woman' 'gray hairs'. The woman dreams about miraculous rejuvenation, it's her longing to be beautiful and young. The structure of the text is also important. There is lack of punctuation - it tells us that the persona is excited and powerfull. (there is decrease in stops, pauses). Thanks for your attention ;-) A.Bieńkowska & G. Kawalec Following New Criticism, we don't interpret this text in terms of:
the pedigree of an authour
author's race
speaker's psychological state
historical background New critics called their theory intrinsic - to denote that New Criticism stayed within the confines of the text itself.

All criticism which is different was extrinsic - it allows the reader to go outside the text. The single best interpretation reflects the organic unity of the text. In other words how do the text's formal elements and multiple meanings those elements produce all work toghether to support the theme or overall meaning Bibliography:
-Andrew Bennet 'Literature, criticism and theory' - Lois tyson 'Critical theory Today a user frindly guide' representatives T.S Eliot Allen Tate J.Crow Ransom
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