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Transcript of Literary Criticism
also examines cultural and economic aspects of society presented in a story
However, the main concern in a feminist reading is what the literature suggests about the role, position, and influence of women. Biographical Perspectives Feminist Critical Perspectives Critical Theory Our enjoyment of literature is not enough for critical understanding. We should combine our emotional responses with analysis and interpretation of an author's ideas about society, culture, politics and morality.
Different critical perspectives help common readers--and professional critics--uncover what a literary work says about these values. There are ten critical theories for us to consider. Formalist Criticism Does the author
present the work from
or female sensibility? Feminist perspectives entered literary discussions only after Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" (1929), which describes the difficult conditions under which women writers of the past had to work. Some of her insights were upsetting to many of her society. "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
"If we help an educated man's daughter to go to Cambridge are we not forcing her to think not about education but about war? - not how she can learn, but how she can fight in order that she might win the same advantages as her brothers?"
"The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity."
"Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is very opposite of what it is above." Q: Why might this have been done, and with what effects? What images, similes, metaphors, symbols
appear in the work? What is their function?
What meanings do they convey? Biographical critics argue that there are three benefits from using biographical evidence for literary interpretation: (1) facts about the authors' experiences can help readers decide how to interpret those works (2) readers can better appreciate a literary work for knowing the writer's struggles or difficulties in creating it, and (3) readers can better assess writers' preoccupations by studying the ways they modify actual experiences in their actual works Knowing that Shakespeare was an actor who performed in plays he wrote provides an added dimension to his work. It might invite us to look at his plays form the practical standpoint of a performer rather than merely a classroom student, or a theatregoer. Sylvia's Plath's protagonist in "The Bell Jar" finds the help she needs and decides against committing suicide. Knowing that Sylvia battled depression her entire life leads to another interpretation of the novel's themes. Historical Perspectives
Historical critics approach literature in two ways: (1) they provide context of background information necessary for understanding how literary works were regarded at their time; (2) they show how literary works reflect ideas and attitudes of the time in which they were written. *An important feature of this criticism is its concern with examining power relations of rulers and subjects. Time and Place of Creation Marxist Critical Perspectives
This critic considers how people become "alienated" from each other, and how middle-class values lead to control of the working class. These critics see how literature promotes an economic revolution. What social attitudes and cultural practices related to the action of the work were prevalent during the time the work was written and published? What other types of historical documents, cultural artifacts, or social institutions might be analyzed in relation to a specific novel? How might readings of non-literary texts shed light on the novel being studied? Psychological Criticism Who do we have here, and how does he relate
to Critical Theory? explain a writer's consciousness and creative imagination use Freudian psychoanalysis
to understand literary characters unconscious wishes and desires (often sexual) are in
conflict with an individual's or society's moral standards critics rely on symbolism to explain motives, or interpret
ordinary objects such as a clock and towers 1. What connections can you make between your knowledge of an author's life and the actions and motivations of characters in his or her work?
2. How does a particular work--its images and metaphors--reveal psychological motivations of its characters? Reader Response Criticism be aware that readers come to literary works with a set of beliefs, ideas, attitudes and values
awareness of our own ways of seeing can prevent our biases and prejudices from skewing our interpretations of literary works
we cannot make the words and sentences mean anything at all
critical approach has both "latitude" and limits
readers from different generations and different centuries interpret books differently A Checklist of Reader-Response Critical Questions--
1. What is your initial emotional response to the work?
2. What places in the text caused you to do the most serious thinking?
3. How do you respond to the characters? Structuralist Criticism We can analyze virtually anything from a structuralist perspective-a football game, a restaurant menu, fashion shows, movies, music videos, newspaper cartoons.
This approach is the study of codes, or systems, to help us understand the meaning of events and cultural happenings. Cultural texts include action films and television game shows as well as hockey games and Canada Day celebrations.
For structuralists, even basic stories contain plots and characters that reveal much about the values of the cultures that created them. What system of relationships govern the work as a whole?
How are the work's primary images and events related to one another? Q: What role does money play in this story world?
Is the author of this novel challenging economic and political ideologies?
What is the author's attitude towards social forces and institutions represented in this work? Q:
Identify the political powers at the time this story was written. How were people governed? What values did that government hold? Did the people agree with those values?
How is power distributed in this society?
Have the groups with power earned it?
How are those without power treated in this story? Deconstructive Perspectives Deconstructionist criticism operate
on the premise that language is
contradictory; they argue that since language is unstable, it cannot be controlled by writers. As a result, literary works mean more than their authors are aware of. Deconstructionist criticism prefers terms like "unmasking," "unraveling,"and "contradiction." This critic attempts to show that a text does not mean what it appears to mean; she attempts to show how literary texts "subvert" and "betray"
Q: What textual elements (incidents, passages) suggest a contradiction or alternative to the more powerful term?
How stable is the text? How decidable is its meaning?
What oppositions exist in the work? How is this shown in the work?
Formalists emphasize the form of a literary work to determine its meaning, focusing on literary elements such as plot, setting, diction, imagery, structure and point of view. For this reader, great literary works are "universal," and readers can determine the meanings of a text. Q: What are the time and place of the work?
How is the setting related to the characters and their actions? Cultural Studies Perspectives
It is an umbrella terms that not only includes
approaches to critical analysis of society such
as Marxism, feminism, structuralism and historical
criticism, but it also refers to a wide range of other
studies, including Native Canadian, Asian and gender criticism (gay and lesbian studies). Q:
What kinds of gender identity and attitudes are reflected in the work? What kinds of social, economic, and cultural privileges (or lack thereof) are same sex-unions or relationships depicted?