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Transcript of Critical Approaches
to Reading Literature
Did you know?
A guide to critical theory for students in Mrs. Cole's English 10 Honors classes.
The critical approaches to reading literature we will use in this class are like a pair of colored glasses.
When you put them on, everything you see is filtered through their lenses. They change the way you see things. You can also switch between glasses to change your view.
There is no one "right way" to read literature.
What's important is that you read actively.
Take notes, journal, stop and think, discuss, research, ask questions.
Whatever thoughts you have are valid, as long as you can back them up with evidence!
(Although some people may think there is...)
Using this approach, you focus on culture, folklore, traditions, rituals, and religion that is portrayed in the literature you're reading.
What elements of culture, folklore, traditions, rituals, or religion are portrayed in Disney's Pocahontas?
Using this approach, you focus on certain predictable character types in the literature you read.
What archetypes exist in Disney's The Little Mermaid?
What about in Sleeping Beauty?
Using this approach, you focus on the author's life experiences and how they might relate to the text.
How might the author's experiences with fishing have inspired this cartoon?
Using this approach, you focus on the narrative structure of the text: who is narrating, what the narrator's perspective is, narrator bias and reliability, etc.
How does the narrator's bias in this cartoon change your perception of its characters?
Using this approach, you focus on the history surrounding the literature you're reading and how it affects or is portrayed in the text.
How does this WWII Disney propaganda cartoon reflect the wartime period? How did it affect that period?
Using this approach, you focus on the psychology of the characters in the story, analyze their behavior, usually focusing on the theories of famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud.
How are Scar's choices in Disney's The Lion King a product of his low self-esteem, narcissism, and issues with his family?
Reader Response Approach
Using this approach, you focus on your own reactions and thoughts as you read the literature. This is usually the most comfortable or “easy” way to analyze literature, as it is focused on our own experiences and ideas.
Readers engage in journal writing as a way to respond to literature. They might write about their personal feelings, beliefs, or experiences related to the literature, or make connections to other knowledge they have.
What would you write about after seeing this scene?
Using this approach, you focus on issues regarding society (social movements, power, politics, classes, etc.) within the literature. Often, this involves finding “marginalized” groups.
How does Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame treat marginalized groups?
1. When reading William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, it is important to understand Renaissance views on marriage and why Romeo and Juliet would have considered themselves to be married even without a church wedding.
What critical approach does each statement reflect?
2. When reading William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the reader must understand the ways in which women are treated differently than men; for example, the fact that Juliet traditionally has no say in who she marries.
3. When reading William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the reader must recognize the character traits of “star-crossed lovers” which also occur in other pieces of literature.
4. When reading William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, it is important for the reader to keep a journal or notes about his/her feelings regarding, for example, how Juliet is treated by her father and how she responds. The reader may agree or disagree with Juliet’s choices thereafter and provide reasoning using their own experiences or ideas.
6. When reading William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, it is important to consider the time period in which the play was written and set—the Renaissance. Readers need to understand what the Renaissance was and how it impacted literature and society of the time.
7. When reading William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, one might consider the fact that Romeo, hurt deeply by Rosaline’s rejection, immediately fell in love with Juliet, suggesting a lack of self-esteem and/or maturity.
8. When reading William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, readers must understand the genre (drama; Shakespearean tragedy) and elements of drama such as soliloquy.
answer: anthropological or social
answer: reader response