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Teaching Young Adult American Literature - Gender
Transcript of Teaching Young Adult American Literature - Gender
in FLC with
reader's response theory Teaching Gender Issues in
Young Adult Literature AIM approaches
to literature authors glossary primary literature general info/
facts/thoughts approaches to teaching literature
primary literature Bredella
Müller-Hartmann & Richter
Smith & Wilhelm
Wilhelm Life is Funny by E.R. Frank
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie formalistic/classic literary studies
intertextuality: the addition of other texts and the way texts relate to each other leads to the concept of intertextuality (Mü-Ha, S. 124).
reader response theory Background knowledge concerning... (from Sonja's Zula) Culture BYRAM'S model Culture and Cultural Studies
Culture lies at the crossroads of a number of fields of study and academic
disciplines, each of which views culture through a different lens. Stern (1983)
cites anthropology, sociology, and sociolinguistics as key disciplines. Also
relevant are communication theory, intercultural communication, the study of a
specific language, multicultural education, critical pedagogy, cultural studies,
ethnic studies, history, and semiotics. In addition, there are hybrid fields of study
such as anthropological linguistics, cultural linguistics (Palmer, 1996), and the
ethnography of communication (Saville-Troike, 1982).
In this quote, Moran (2001, p. 5) shows the multiple fields of studies in which culture is assessed, analyzed and interpreted. As there are so many fields of studies, which also study different aspects of culture, it is also difficult to define culture. I would like to use the definition of culture in view of civilization. There are two different definitions of culture from this perspective. The so-called ‘big C’ culture, which describes “the great achievements of a people as reflected in their history, social institutions, works of art, architecture, music, and literature” (Moran, 2001, p. 4). The ‘big C’ culture is a high elitist culture and stands in contrast to the ‘small c’ concept of culture, which is “viewed as the customs, traditions, or practices that people carry out as part of their everyday lives” (Moran, 2001, p. 4).
I agree with Müller-Hartmann and Schocker-von Ditfurth (2007, p. 111), who include “all forms of popular culture, such as dress, hairstyle, youth language or comics” because these aspects of life are important to and of special interest for teenagers. Thus, they should be included in foreign language teaching to make topics learner-centered. I also agree with Corbett (2003, p.20), who points out that the “norms, beliefs, practices and language of any group are not static but dynamic;” and thus, culture is a dynamic concept and is constantly being renegotiated and changed. In consequence, teaching material needs to be current so that the present situation is portrayed. Furthermore, current material increases the motivation of the learners and makes it more relevant to them.
When the so-called ‘small c’ definition of culture definition is applied to language teaching, numerous language teaching theories and methods appear. As the “Common European Framework describes intercultural communicative competence (ICC) as the main goal of language teaching” (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Ditfurth, 2007, p. 18), I will focus on Byram’s model of ICC. His model’s focus is to help learners to “negotiate meaning among two or more cultures involved in the communicative situation, relating the home and foreign cultures or identities to each other in a process of intercultural learning” (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Ditfurth, 2007, p. 23). Intercultural Communicative Competences (ICC)
Byram’s model is built on the four basic communication competences by Savignon: grammatical, discourse, sociocultural and strategic competences. Mediation was added as a fifth competence before the complex model of ICC was established (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Ditfurth, 2007, pp. 21-23). Byram (1997, pp. 32-33) does not only see communication as an ‘exchange of information,’ but also as “establishing and maintenance of human relationships.” Furthermore, he thinks the pre-conditions knowledge and attitude are significant, when it comes to interaction between two people of different cultural background (1997, pp. 31-32):
Whatever a person’s linguistic competence in a foreign language, when they
interact socially with someone from a different country, they bring to the situation
their knowledge of the world which includes in some cases a substantial
knowledge of the country in question and in others a minimal knowledge, of its
geographical position or its current political climate, for example. […] Their
knowledge also includes their own country, although this may be less conscious,
and they may not be aware of its significance in the interaction.
Thus, each person has a different social background and world knowledge, which he or she integrates into every situation. It is important to have an attitude of openness and curiosity towards the other culture because a negative or too positive view of the other’s culture can hinder communication. “There also needs to be a willingness to suspend belief in one’s own meanings and behaviours, and to analyse them from the viewpoint of the others with whom one is engaging” (Byram, 1997, p. 34). This leads to a critical cultural awareness of one’s own and the other culture.
A Model of ICC.
According to Byram (1997, p. 33), there are “four aspects of interaction across frontiers of different countries – knowledge, attitudes, skills of interpreting and relating, and skills of discovery and interaction.” Knowledge and attitudes have already been described as pre-conditions above. Byram (1997, p. 33) additionally argues “for the interaction of teaching for intercultural communication within a philosophy of political education (Doyé, 1993; Melde, 1987), and the development of learner’s critical cultural awareness, with respect to their own country and others.” The four aspects and this last point of political education and critical cultural awareness make up his ICC model.
Byram states that (1997, pp. 37-38), “the skill of interpreting and relating draws upon existing knowledge (and) the ability to understand and interpret a text.” When a person from one country interprets a document for someone, who comes from another country, the skill interpreting and relating is used (Byram, 1997, p. 37). In contrast to this, “the skill of discovery comes into play where the individual has no, or only partial existing knowledge framework” (Byram, 1997, pp. 37-38).
These factors make up intercultural communicative competence. With his model, Byram (1997, p. 47) wants foreign language teaching to be “conceived by both teachers and learners as, in the first instance, a means to attain competence in intercultural communication through learning a language and its relationship to the cultural practices and identities interlocutors bring to an interaction.”
The Purpose of Teaching ICC.
During the process of intercultural learning, the learner learns about and evaluates his own as well as the target language’s culture. This process leads to “shifts in awareness, attitudes, behaviors, feelings, identity, or cognition” (Moran, 2001, p. 6); and ultimately, it facilitates the feelings of empathy and tolerance of the learners for the other culture. Hence, Byram’s ICC model enhances learning about one’s own culture and one’s auto-stereotypes, which are positive as well as negative stereotypes about one’s own culture. Additionally, hetero-stereotypes, which describe positive or negative “stereotypes somebody has about other cultures” (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Ditfurth, 2007, p. 25), are critically analyzed and sometimes neutralized or even reversed. According to the Common European Framework, a learner “becomes plurilingual and develops interculturality” in the process of language learning which ultimately leads to an “enriched, more complex personality and an enhanced capacity for further language learning and greater openness to new cultural experiences” (as cited in Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Ditfurth, 2007, p. 18).
The Development of ICC.
The five aspects of Byram’s model of ICC can be achieved through experience and reflection in real life situations or in the foreign language classroom. Naturally, it is easier to learn a foreign language and achieve intercultural communicative competence in the target country. Language teachers, however, need to find other ways to support the development of ICC in the foreign language classroom. According to Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Ditfurth (2007, p. 40), “the focus on negotiation of content that is meaningful to learners […] makes TBLL especially valuable for developing intercultural communication competence.” The approach of task-based language learning is displayed in the following. Task-Based Language Learning (TBLL)
Task-based language education starts from the basic idea that students learn a
language by performing tasks. A task is generally described as an activity in
which people engage to attain an objective and which involves the meaningful use
of language (Van den Branden et al.as cited in Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von
Ditfurth, 2011, p. 22).
Furthermore, an important aspect of task-based language education is that tasks are not meant to display learners’ ability to reproduce language forms, which were modeled by the teacher. Instead, the main aim of TBLL is that students converse their own meanings (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Ditfurth, 2011, p. 22).
Nunan offers a framework for analyzing tasks with a focus on communication. According to his framework, there are six parameters which have to be taken into account when planning tasks (in Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Ditfurth, 2007, p. 42). The six parameters are goals, input, activities, the teacher role, the learner role, and the setting. The aspect ‘goals’ includes “all the aspects that lead to intercultural communicative competence, such as knowledge of the world, socio-cultural knowledge, mediating skills, learning skills and basic practical skills” (p. 43).’Input’ comprises the oral and written data learners use for the task. ‘Activities’ includes everything learners do with the material. The teacher and learner role are important aspects of planning because “both teachers and learners bring their own views and ideas to the task process” (p. 43). The setting is significant when tasks are done outside of the classroom.
Müller-Hartmann and Schocker-von Ditfurth (2007, p. 46) present six types of tasks: listing, ordering and sorting, comparing, problem solving, sharing personal experiences, and creative tasks. A general task structure involves “the stages preparation, core activity, and follow-up language work” (p. 46). According to Legutke and Thomas (in Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von Ditfurth, 2007, pp. 44-45), seven criteria need to be considered when designing tasks: topic relevance, creating awareness, learners’ prior knowledge, self-determination, learners’ motivation, learners’ language needs, and process relevance. The consideration of the topic relevance guarantees learner-centeredness. The criteria ‘creating awareness’ means the task should help students “broaden their understanding of self, the group, and the external world” (p. 44). The process itself is relevant because it has to enhance learning in some way. The teacher needs to know what he or she wants to teach her students with the task and take the criteria into account. That way, an effective learning and a safe classroom atmosphere can be established. TBLL Mü-Ha Basics Book - Tasks ... Developing ICC
Components of communicative competence
Byram's model of ICC
Critical cultural awareness
Nunan: framework for analyzing communicative tasks
criteria for designing tasks From Landeskunde to cultural studies, issues in cultural studies and definition of text MÜ-HAS GENERAL TEXT ABOUT TEACHING LITERATURE T
E reader response approach
formalistic vs. relativistic approach
marxist, minority, feminist etc. Part-time-Indian Life Is Funny TASKS general info TASKS Part-Time-Indian Life is Funny general gender Rosenblatt Iser - reading is interACTION
- constructing a ficticious world
- reading = dynamic process between PROTENTION & RETENTION
- expectations / perspectives / hypotheses have to constantly be revised & corrected
- there are GAPS in the text --> reason for communication
- text = set of instructions for creating an imaginative work within the mind of the reader
- GAPS (things left unsaid) --> IMPLICATIONS (through imagination of R) --> MEANING Transactional theory:
- aesthetic reading has tranformational powers
- text depends on reader & his imagination; reader depends on text in order to be creative (while at the same time directed) Fish - the INTERPRETIVE COMMUNITIES determine the meaning of a text
- depends on relative similarities within a (cultural) community --> shared experiences
=> cultural and social values highly influence the reading
- the role of social reaction & discussion --> final interpretation
- within discussion the student's explore each other's background knowledge within an interpretive framework --> to test validity
=> His concept supports students in recognizing the importance of social reaction to the text and the importance of discussion in determining a final interpretation.
=> Members of the same interpretive community tend to rely on similar reading strategies and produce similar readings because they have a shared experience of reading the same text.
=> Various interpretive communities come to different interpretations due to different background (social and cultural)!
=> Students explore each other’s background knowledge WITHIN an interpretative framework and test the validity of the resulting interpretations. History mini mini short summary from Mü-Ha's book 1938: Rosenblatt --> aesthetic reading
1920-1960: New Critisism --> close reading & objective view
1970 & 1980s: --> Rosenblatt's approach was taken up
--> Iser&Fischer: Reader Response Criticism
--> subjective view: Relationship between text and reader
From then on: --> learner centered and creative approaches (Caspari)
--> teacher role: Fasciliator (provides rich learning
1990: --> discovery of the potential of literature for intercultural
--> foreign lit. represents linguistic otherness
--> allows learners to experience other cultures and value
systems - the reader turns the text into a poem --> poem is neither entirely mental, nor entirely external
- focus on what reader is living through
- reading = unique "event" & experience
- text = imaginative, fluid entity somewhere between R's expectations and the word on the page
- initial interpretations have to be VALIDATED --> any background knowledge is welcome & valued, but they have to be validated (through text?)! His basic assumptions and definitions of terms:
describes the reading process as phenomenology
phenomenology: a product arising out of the interaction between text and reader
text consists of a series of segments so-called “instructions”
reader constructs meaning on the basis of these instructions
gaps: the fundamental asymmetry between text and reader, that give[s] rise to communication in the reading process”
gaps make the transaction between text and reader possible
=> text as it stands is incomplete!
=> “The real text is an imaginative, fluid entity existing somewhere between the reader’s expectations and the words on the page, although textual constraints drive a reader’s interpretation.” Schade Eckert - Reader-response theory assumes that a text can only be understood because the reader gives the text meaning (with his emotional and intellectual response)
- Students explore ways to practice response theory as an interpretative method.
- This concept “Reading process model” is based on Iser, Rosenblatt, Fish:
Decoding of words (what does the reader do in her head) (Iser)
Meaning valid? (Rosenblatt)
“social” reaction to text + make meaning in discussion + adaption?(Fish) Teaching Reader-Response Model - Students receive a general overview of reader-response theory:
- Meaning lies somewhere between “fact” and perception
- Reading as a transaction between reader and text
- Different interpretations of texts are acceptable and natural
You can’t just ignore the information a text gives you
=> BUT: It’s important to have experience with literature and reading (teachers have more experience, can guide you)
=> BUT: response theory does not mean accepting random interpretations from inexperienced readers! (<=> relativism) - Critics claim response theory to be relativistic
- Relativism: the belief that there are as many ways of constructing a meaning of any text as there are individuals who read it, and no reader’s response can ever be completely wrong
=> This would make literature as such irrelevant and meaningless!
Schade Eckert's response to critics:
Reader-response theory is neither relative nor objective but instead views the text and reader as interdependent; readers use interpretative strategies, using everything they know to construct meaning from a text.
Reader-response theory seek to identify the strategies a reader uses to construct meaning, isolate specific elements of this process, and explore the basic question of how a reader constructs meaning from a text.
Teaching reader-response theory is similar to teaching explicit reading strategies Criticism of approach: Further aims:
- students should develop the skills to enable them to recognize the signals communicated by the text
- how they are interpreting these signals as readers
=> Explicitly sharing these concepts encourages students to become objective concerning their affective responses and leads to “responsible associations”.
=> Students CAN understand how a text evokes an emotional response from the reader and the text, and how the reader must orchestrate interpretative strategies to come together General aims:
Students think about how they are…
- creating a relationship with the text
- determine meaning of the text
- How the text supports different interpretations The reading process Reader must link segments; this also accustoms reader’s view of previous segments as they anticipate and predict events in the upcoming segments
Permanent modifications of their viewpoint
Motivating as readers experience their development and fluidity of text
=> It is the implications and not the statements in a given work that drive the reader onward!
=> Gaps drive reader onward! Schade Eckert's reader-response model Examples of teaching reader-response model The Lottery: Teaching with segments and gaps
1. Teacher models first few paragraphs with the segment/gap record sheet
- First segment: title!
=> Have students explain associations
=> Make predictions! (temporary filling of gaps)
- Second segment: first sentence
- Connect to first segment
- Leave room for discussion
2. Students are assigned to read the second half of the first part as homework.
Individual Reading: Decoding, segments and gaps, determining meaning
3. In class:
Group discussion functions (FISH):
- Test individual interpretations
- Support or refute each student’s experienced meaning
Ideas are critically validated
Teacher functions as a monitor but does not reveal any information (passive role)
DO NOT INTERPRET FOR THEM!
Giving hints is okay – motivating, stimulating, tension and curiosity
4. Students finish the story at home & discuss the ending in their groups the next day.
=> Some predictions were met and others weren’t – based on pre-knowledge and associations with the topic.
5. Final interpretations are validated
Both students clarified their own ideas and validated the other interpretation.
The two agreed to disagree = “criteria of adequacy” (Rosenblatt) Modeling reader-response theory Teaching "The Lottery" with RRT Schade Eckert modeled concept for the class with a sample text. First, she read the text aloud. Second, she underlined informative passages and spoke aloud on how she understood the text so far (described associations, familiar words, experiences, genre etc.). Next, open questions or unclear parts of the text were marked. Then, the teacher stated her idea of what the overall meaning was and passed open questions on to the students. As Schade Eckert modeled the approach as one person, the class and her decided on ONE meaning of the story. What's in it for the kids? •“Introducing different theoretical approaches into the literature classroom encourages students to consciously use everything they know to construct meaning from a text, and gain an understanding of what they are doing when they read and respond…Making literary theory an explicit part of instruction provides a teacher with opportunities to model ways of reading instead of merely translating a text…Students learn ways of arguing the possibilites of multiple meanings and are empowered to take on the challenge of doing so.”
=> “Teaching such text-based strategies in relation to other interpretative methods as part of an overall repertoire of meaning-making strategies can actually help students identify why they respond to text at all.”
reading becomes meaningful to students - they answer their own questions!
unfamiliar/outlandish texts are seen as a a riddle when the segment and gap technique is used:
=> students remain motivated because they think more about what they've got (segments) and search for the answers of the gaps using the text and own literary experiences & personal responses The Purpose of Criticism:
(1) To help us resolve a question, problem, or difficulty in the reading.
The historical approach, for instance, might be helpful in addressing a problem in Thomas Otway's play Venice Preserv'd. Why are the conspirators, despite the horrible, bloody details of their obviously brutish plan, portrayed in a sympathetic light? If we look at the author and his time, we see that he was a Tory whose play was performed in the wake of the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Bill Crisis, and that there are obvious similarities between the Conspiracy in the play and the Popish Plot in history. The Tories would never approve of the bloody Popish Plot, but they nonetheless sympathized with the plotters for the way they were abused by the Tory enemy, the Whigs. Thus it makes sense for Otway to condemn the conspiracy itself in Vencie Preserv'd without condemning the conspirators themselves.
(2) To help us decide which is the better of two conflicting readings.
A formalist approach might enable us to choose between a reading which sees the dissolution of society in Lord of the Flies as being caused by too strict a suppression of the "bestial" side of man and one which sees it as resulting from too little suppression. We can look to the text and ask: What textual evidence is there for the suppression or indulgence of the "bestial" side of man? Does Ralph suppress Jack when he tries to indulge his bestial side in hunting? Does it appear from the text that an imposition of stricter law and order would have prevented the breakdown? Did it work in the "grownup" world of the novel?
(3) To enable us to form judgments about literature.
One of the purposes of criticism is to judge if a work is any good or not. For instance, we might use a formalist approach to argue that a John Donne poem is of high quality because it contains numerous intricate conceits that are well sustained. Or, we might use the mimetic approach to argue that The West Indian is a poor play because it fails to paint a realistic picture of the world. reader response formalistic relativistic historical/biographical intertextual archetypal other approaches Literary Criticism Map Map Explanation:
I have placed the work itself in the center of my map because all approaches must deal, to some extent or another, with the text itself. Formalism and deconstruction are placed here also because they deal primarily with the text and not with any of the outside considerations such as author, the real world, audience, or other literature. Meaning, formalists argue, is inherent in the text. Because meaning is determinant, all other considerations are irrelevant. Deconstructionists also subject texts to careful, formal analysis; however, they reach an opposite conclusion: there is no meaning in language.
A historical approach relies heavily on the author and his world. In the historical view, it is important to understand the author and his world in order to understand his intent and to make sense of his work. In this view, the work is informed by the author's beliefs, prejudices, time, and history, and to fully understand the work, we must understand the author and his age.
An intertextual approach is concerned with comparing the work in question to other literature, to get a broader picture.
Reader-Response is concerned with how the work is viewed by the audience. In this approach, the reader creates meaning, not the author or the work.
Mimetic criticism seeks to see how well a work accords with the real world.
Then, beyond the real world are approaches dealing with the spiritual and the symbolic--the images connecting people throughout time and cultures (archetypes). This is mimetic in a sense too, but the congruency looked for is not so much with the real world as with something beyond the real world--something tying in all the worlds/times/cultures inhabited by man.
The Psychological approach is placed outside these poles because it can fit in many places, depending how it is applied:
(1) Historical if diagnosing the author himself
(2) Mimetic if considering if characters are acting by "real world" standards and with recognizable psychological motivations
(3) Archetypal when the idea of the Jungian collective unconscious is included
(4) Reader-Response when the psychology of the reader--why he sees what he sees in the text--is examined.
Likewise, Feminist, Minority, Marxist, and other such approaches may fit in:
(1) Historical if the author's attitudes are being examined in relation to his times (i.e. was Shakespeare a feminist for his times, though he might not be considered so today?)
(2) Mimetic--when asking how well characters accord with the real world. Does a black character act like a black person would, or is he a stereotype? Are women being portrayed accurately? Does the work show a realistic economic picture of the world?
A formalistic approach to the short story "Silence of the Llano" by Rudolfo Anaya might force us to see the incestuous relationship that is established at the end of the story as a positive alternative to loneliness. If we were to take into account external things, such as morality, we could not help but be horrified at such a conclusion. But in studying the symbols, setting, and structure of "The Silence of the Llano," we get an opposite picture.
The setting of the llano, its isolation and desolation, make its loneliness the primary evil of the story, in contrast to the town where people can escape the loneliness, where Rafael can find love, and where men can talk. The only way to survive the llano is to make it more like the town--to fill it with love and words and anything to escape the loneliness. "Words" are positively contrasted to "silence," as is "winter" to "spring" and "growth" to "death." The silence of the llano is constantly referred to, and Rafael's parents die in winter. But when Rafael marries, his wife makes a garden to grow in the desolate llano, and he can hear her voice. When Rafael establishes the incestuous relationship at the close of the story, he finally speaks to his daughter, and words break the long silence. He tells her that the "spring is the time for the garden. I will turn the earth for you. The seeds will grow." (182). Growth, spring, and words--the primary symbols which are positively contrasted to death, winter, and silence--are all combined in the close.
This formalistic approach does not allow us to account for most readers' natural (and appropriate) response of disgust to the incestuous relationship or to examine how that affects the ability of the author to communicate his story. Some would argue that an understanding of the text is where criticism should begin, and not where it ends. We should also relate the text to life, ideas, and morality. A formalistic approach to literature, once called New Criticism, involves a close reading of the text. Famous formalistic critics include I.A. Richards, Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, and Allen Tate, to name but a few. Formalists believe that all information essential to the interpretation of a work must be found within the work itself; there is no need to bring in outside information about the history, politics, or society of the time, or about the author's life.
Those who practice formalism claim they do not view works through the lens of feminism, psychology, Marxism, or any other philosophical standpoint. They are also uninterested in the work's affect on the reader. Formalistic critics spend a great deal of time analyzing irony, paradox, imagery, and metaphor. They are also interested in a work's setting, characters, symbols, and point of view.
Terms Used in Formalism
When reading the literary analysis of a New Critic, you might come across the following terms:
1. Tension. Tension is the integral unity of the work and often involves irony or paradox.
2.Intentional fallacy. Formalistic critics refer to the belief that the meaning of a work may be determined by the author's intention as "the intentional fallacy."
3. Affective fallacy. In New Criticism, the belief that the meaning or value of a work may be determined by its affect on the reader
4. External form. The external form is the outer trappings of a work. For example, in a poem, the external form would include the rhyme scheme, meter, and stanza form.
5. Objective correlative. Originated by T.S. Eliot, this term refers to a collection of objects, situations, or events that immediately evoke a specific emotion.
The advantages to this critical approach is that it can be performed without much research, and it emphasizes the value of literature apart from its context. This type of literary criticism in effect makes literature timeless. Unfortunately, there are also disadvantages to this approach. For one, the text is viewed in isolation. Formalism ignores the context of the work. This means that, among other things, it cannot account for allusions. Some have argued that the formalist approach reduces literature to nothing more than a collection of rhetorical devices.
An Example of Formalism
Advantages and Disadvantages of New Criticism Formalism / New Criticism Definition: Advantages: Disadvantages:
Historical / Biographical critics see works as the reflection of an author's life and times (or of the characters' life and times). They believe it is necessary to know about the author and the political, economical, and sociological context of his times in order to truly understand his works.
This approach works well for some works--like those of Alexander Pope, John Dryden, and Milton--which are obviously political in nature. One must know Milton was blind, for instance, for "On His Blindness" to have any meaning. And one must know something about the Exclusion Bill Crisis to appreciate John Dryden's "Absalom and Achitophel." It also is necessary to take a historical approach in order to place allusions in their proper classical, political, or biblical background.
New Critics refer to the historical / biographical critic's belief that the meaning or value of a work may be determined by the author's intention as "the intentional fallacy." They believe that this approach tends to reduce art to the level of biography and make it relative (to the times) rather than universal. Definition:
Moral / philosophical critics believe that the larger purpose of literature is to teach morality and to probe philosophical issues.
Matthew Arnold -- argued works must have "high seriousness"
Plato -- insisted literature must exhibit moralism and utilitarianism
Horace - felt literature should be "delightful and instructive"
This approach is useful for such works as Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Man," which does present an obvious moral philosophy. It is also useful when considering the themes of works (for example, man's inhumanity to man in Mark Twain's Huckelberry Finn). Finally, it does not view literature merely as "art" isolated from all moral implications; it recognizes that literature can affect readers, whether subtly or directly, and that the message of a work--and not just the decorous vehicle for that message--is important.
Detractors argue that such an approach can be too "judgmental." Some believe literature should be judged primarily (if not solely) on its artistic merits, not its moral or philosophical content. Moral / Philosophical Approach: Definition:
This can be closely related to the moral / philosophical approach, but is somewhat broader. Mimetic critics ask how well the work of literature accords with the real world. Is it accurate? Is it correct? Is it moral? Does it show how people really act? As such, mimetic criticism can include some forms of moral / philosophical criticism, psychological criticism, and feminist criticism. Mimetic Approach: Definition:
Psychological critics view works through the lens of psychology. They look either at the psychological motivations of the characters or of the authors themselves, although the former is generally considered a more respectable approach. Most frequently, psychological critics apply Freudian psychology to works, but other approaches (such as a Jungian approach) also exist.
A Freudian approach often includes pinpointing the influences of a character's id (the instinctual, pleasure seeking part of the mind), superego (the part of the mind that represses the id's impulses) and the ego (the part of the mind that controls but does not repress the id's impulses, releasing them in a healthy way). Freudian critics like to point out the sexual implications of symbols and imagery, since Freud's believed that all human behavior is motivated by sexuality. They tend to see concave images, such as ponds, flowers, cups, and caves as female symbols; whereas objects that are longer than they are wide are usually seen as phallic symbols. Dancing, riding, and flying are associated with sexual pleasure. Water is usually associated with birth, the female principle, the maternal, the womb, and the death wish. Freudian critics occasionally discern the presence of an Oedipus complex (a boy's unconscious rivalry with his father for the love of his mother) in the male characters of certain works, such as Hamlet. They may also refer to Freud's psychology of child development, which includes the oral stage, the anal stage, and the genital stage.
Jung is also an influential force in myth (archetypal) criticism. Psychological critics are generally concerned with his concept of the process of individuation (the process of discovering what makes one different form everyone else). Jung labeled three parts of the self: the shadow, or the darker, unconscious self (usually the villain in literature); the persona, or a man's social personality (usually the hero); and the anima, or a man's "soul image" (usually the heroine). A neurosis occurs when someone fails to assimilate one of these unconscious components into his conscious and projects it on someone else. The persona must be flexible and be able to balance the components of the psyche.
Ernest Jones, Otto Rank, Marie Boaparte, and others
It can be a useful tool for understanding some works, such as Henry James The Turning of the Screw, in which characters obviously have psychological issues. Like the biographical approach, knowing something about a writer's psychological make up can give us insight into his work.
Psychological criticism can turn a work into little more than a psychological case study, neglecting to view it as a piece of art. Critics sometimes attempt to diagnose long dead authors based on their works, which is perhaps not the best evidence of their psychology. Critics tend to see sex in everything, exaggerating this aspect of literature. Finally, some works do not lend themselves readily to this approach.
(1) A psychological approach to John Milton's Samson Agonisties might suggest that the shorning of Samson's locks is symbolic of his castration at the hands of Dalila and that the fighting words he exchanges with Harapha constitute a reassertion of his manhood. Psychological critics might see Samson's bondage as a symbol of his sexual impotency, and his destruction of the Philistine temple and the killing of himself and many others as a final orgasmic event (since death and sex are often closely associated in Freudian psychology). The total absence of Samson's mother in Samson Agonisties would make it difficult to argue anything regarding the Oedipus complex, but Samson refusal to be cared for by his father and his remorse over failing to rule Dalila may be seen as indicative of his own fears regarding his sexuality.
(2) A psychological approach to "The Silence of the Llano" would allow us to look into the motivations of Rafael--it would allow us to examine the effects of isolation and loneliness on his character and provide some reasoning for why he might chose to establish an incestuous relationship with his daughter. A specifically Freudian approach will tune us in to the relevant symbolism which will enable us to better understand the conclusion. For instance, with such a mind frame, we can immediately recognize that Rafael's statement to his daughter "I will turn the earth for you. The seeds will grow" is the establishment of a sexual relationship that will result in children. We can see the water in which she bathes as symbolic of that birth that is to come. Psychological Approach Note: "Symbolic" approaches may also fall under the category of formalism because they involve a close reading of the text. Myth criticism generally has broader, more universal applications than symbolic criticism, although both assume that certain images have a fairly universal affect on readers.
A archetypal (also: mythological/symbolic) approach to literature assumes that there is a collection of symbols, images, characters, and motifs (i.e. archetypes) that evokes basically the same response in all people. According to the psychologist Carl Jung, mankind possesses a "collective unconscious" that contains these archetypes and that is common to all of humanity. Myth critics identify these archetypal patterns and discuss how they function in the works. They believe that these archetypes are the source of much of literature's power.
•archetypal women - the Good Mother, the Terrible Mother, and the Soul Mate (such as the Virgin Mary)
•water - creation, birth-death-resurrection, purification, redemption, fertility, growth
•garden - paradise (Eden), innocence, fertility
•desert - spiritual emptiness, death, hopelessness
•red - blood, sacrifice, passion, disorder
•green - growth, fertility
•black - chaos, death, evil
•serpent - evil, sensuality, mystery, wisdom, destruction
•seven - perfection
•shadow, persona, and anima (see psychological criticism)
•hero archetype - The hero is involved in a quest (in which he overcomes obstacles). He experiences initiation (involving a separation, transformation, and return), and finally he serves as a scapegoat, that is, he dies to atone.
Maud Bodkin, Bettina L. Knapp, and others.
Provides a universalistic approach to literature and identifies a reason why certain literature may survive the test of time. It works well with works that are highly symbolic.
Literature may become little more than a vehicle for archetypes, and this approach may ignore the "art" of literature. Examples:
(1) In Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner, for example, we might view Isaac McCaslin's repudiation of the land as an attempt to deny the existence of his archetypal shadow--that dark part of him that maintains some degree of complicity in slavery. When he sees the granddaughter of Jim, and can barely tell she is black, his horrified reaction to the miscegenation of the races may be indicative of his shadow's (his deeply racist dark side's) emergence.
(2) In Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Fedallah can be seen as Ahab's shadow, his defiant pagan side wholly unrestrained. Numerous archetypes appear in Moby Dick. The sea is associated both with spiritual mystery (Ahab is ultimately on a spiritual quest to defy God because evil exists) and with death and rebirth (all but Ishmael die at sea, but Ahab's death as if crucified is suggestive of rebirth). Three is symbolic of spiritual awareness; thus we see numerous triads in Moby Dick, including Ahab's three mysterious crew members and the three harpooners.
(3) In "The Silence of the Llano" by Rudolfo Anaya, a mythological / archetypal approach would allow us to examine the archetypes that illicit similar reactions in most readers. We can see how Anaya is drawing on the archetype of water to imply purification (when Rita bathes after her period) and fertility and growth (when Rita washes before the incestuous relationship is established). The red blood Rita washes away calls up visions of violent passions, which will be evidenced in the rape. The garden conjures up images of innocence, unspoiled beauty, and fertility. Thus, the reader can sense in the end that a state of innocence has been regained and that growth will ensue. This approach, however, is limited in that by assuming it, the critic may begin to view the story not as a work within itself, but merely as a vessel for transmitting these archetypes . He may also overlook the possibility that some symbols are not associated with their archetype; for instance, the sun, which normally implies the passage of time, seems in its intensity in the llano to actually suggest a slowing down of time, a near static state in the llano. Definition: Advantages: Disadvantages:
Feminist criticism is concerned with the impact of gender on writing and reading. It usually begins with a critique of patriarchal culture. It is concerned with the place of female writers in the cannon. Finally, it includes a search for a feminine theory or approach to texts. Feminist criticism is political and often revisionist. Feminists often argue that male fears are portrayed through female characters. They may argue that gender determines everything, or just the opposite: that all gender differences are imposed by society, and gender determines nothing.
Elaine Showalter's Theory:
In A Literature of Their Own, Elaine Showalter argued that literary subcultures all go through three major phases of development. For literature by or about women, she labels these stages the Feminine, Feminist, and Female:
(1) Feminine Stage - involves "imitation of the prevailing modes of the dominant tradition" and "internalization of its standards."
(2) Feminist Stage - involves "protest against these standards and values and advocacy of minority rights...."
(3) Female Stage - this is the "phase of self-discovery, a turning inwards freed from some of the dependency of opposition, a search for identity."
Ellen Mores, Sandra Gilbert, Elaine Showalter, Nina Baym, etc.
Women have been somewhat underrepresented in the traditional cannon, and a feminist approach to literature redresses this problem.
Feminist turn literary criticism into a political battlefield and overlook the merits of works they consider "patriarchal." When arguing for a distinct feminine writing style, they tend to relegate women's literature to a ghetto status; this in turn prevents female literature from being naturally included in the literary cannon. The feminist approach is often too theoretical. Feminist Approach
Reader response criticism places strong emphasis on the reader's role in producing the meaning of a literary work. It is in some senses an opposite approach from that of formalism. Whereas formalists treat meaning as objectively inherent in the text, in reader response criticism, the text has no meaning until it is read by a reader who creates the meaning. Unlike the formalistic critical approach, this type of literary criticism insists that works are not universal, that is, that they will not always mean more or less the same thing to readers everywhere. Indeed, according to one practitioner of reader response criticism, Norman Holland, the reader imposes his or her own identity on the work, "to a large extent recreating that text in the reader's image."
Reader response criticism acknowledges that different people view works differently and that interpretations change over time. However, it also tends to make interpretation highly subjective and consequently does not provide sufficient criteria for judging between two or more different interpretations of the text. Reader response criticism has been used by literary critics ranging from I.A. Richards and Louise Rosenblatt to Walter Gibson and Norman Holland.
An Example of Reader Response Criticism
In reading the parable of the prodigal son in the New Testament, different readers are likely to have different responses. Someone who has lived a fairly straight and narrow life and who does not feel like he has been rewarded for it is likely to associate with the older brother of the parable and sympathize with his opposition to the celebration over the prodigal son's return. Someone with a more checkered past would probably approach the parable with more sympathy for the younger brother. A parent who had had difficulties with a rebellious child would probably focus on the father, and, depending on his or her experience, might see the father's unconditional acceptance of the prodigal as either good and merciful or as unwise and overindulgent. While the parable might disturb some, it could elicit a feeling of relief from others.
When using reader response criticism as a tool of analysis, you could write about how the author evokes a particular reaction in you as the reader, what features of your own identity influence you in creating your interpretation, and how another reader in a different situation might interpret the work differently. What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Reader Response Criticism? Definition Relativism: the belief that there are as many ways of constructing a meaning of any text as there are individuals who read it, and no reader’s response can ever be completely wrong
=> This makes literature as such irrelevant and meaningless! Other approaches:
Structuralists view literature as a system of signs. They try to make plain the organizational codes that they believe regulate all literature. The most famous practitioner is Michael Foucault.
This approach assumes that language does not refer to any external reality. It can assert several, contradictory interpretations of one text. Deconstructionists make interpretations based on the political or social implications of language rather than examining an author's intention. Jacques Derrida was the founder of this school of criticism. Diverse approaches
Aristotle (Augustine) - reality in concrete substance vs. Plato (Aquinas) - reality in abstract ideal forms
dramatic unities - rules governing classical dramas requiring the unity of action, time, and place (The idea was based on a Renaissance misinterpretation of passages in Aristotle's Poetic.)
pathetic fallacy - Ruskin - attributing human traits to nonhuman objects
fancy - Coleridge -- combining several known properties into new combinations
imagination - using known properties to create a whole that is entirely new
Pater: Aesthetic experience permits the greatest intensification of each moment - "Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most."
Longinus: emphasis on greatness of sentiments - the sublime
Goethe: "The poet makes himself a seer by a long, prodigious, and rational disordering of all the senses."
Howells: "Our novelists..concern themselves with the more smiling aspect of life, which are the more American." also "When man is at his very best, he is a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel."
Morris: "Art was once the common possession of the whole people..today..art is only enjoyed...by comparatively few persons...the rich and the parasites that minister to them."
Sweetness and Light: Delight and Instruction (in reference to the Ancients)
Newman: "I say that a cultivated intellect, because it is a good in itself, brings with it a power and a grace to every work." An intertextual approach is concerned with comparing the work in question to other literature, to get a broader picture.