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Intro to-literary-criticism

Developmental Reading

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Intro to-literary-criticism

  1. 1. Introduction to Literary Criticism
  2. 2. Definition and Use “Literary criticism” is the name given to works written by experts who critique— analyze—an author’s work. It does NOT mean “to criticize” as in complain or disapprove. Literary criticism is often referred to as a “secondary source”.
  3. 3. Literary criticism is the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. DEFINITION …
  4. 4. "Literary criticism is the evaluation of literary works. This includes the classification by genre, analysis of structure, and judgement of value." Let's try again …
  5. 5. "Literary criticism asks what literature is, what it does, and what it is worth." And again …
  6. 6. Literary criticism is the method used to interpret any given work of literature. The different schools of literary criticism provide us with lenses which ultimately reveal important aspects of the literary work. In my own words …
  7. 7.  Talking about experiences enhances our enjoyment of them  Talking about experiences involves the search for meaning which increases our understanding of them  Because Socrates said so: "The life which is unexamined is not worth living." Why do we have to analyze everything????
  8. 8. Literary criticism helps us to understand what is important about the text its structure its context: social, economic, historical what is written how the text manipulates the reader To further explain …
  9. 9.  Literary criticism helps us to understand the relationship between authors, readers, and texts  The act of literary criticism ultimately enhances the enjoyment of our reading of the literary work And there's more …
  10. 10. Literary Criticism Literary criticism has two main functions: 1. To analyze, study, and evaluate works of literature. 2. To form general principles for the examination of works of literature.
  11. 11. What is literary theory? The capacity to generalize about phenomena and to develop concepts that form the basis for interpretation and analysis—in this instance, of a “literary” text.
  12. 12. Definition and Use Literary criticism is often referred to as a “secondary source”, because it is used to analyze your primary work—the work or text (novel) you are reading. Literary criticism is used by people who want to use an expert’s opinion to support their own ideas.
  13. 13. Definition and Use Remember, literary criticism is used by readers to analyze, NOT by authors to write. Therefore, when you begin to analyze your novel, you’ll make use of expert, reliable literary criticism to support your opinion—your thesis—which you will develop for your paper.
  14. 14. Literary Criticism and Theory  Any piece of text can be read with a number of different sets of “glasses,” meaning you are looking for different things within the text.  Literary criticism helps readers understand a text in relation to the author, culture, and other texts.
  15. 15. The Most Common Critical Stances for Literature Formalistic Biographical Historical/Cultural Psychological Mythological Gender Deconstructionist
  16. 16. Upon Seeing an Orange  Gender Theory – What possibilities are available to a woman who eats this orange? To a man?  Formalism – What shape and diameter is the orange?  Marxist Theory – Who owns this orange? Who gets to eat it?
  17. 17. Orange cont’d  Postcolonial Theory – Who owns the orange? Who took it away?  Reader Response Theory – What does the orange taste like? What does the orange remind the reader of?  Psychological/Psychoanalytical – I want this orange now! Will I get in trouble if I eat it?
  18. 18. Biographical Criticism  As the name suggests, this type of criticism reads the text looking for the author’s influence.  By examining the author’s life, we can have a deeper understanding of his/her writing.
  19. 19. A Biographical Reading of To Build a Fire by Jack London  London grew up in poverty and lived on the streets of San Francisco so he likely had a negative view of city life. We also know that he found peace and “breathing room” in Alaska.  The settings and circumstances in “To Build a Fire” reflect the feelings above. (ie.-the Naturalist idea that nature is indifferent = effects of his early life on him and setting = his love of Alaska/the wilderness)
  20. 20. Historical/Cultural Criticism This critical viewpoint examines a text in relation to its historical or cultural backdrop. You may examine a text’s effect on history or culture or vice versa. A historical/cultural analysis is often very similar to a biographical analysis, and it’s possible to view history, culture, and biography in a single essay.
  21. 21. Historical/Cultural Reading of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959)  What can Sleeping Beauty reveal about 1950s society?  How do Prince Phillip’s lines and the “Sword of Truth” reflect the ideals of 1950s Americans?
  22. 22. Psychological Criticism  Psychological critical theory applies the theories of psychology to a text in order to better understand its characters.  Based largely on the theories of neurologist Sigmund Freud, this theory hinges on an examination of people’s (characters’) unconscious desires.
  23. 23. Mythological Criticism This stance is not about mythology. It is about the universal elements of human life that are common in all cultures. Like ancient mythology, literature is a window to creating meaning for human life. In other words, stories make us feel like our lives are more significant.
  24. 24. Mythological Criticism  Central to mythological theory are archetypes.  Remember, archetypes are those universal elements present in the literature of all cultures.
  25. 25. Mythological Criticism  Mythological Criticism seeks to understand how the story constructs meaning in the human existence through archetypes.  For example, note the ways texts have examined betrayal.
  26. 26. Mythological Criticism Common Archetypes The Hero = Beowulf, Spiderman, Luke Skywalker, Braveheart The Outcast = Macbeth’s clown, Lord of the Flies, Cain The Quest = LOTR, Star Wars, Beowulf Sacrificial King = Jesus, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, LOTR Evil Personified = Wicked Witch of the West, the Devil, the Emperor in SW
  27. 27. Gender Criticism Gender criticism analyzes literature through the lens of socially-constructed gender roles. The largest part of gender criticism is feminism, which critiques and seeks to correct women’s subordination to men in society. In its most basic form, feminism is about equality.
  28. 28. Gender Criticism A newer segment of gender criticism looks for the influence of homosexuality within texts. Research of this type is fairly difficult because homosexuality was largely suppressed in Europe and America, and it hasn’t been openly discussed until the last few decades.
  29. 29. A Feminist Reading of Cinderella  As a single, young woman, Cinderella is without means or opportunity because she is unattached to a father or a husband.  It is only through the magic of a fairy godmother that she can be made presentable and meet the prince AND he is the only means of her escaping her plight.  What skills does she have? She is beautiful, can sing well, and is kind. These are highlighted as the desirable qualities in a woman (hence, her UGLY, UNTALENTED, stepsisters who are portrayed as undesirable).
  30. 30. Marxist Criticism Bases approach largely on works of Karl Marx (1818-1883) German political philosopher. Investigates assumptions and values associated with culture, race, class. For example: Are the rich always good or bad? Are the poor always good or bad?
  31. 31. Formalist Criticism  A formalist reading of a text focuses on symbol, metaphor, imagery, characterization, and so on.  Formalism ignores the author’s biography and focuses only on the interaction of literary elements within the text.  Consider the elements of plot, narrator, structure, etc.  It’s what you do most often in English literature.
  32. 32. A Formalist Reading of “The Three Little Pigs” What does the wolf symbolize? Notice the consonance/rhyme of “I’ll huff and I’ll puff…” How does the story foreshadow the final fate of the pigs? What does the wolf’s dialogue tell us about his character?
  33. 33. Psychological Criticism  What governs human behavior?  Id – the animal nature that says, “Do what feels good.”  Ego – the reality-based part of your personality that makes decisions to satisfy the Id and Superego  Superego – the socialized “conscience” that tells you what’s right or fair
  34. 34. Psychological Criticism Oedipus Complex – Every boy has the unconscious desire to please his mother; consequently, sons are afraid of their fathers, and fathers are threatened by their sons. Elektra Complex – Every daughter has the unconscious desire to please her father; consequently, daughters are deeply afraid of their mothers, and mothers are deeply threatened by their daughters.
  35. 35. Psychological Criticism  Of course, these complexes have their origins in literature and mythology.  Psychological criticism is a way to understand characters, not diagnose them.
  36. 36. A Psychological Reading of Macbeth Macbeth kills King Duncan because he unconsciously recognizes the king as a father-figure. Hence, Duncan is a rival for power and the affections of the people. In the latter acts of the play, Macbeth has indulged his id so often that his ego has lost the ability to restrain it.
  37. 37. Marxist Criticism Explores the power struggles of those who are minorities in dominant culture. Examines who has/does not have power, how they attained it/why they don’t have it, and what they do with it/how they are manipulated by it.
  38. 38. Marxist Criticism Believes that literature is essentially political; it either supports or refutes economic oppression. In other words, the author either reinforces the status quo or rebels against it.
  39. 39. Literary Criticism Remember, one need not be a Marxist to use a Marxist approach, any more than one needs to be a woman to use a feminist approach. Any critic can take any approach that helps him/her explain what they think the author is saying in his/her work.
  40. 40. Literary Criticism Once you have decided what you think the author of your novel is saying—what his/her message is—you can then decide on which critical approach you think will work best to support your opinion.
  41. 41. More Literary Theory  New ways of viewing literature (and the world) continue to develop, but these are the main theories with which you’ll come in contact.
  42. 42. Deconstructionist Criticism  Deconstructionism argues that since there is no single meaning of any word, there can be no single meaning of a text.  EVERY text, therefore, has multiple valid meanings because the reader may interpret the words differently than the writer intended them.
  43. 43. Deconstructionist Criticism Much literary criticism is about construction of a larger meaning from a text. Deconstructionism emphasizes the breakdown of any meaning within a text because of the variety of different readers.
  44. 44. Deconstructionism  "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."  Bill Clinton, during his 1998 grand jury testimony on the Monica Lewinsky affair
  45. 45. Deconstructionism  Idea that because there is no concrete meaning of anything, there is no single truth applicable to all human beings.  Hence, everything is relative.
  46. 46. A Deconstructionist Reading of “The Tortoise and the Hare” (very basic)  The homophone hare/hair could make this fable incomprehensible without pictures.  In Native American cultures, the tortoise is a symbol of honor, so Indians would interpret the “race” as a contest of honor and fair play instead of endurance.

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