literary criticism powerpoint

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  • What is literature?Any work with a unique aesthetic quality?

    Texts that have stood the test of time?

    Works of the imagination/creative writing?

    Works with a particular set of qualitiese.g., plot, character, tone, setting, etc.?

    Works that emphasize universal themes (i.e., transcend the merely social or political)?

    Works that fit the parameters of literary genres: poem, essay, short story, novel?

    Anything that is written?

  • What is literary theory?

    The capacity to generalize about phenomena and to develop concepts that form the basis for interpretation and analysisin this instance, of a literary text.

  • What is literary criticism? The disciplined application of theoretical principles for the purpose of analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating literary texts.

  • 1. The World2. The Author3. The Text Other Texts Real World4. The ReaderBeyond the World Text = Objective realityFormalism: the TEXT (as art)Structuralism: the TEXT (as language system)Psychoanalytic: AUTHOR/READER/text Reader Response: READER/TEXT/community of readers w/shared valuesTHE 4 CRITICAL VARIABLES of LITERARY THEORY & CRITICISMText = Ideologically constructed language ITS CONTEXTText = Symbol, ArchetypeGender Studies: WORLD/author/text/reader Postcolonial: AUTHOR/world/text/readerMarxist: WORLD/text Territorial: TEXT/[reader/ author/world])

  • SOME TRADITIONAL APPROACHESHistoricalauthors historical moment is key to understanding a literary textBiographicalauthors personal experiences are central to understanding the textSocial realism (?)social transparency is key to understanding the text

  • Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893)Applying the scientific method to artassumes language is factual, reality is absolute, the truth can be verified.Taines three major factors for interpreting a text: Racei.e., national characteristics of the artists historical place and timeMilieui.e., sum total of artists experienceMomentintellectual & philosophical currents of artists historical place and time

  • Wellek and WarrenTheory of Literature (1949)Key issues to understanding a text:The writers heredity & environment (Taines milieu)The fictional world of the text vis--vis the world outside the text (Taines race & momentThe audience for which the text was intended

  • Irresolvable problem with traditional (pre-1970) social approaches to literary interpretation

    Practitioners assumed that historical, biographical, and social information could be accurately gathered and verified. They viewed language as transparent, facts as reliable, history as objective. Poststructuralist theories about the ideological appropriation of language by dominant groups & postmodernist disillusionment with objective reality both undermine old-style criticism.

  • NEW CRITICISM*Meaning resides in the textnot in reader, author, or worldTexts may contain numerous messages, but must have a unifying central theme created by the perfect union of all artistic elements.Texts are artistic creationsClose reading is the basis of new critical analysisThe methodology for finding meaning is clear-cut; the tools are unique to literary analysis

    *one type of formalism

  • READER RESPONSEText has many interpretationstext & reader interact to create meaning

    Meaning ultimately resides in the readers mind or the consensual mind of a community of readers (this class, for example)

    A texts truth is relative

    Readers may reach the same conclusions about a work--but approach the task quite differently

  • STRUCTURALISMMeaning resides in the structure of language, not in art nor in the readers mind Scientific approach to literary analysis: structure of language as a logical sign system determines meaningTwo levels of language: langue (the Kings English) & parole (everyday speech)Interpret a text or part of a text by taking its language apart (study word derivations, sentence syntax, etc.)


  • Textscomposed of language, an unstable sign system that always defers meaning.Truth is constructed, not given, so theres no such thing as A correct interpretation Look for an apparent meaning of some aspect of the text ; show how the text undermines (deconstructs) it; look again & show how the text undermines the latest interpretation, etc.Look for oppositions: good vs. evil, e.g. Show how the text undermines first one, then the other so that good and evil are exposed as empty concepts meaningJacques Derridameaning

  • NEW HISTORICISMLiterature is one among many socially constructed texts. If there is a difference, its the intentional use of the imagination to convey ideas.History is every bit as subjective as intentionally imaginative textsPurpose of analyzing literature is to locate hidden social messages, especially those that promote oppression.Texts have no final interpretation Language, though socially constructed, is stable enough to be useful. Find a small intriguing or odd piece of the text and interpret it by comparing it to contemporary sign systemsmagazines, newspapers, fads, laws. Try to locate uses & abuses of power.

  • POSTCOLONIALISMMeaning resides in text, history, and ideologyLiterature is a political toolthose in power decide what is artTruth is relative Study the authors (and readers) life & times; locate tensions between conflicting cultures; explore the double consciousness of colonized & postcolonized writers; observe how colonizers refashion the colonized;

  • MARXISMMeaning resides in text, history, & ideology: messages of oppression & class conflict Texts are commodities, not timeless works of art Truths are socially constructed.

    Look for evidence of oppressive ideologies of the dominant social group; look for uses & abuses of powerWhat workers look like to a capitalist

  • FEMINIST CRITICISMMeaning is socially constructed.Texts have more than one interpretationTexts are commodities (products of society)Truth is relative, highly dependent on arbitrary categories of difference, esp. those based on sex and genderLook for systems of containment; for evidence of repression, oppression, suppression, subversion, & rebellion in texts by women; study womens unique ways of understanding and writing about the human condition.

  • Territorialism

    Possessions (objects of desire) are metaphors for who we are or how we wish to be perceivedaspects of the self. Possessions may be tangible or intangible (my car or my idea, e.g.)They occupy mental space: cognitive, affective, and conative. These spaces strongly resemble territorieswith rights of ownership, markers, boundaries, rules of in and out, defensive strategies, etc.

    Look for territorial behaviors; determine the object(s) of desire; what aspect of self is in play? Who owns the object? Who wants it? Why? Identify the territorial act: acquisition, management, or defense? How does this information improve our understanding of the text?