Literary Criticism

Literary Criticism

Schools of Literary Criticism M O R A L C R I T I C I S M , D R A M AT I C C O N S T R U C T I O N FORMALISM/ NEW CRITICISM P S Y C H O A N A LY T I C C R I T I C I S M MARXIST CRITICISM READER-RESPONSE CRITICISM STRUCTURALISM N E W H I S T O R I C I S M / C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S FEMINIST CRITICISM GENDER/QUEER STUDIES Moral Criticism, Dramatic Construction (~360 BC-present) Plato Art is a mediocre reproduction of nature: ...what artists do...is hold the mirror up to nature: They copy the appearances of men, animals, and objects in the physical world... If art does not teach morality and ethics, then it is damaging to its audience Aristotle

Elements like "...language, rhythm, and harmony..." as well as "...plot, character, thought, diction, song, and spectacle..." influence the audience's catharsis (pity and fear) or satisfaction with the work ws o l fol n! rm io Fo unct f Formalism/ New Criticism (1930s-present) How does the work use imagery to develop its own symbols? What is the quality of the work's organic unity "...the working together of all the parts to make an inseparable whole..." ? In other words, does how the work is put together reflect what it is? How are the various parts of the work interconnected? How do paradox, irony, ambiguity, and tension work in the text? How do these parts and their collective whole contribute to or not contribute to the aesthetic quality of the work?

How does the author resolve apparent contradictions within the work? What does the form of the work say about its content? Is there a central or focal passage that can be said to sum up the entirety of the work? How do the rhythms and/or rhyme schemes of a poem contribute to the meaning or effect of the piece? Psychoanalytic Criticism (1930s-present) Sigmund Freud Carl Jung Concepts: The Unconscious, the Desires, and the Defenses, Id, Ego, and Superego, Oedipus Complex Concepts: collective unconscious, archetypes How do the operations of repression structure or inform the work? Are there any oedipal dynamics - or any other family dynamics - at work here? How can characters' behavior, narrative events, and/or images be explained in terms of psychoanalytic concepts of any kind? What does the work suggest about the psychological being of its author?

What might a given interpretation of a literary work suggest about the psychological motives of the reader? Are there prominent words in the piece that could have different or hidden meanings? Could there be a subconscious reason for the author using these "problem words"? What connections can we make between elements of the text and the archetypes? How do the characters in the text mirror the archetypal figures? How does the text mirror the archetypal narrative patterns? How symbolic is the imagery in the work? How does the protagonist reflect the hero of myth? Does the hero embark on a journey in either a physical or spiritual sense? Is there a journey to an underworld or land of the dead? What trials or ordeals does the protagonist face? What is the reward for overcoming them? Marxist Criticism (1930s-present) Concepts: class differences, economic and otherwise, as well as the implications and complications of the capitalist

system material dialectic- ...what drives historical change are the material realities of the economic base of society, rather than the ideological superstructure of politics, law, philosophy, religion, and art that is built upon that economic base conflict between the classes will lead to a revolution by oppressed peoples and form the groundwork for a new order of society and economics where capitalism is abolished. Whom does it benefit if the work or effort is accepted/successful/believed, etc.? What is the social class of the author? Which class does the work claim to represent? What values does it reinforce? What values does it subvert? What conflict can be seen between the values the work champions and those it portrays? What social classes do the characters represent? How do characters from different classes interact or conflict? What do YOU think ? How does the interaction of text and reader create

meaning? What does a phrase-by-phrase analysis of a short literary text, or a key portion of a longer text, tell us about the reading experience prestructured by (built into) that text? Do the sounds/shapes of the words as they appear on the page or how they are spoken by the reader enhance or change the meaning of the word/work? How might we interpret a literary text to show that the reader's response is, or is analogous to, the topic of the story? What does the body of criticism published about a literary text suggest about the critics who interpreted that text and/or about the reading experience produced by that text? Reader-Response Criticism

(1960s-present) Structuralism (1920s-present) Concepts: linguistic roots, patterns and experience Using a specific structuralist framework (see Northrop Frye's)...how should the text be classified in terms of its genre? In other words, what patterns exist within the text that make it a part of other works like it? Using a specific structuralist framework...analyze the text's narrative operations...can you speculate about the relationship between the...[text]... and the culture from which the text emerged? In other words, what patterns exist within the text that make it a product of a larger culture? What patterns exist within the text that connect it to the larger "human" experience? In other words, can we connect patterns and elements within the text to other texts from other cultures to map similarities that tell us more about the common human experience? This is a liberal humanist move that assumes that since we are all human, we all share basic human commonalities What rules or codes of interpretation must be internalized in order to 'make sense' of

the text? What are the semiotics of a given category of cultural phenomena, or 'text,' such as high-school football games, television and/or magazine ads for a particular brand of perfume...or even media coverage of an historical event? New Historicism/Cultural Studies (1980spresent) What language/characters/events present in the work reflect the current events of the authors day? Are there words in the text that have changed their meaning from the time of the writing? How are such events interpreted and presented? How are events' interpretation and presentation a product of the culture of the author? Does the work's presentation support or condemn the event? Can it be seen to do both? How does this portrayal criticize the leading political figures or movements of the day? How does the literary text function as part of a continuum with other historical/cultural

texts from the same period...? How can we use a literary work to "map" the interplay of both traditional and subversive discourses circulating in the culture in which that work emerged and/or the cultures in which the work has been interpreted? How does the work consider traditionally marginalized populations? Feminist Criticism (1960s-present) How is the relationship between men and women portrayed? What are the power relationships between men and women (or characters assuming male/female roles)? How are male and female roles defined? What constitutes masculinity and femininity? How do characters embody these traits? Do characters take on traits from opposite genders? How so? How does this change others reactions to them? What does the work reveal about the operations (economically, politically, socially, or psychologically) of patriarchy? What does the work imply about the possibilities of sisterhood as a mode of resisting patriarchy? What does the work say about women's creativity? What does the history of the work's reception by the public and by the critics tell us about the operation of patriarchy? What role the work play in terms of women's literary history and literary tradition? Gender Studies and Queer Theory (1970s-present)

What elements of the text can be perceived as being masculine (active, powerful) and feminine (passive, marginalized) and how do the characters support these traditional roles? What sort of support (if any) is given to elements or characters who question the masculine/feminine binary? What happens to those elements/characters? What elements in the text exist in the middle, between the perceived masculine/feminine binary? In other words, what elements exhibit traits of both (bisexual)? What are the politics (ideological agendas) of specific gay, lesbian, or queer works, and how are those politics revealed in...the work's thematic content or portrayals of its characters?\ What are the poetics (literary devices and strategies) of a specific lesbian, gay, or queer work? What does the work contribute to our knowledge of queer, gay, or lesbian experience and history, including literary history? How is queer, gay, or lesbian experience coded in texts that are by writers who are apparently homosexual? What does the work reveal about the operations (socially, politically, psychologically) homophobic?

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