Welcome to our topic Approaches to Literary Criticism! Approaches to Literary Criticism will detail the various approaches to literary criticism that we will utilize to study a literary piece. However, please note that we won’t just be using such approaches to literary criticism in writing our literary analyses essays. We will be using these approaches to literary criticism before even starting reading a literary piece. It is like fitting in a new pair of reading glasses everytime we embark on a reading and writing journey. Hence, we use a specific approach to read, analyze, evaluate, interpret and judge a specific literary piece, and go on to produce a literary analysis essay on that same literary analysis. So, let’s start learning these approaches to literary criticism. Enjoy!
Historical Criticism: This approach “seeks to understand a literary work by investigating the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced it—a context that necessarily includes the artist’s biography and milieu.” A key goal for historical critics is to understand the effect of a literary work upon its original readers. Types of Literary Criticism: Since ancient times, readers have debated and critiqued literature from a variety of perspectives. Some have looked at a story or play from a moral stance, considering how values are represented in a text. Another critic might evaluate a poem in terms of its form. LITERARY CRITICISM AND THEORY Page 5 MODULE: I CLASSICAL AGE PLATO Plato was the first scholastic philosopher who had given a systematic shape to criticism. He lived in the fourth century B.C. He was the most celebrated disciple of Socrates. By his time the glory of Athenian art and literature began to fade and was taken.
At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
The work itself (literary piece) is in the center of the map because all approaches must deal, to some extent or another, with the text itself. To critique a piece of work, one must read first the text. After which, one may utilize any of the following literary approaches below:
The image below, courtesy of Skylar Hamilton Burris, maps the various approaches to literary criticism in relation to the literary piece that is going to be criticized.
Formalist criticism is placed at the center because it deals 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.
Deconstructionist criticism also subject texts to careful, formal analysis; however, they reach an opposite conclusion: there is no meaning in language. They believe that a piece of writing does not have one meaning and the meaning itself is dependent on the reader.
Historical criticism 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.
Inter-textual criticism is concerned with comparing the work in question to other literature, to get a broader picture. One may compare a piece of work to another of the same author, same literary movement or same historical background.
Reader-response criticism is concerned with how the work is viewed by the audience. In this approach, the reader creates meaning, not the author or the work. Once the work is published, the author is no longer relevant.
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Mimetic criticism seeks to see how well a work accords with the real world. How does a piece of literature accurately portrays the truth is the main contention of this literary approach.
Psychological criticism attempts to explain the behavioral underpinnings of the characters within the selection, analyzing the actions and thoughts committed fall under any of the identifiable neuroses, whether a psychological disorder is evident among them. Aside from the characters, the author and even the reader may be criticized as why they exhibit certain behavior during the actual writing and reading experience.
Archetypal criticism assumes that there is a collection of symbols, images, characters, and motifs (i.e. archetypes) that evokes basically the same response in all people which seem to bind all people regardless of culture and race worldwide. This can also be labelled as Mythological and Symbolic criticisms. Their critics identify these archetypal patterns and discuss how they function in the works.
Marxist criticism concerns with the analysis of the clash of opposing social classes in society, namely; the ruling class (bourgeoisie) and the working class (proletariat) as it shaped the events that transpired in the story.
Feminist criticism concerns with the woman’s role in society as portrayed through texts. It typically analyzes the plight of woman as depicted in the story. Generally, it criticizes the notion of woman as a construct through literature.
Literary Criticism– The analysis of a literary text though various lenses that highlight authorial stance, purpose, and perspective
Part of the fun of reading good literature is looking for all its meanings and messages. Since people have written literature, critics have been interpreting it …. going all the way back to ancient Greece and Rome. For many centuries, literary criticism has been limited to some basic approaches involving historical, moral and biographical perspectives. But during the 20th century, critical approaches have become much more varied due to the huge increase of educated people and their widely diverse reactions to literature. As the meaning of what literature is and can be or should be has changed, so has the critics’ responses to it.
Below are outlined for you six of the dozen-or-so “schools” of literary criticism currently deemed valid by the academic world. A critical viewpoint is simply a lens through which we look at a piece of literature, allowing this lens to shape our reaction to the work. These different schools are not exclusive – in fact, most critical essays use ideas from several types of criticism. But depending upon what work you are reading, and what your own ideas about what good literature should do, or your own ideas about life and the world, some critical methods will work better than others or be more helpful for your understanding of a work. The goal of literary criticism is always to help us understand and appreciate a work more fully, no matter what approach(es) we use.
The following definitions are paraphrased from A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, 4th edition, Guerin, Labor, Morgan, Reesman & Willingham. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999