Focuses on language, structure, and tone
Intrinsic Reading vs. Extrinsic
Formalists study relationship between
literary devices and meaning
Analyze how a work might follow actual
events in an authors life.
Analyze how characters may be based on
people known by the author.
Sometimes it can answer questions or
further confuse the reader.
Can at the very least serve as a control on
SigmundFreud- The founder of
• Unconscious Desires
• Sexual Repression
• Aspects of Psyche
• Oedipus Complex- a boys unconscious rivalry
with his father for his mothers love and his
desire to eliminate his father in order to take
his fathers place with his mother.
• Electra complex- a daughters unconscious
rivalry for her father.
Historical critics use literature as a window into
the past because literature often provides hints of
the past that are not available in other sources.
This strategy uses history as a means of
understanding a work of literature better.
Historical critics see literature as a product of
their times, shedding light on historical
situations and times.
Literary History Criticism
This category claims that literature may
transcend time to the extent that it may
concern readers over the years, even centuries.
Followers of this category understand that it
remains a part of the past in which it was
made, a past that can reveal more fully a
work’s language, purposes and ideas.
Marxist readings hold the heightened interest in
radical reform. These critics look at literature as a
means of aiding the proletarian social and economic
Marxist critics focus on the ideological content of a
story or book. They focus upon what takes place
within the book, implicit and explicit values and
assumptions about matters such as culture, race,
class, and power.
They stress that all criticism is political in some way,
and that even if it attempts to ignore class struggles,
it is politicized, because it supports that status quo.
New Historicist Criticism
Emphasizes the interaction between the
historical context of the literature and the
modern reader’s understanding &
interpretation of the text
Read the historical period in all dimensions
Stresses that the history we read is
Like New Historicists, but pays particular
attention to popular ideas present within the
Focus upon what the literary works reveal
about the culture; their values, their norms,
and what they believed in
Use eclectic strategies taken from New
Historicism, Psychology, Gender Studies, and
Analyze not only literature, but radio talk
shows, comic strips, calendar art,
commercials, travel guides, baseball cards, etc.
Postcolonial Criticism is the study of cultural
behavior and expression in relation to the
formerly colonized world.
Refers to the analysis of literary works written by
writers who lived in countries that were at one
time controlled by a colonial power.
The term also refers to the analysis of literary
works written about colonial cultures by writers
from the colonizing power.
Ask what is masculine and what is feminine
A type of Gender Criticism is Feminist, which
places literature in a social context like
Marxism. It explains how images of women in
literature reflect patriarchal social forces that
impede full equality.
Also referred to as archetypal
Interpret hopes, fears, and expectations of a
Focus on how humans account for their lives
Since myths try to explain universal
experiences, they follow similar patterns
Look for underlying, recurrent patterns
What is in reader’s mind not in the writing
Meaning evolves with reader, writing does not
have a formula or pattern
About reader’s feelings not about meaning
About how a reader’s experiences, memories,
and impressions shape the meaning of the
Literary works do not have fixed meanings
Disestablish meaning rather than establish
Focus on gaps, ambiguity, patterns
Argues that close examination will reveal
conflicting, contradictory impulses that
"deconstruct" or break down its apparent