Literary Criticism - PowerPoint

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					How to Approach a Literary

      Critical Lens Theory
         Critical Lens Theory
 the analysis of elements of a text through a
  particular identifiable perspective

 The most common lenses used in high
  school are structuralist criticism and reader
  response criticism.
        Structuralist Criticism
 Structuralism attempts to create a literary
  science and encourages “objective” or
  “disinterested” readings.

 It focusses on identifying the meaning of its
  words and on structural components
  (generic conventions, character, plot, image,
  symbol, theme).
   Reader Response Criticism
 a school of literary theory that focuses on
  the reader (or "audience”) and his or her
  experience of a literary work
 RR is in contrast to other schools and
  theories that focus attention primarily on the
  author or the content and form of the work
    Reader Response Criticism
 Quite often mistakenly believed to be a
  literary theory that allows for any
  interpretation of a text
 The relationship between reader and text is
  highly valued — text does not exist without
  a reader.
 a reader is constructing meaning as he or
  she wrestles with the poem, story, or novel.
    Reader Response Criticism
 A text sitting on a shelf does nothing. It
  does not come alive until reader and text are
    Reader Response Criticism
1. How does the text make me feel and why?
2. What does this work mean to me, in my present
3.What aspects of my life help me understand the
4. How can the text improve my understanding and
   widen my insights?
5. How can my increasing understanding help me
   understand the piece more in depth?
              Cultural Criticism
 Culture consists of the
  abstract values, beliefs,
  and perceptions of the
  world that lie behind
  people’s behaviour and
  which are reflected in their
 These are shared by
  members of a society, and
  when acted upon, they
  produce behaviour
  considered acceptable
  within that society.
              Cultural Criticism
 Culture also affects the
  way individuals interpret
  the world which surrounds
 The cultural lens allows
  the reader to explore race
  and culture within a text.
 It is important to note,
  however, that there is no
  direct relationship
  between race and culture.
              Cultural Criticism
 The lens may be used to
  look at the race and culture
  of the text’s characters, as
  well as the author’s.
 The lens may include a
  examination of the diaspora
  , multiculturalism,
  acculturation, assimilation,
  modernisation, national
  character, etc.
              Cultural Criticism
     Cultural critics generally work in areas
     covered by the following questions:
1.   What values, beliefs, and perceptions are present within
     the text? To what effect?
2.   What cultural influences affect the characters’ attitudes,
     reactions, choices?
3.   How does cultural point of view affect the text?
4.   Does the dominant culture evolve or change within the
5.   How does the author’s cultural heritage influence the
        Archetypal Criticism
Name somebody you know who:
 Is the quintessential mother...
 Has everything they touch turn to
  gold...almost literally...
 Is the ultimate athlete...
 Has an eye for spotting the real truth in a
 Tells jokes better than anybody they know.
         Archetypal Criticism
 These are all archetypal patterns
 an archetype is a pattern of behaviour
  that we recognise with a particular name
  (eg. mother, bully, addict, hero, damsel,
 Consider: How does our understanding of
  archetypes help our understanding of a text?
           Archetypal Criticism
 Focus is on the text in
  relation to the whole body
  of literature.
 Archetypes are the
  narrative designs,
  character types, and
  images which are said to
  be identifiable in a wide
  variety of works of
  literature, as well as in
  myths, dreams and
  ritualized modes of social
           Archetypal Criticism
 Considered to be a set of
  universal, primitive, and
  elemental patterns, which
  evokes a profound
  response from the reader.
 Specific genres are
  associated with specific
  catalogues of images or
  image patterns. Romance
  is associated with spring,
  gardens, flowers, youth,
  etc. The archetypal
  pattern which informs the
  western narrative is “the
  hero’s journey.”
           Archetypal Criticism
 Examples of archetypes
  (Note: this list is far from
  - the tragic hero
  - the wise old man
  - the trickster
  - ascending staircases
  signify enlightenment or
  - Spring signifies rebirth
  - Black signifies death
           Archetypal Criticism
     Archetypal critics generally work in areas
     covered by the following questions:
1.   What archetypes appear in the text? To what
2.   Is there a metaphoric starting point, journey and
     end point of that journey? To what effect?
3.   Are there metaphoric locations? To what effect?
4.   Do the preconceived notions about that
     archetype hold true within the text?
5.   Is the text manipulating the archetype by using it
     in a contrary or opposite way? To what effect?
             Feminist Criticism
 The best way to
  understand the world is
  through the patriarch
  (father is the supreme

 The past and present have
  been dominated by males
  who have had more access
  to property ownership,
  positions of authority, and
            Feminist Criticism
 As Judith Fetterley
  puts it, “Feminist
  criticism is a political
  act whose aim is not
  simply to interpret the
  world but to change it
  by changing the
  consciousness of those
  who read and their
  relation to what they
           Feminist Criticism
 Many feminist critics
  look at how the
  characters, especially
  the female characters,
  are portrayed and ask
  us to consider how the
  portrayal of female
  characters “reinforces
  or undermines” sexual
              Feminist Criticism

 Feminist theorists invite
  us to pay particular
  attention to the patterns of
  thought, behaviour,
  values, and power in
  male/female relationships.
              Feminist Criticism
     Feminist critics generally work in areas covered
     by the following questions:

1.   How are women represented?
2.   What is the attitude toward the female characters in the
     text? How does this affect your sympathy?
3.   What gaps exist in the female characters’ stories?
4.   What were the social and historic conditions for women
     in this period that might help us understand their roles
     and desires in the text?
5.   How do women exercise their power? With what
              Marxist Criticism
 Based on the theories of
  Karl Marx

 This school concerns itself
  with class differences –
  economic and otherwise

 Marxist criticism looks at
  the complications and
  implications of the
  capitalist system
              Marxist Criticism
 This school of criticism
  interested in answering:
  whom does it (in this case
  the literature) benefit? The
  elite? The middle-class?

 Marxist theory is
  interested in how the
  lower or working class are
  oppressed – in everyday
  life and literature
               Marxist Criticism
The Material Dialect:
 Marxist thinking follows
  process of thinking called
  The Material Dialect.

 This maintains that what
  drives historical change
  are the material realities of
  the economic base of
  society – not politics, law,
  or religion
              Marxist Criticism

 Marxist theory asserts
  there will always be
  tension between upper,
  middle, and lower classes
  because of this material
              Marxist Criticism
 Marxist theory holds that
  the continuing conflict
  between the classes will
  lead to upheaval and
  revolution by oppressed

 This will form the
  groundwork for a new
  society where capitalism
  is abolished
              Marxist Criticism
 According to Marx the
  revolution will be led by
  the working class under
  guidance of intellectuals

 Once elite and middle
  class are overthrown
  intellectuals will compose
  a new society where
  everyone will own
  everything – socialism
               Marxist Criticism
     Marxist critics generally work in areas covered
     by the following questions:

1.   What social class do the characters represent?
2.   Who has power (and of what sorts) in the text? How
     does this operate and change as the text progresses?
3.   What values does it reinforce?
4.   What is the social class of the author?
5.   Does the work help the revolution?
6.   Whom does the text benefit?
          Postcolonial Criticism
 Best way to understand
  world issues is to observe
  how powerful countries have
  exploited less powerful
  countries by imposing their
  economics, culture, and
  government upon them.
 Colonial Era was a time
  when European Empires
  (such as France, Great
  Britain, Belgium, Italy,
  Germany, Spain, and
  Portugal) claimed territories
          Postcolonial Criticism
 Sometimes, these empires
  attempted to colonize their
  new territories (British
  empire in India and
 Other imperial powers
  gained control of a
  territory for the sole
  purpose of exploiting its
  natural and human
  resources (Belgium in the
  Congo, France in Canada).
         Postcolonial Criticism
 Postcolonial criticism
  deals with literature
  produced in countries
  that once were
  colonies of other
  countries, especially of
  the European colonial
  powers Britain,
  France, and Spain.
        Postcolonial Criticism
   Postcolonial critics focus on the following:
1. Social and cultural change – What is the new
   cultural identity? What was the particular
   society like before and after colonization?
2. Misuse of power and exploitation – Who is
   being exploited and by whom?
3. Colonial abandonment and alienation – In this
   new country, where do I fit in and how do I
   make a living?
         Existentialist Criticism
 Existentialism is a
  philosophy (promoted
  especially by Jean-Paul
  Sartre and Albert Camus)
  that views each person as
  an isolated being who is
  cast into an alien universe,
  and conceives the world as
  possessing no inherent
  human truth, value, or
          Existentialist Criticism

 A person's life, then, as it
  moves from the
  nothingness from which it
  came toward the
  nothingness where it must
  end, defines an existence
  which is both anguished
  and absurd (Guerin).
         Existentialist Criticism
 In a world without sense,
  all choices are possible, a
  situation which Sartre
  viewed as human beings
  central dilemma: "Man
  [woman] is condemned to
  be free.“
 In contrast to atheist
  existentialism, Søren
  Kierkegaard theorized that
  belief in God (given that
  we are provided with no
  proof or assurance)
  required a conscious
  choice or "leap of faith."
         Existentialist Criticism
 Key terms include:
  Absurd - a term used to describe
  existence--a world without inherent
  meaning or truth.
  Authenticity - to make choices based on
  an individual code of ethics
  (commitment) rather than because of
  societal pressures. A choice made just
  because "it's what people do" would be
  considered inauthentic.
  "Leap of faith" - although Kierkegaard
  acknowledged that religion was
  inherently unknowable and filled with
  risks, faith required an act of
  commitment (the "leap of faith"); the
  commitment to Christianity would also
  lessen the despair of an absurd world.
          Existentialist Criticism
     Existentialist critics generally work in areas
     covered by the following questions:
1.   To what extent, is the world surrounding the characters,
     harsh and unforgiving?
2.   How do the characters’ control the world in which they
3.   What role does freewill play within the text? To what
     extent, are the characters free?
4.   What brings the characters happiness?
5.   To what extent, are the characters aware of their ultimate
     responsibility for their condition in life?
6.   To what extent, does the author believe that the
     individual is a free and responsible agent isolated in an
     otherwise deterministic world?
       Psychoanalytic Criticism
1. These critics begin
   with theory of how
   and why people
   behave the way they
2. These theories
   developed outside
   realm of literature.
      Psychoanalytic Criticism
3. These theories are
   then applied to a
   literary text.
4. Frequently invoked
   theorists: Sigmund
   Freud and Carl Jung
         Psychoanalytic Criticism
    Psychoanalysis has three

A. a method of investigation of
    the mind;
B. a systematized set of theories
    about human behaviour;
C. a method of treatment of
    psychological or emotional
       Psychoanalytic Criticism
   Can focus on one or more
   of the following:
A. The author – used to
   analyze his/her life
B. The characters – used to
   analyze one or more of
   the characters; a tool to
   explain the characters'
   behaviour and
       Psychoanalytic Criticism
C. The audience – used to
   explain the appeal of the
   work for those who read
   it; work is seen to embody
   universal human
   psychological processes
   and motivations; to which
   the reader respond more or
   less unconsciously
D. The text – used to analyze
   the role of language and
   symbolism in the work.
        Psychoanalytic Criticism
   Psychoanalytic critics generally work in areas covered
   by the following questions:
1. How do the operations of repression structure or inform
   the work?
2. Are there any oedipal dynamics - or any other family
   dynamics - at work here?
3. How can characters' behaviour, narrative events, and/or
   images be explained in terms of psychoanalytic concepts
   of any kind (for example...fear or fascination with death,
   sexuality - which includes love and romance as well as
   sexual behaviour - as a primary indicator of
   psychological identity?)
        Psychoanalytic Criticism
4. What does the work suggest about the psychological being
   of its author?
5.What might a given interpretation of a literary work suggest
   about the psychological motives of the reader?
6. 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

 Modernism is a
  rejection of traditional
  forms of literature
  (chronological plots,
  continuous narratives,
  closed endings etc.) in
  favor of experimental
 Modernism was a
 revolt against the
 conservative values
 of realism.
 They have a
 nostalgia for the
 past that they feel is
 lost so Modernist
 texts often include
 multiple allusions.
 Post-Modernists
 follow the same
 principles but
 celebrate the new
 forms of
 rather than
 lamenting them.
 Look for ironies within a
 Analyze fragmentation
  and a mixing of genres
  and forms
 Blurs the line between
  “high” literature (classics)
  and popular literature (NY
  Times Bestsellers)
 Use the following questions when analysing a text
   through the modernist/post-modernist lens:
1. How does the work undermine or contradict
   generally accepted truths?
2. How does the author (or a character) omit, change,
   or reconstruct memory and/or identity?
3. How does a work fulfill or move outside the
   established conventions of its genre?
4. What is left out of the text that if included might
   undermine the goal of the work?

5. If we changed the point of view of the text - say
   from one character to another, or multiple
   characters - how would the story change? Whose
   story is not told in the text? Who is left out and
   why might the author have omitted this character's

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