Literary Criticism: An Overview Critical Approaches to Literature Dr, Amy Berry SMSU February 1, 2012 Literary criticism gives us a window into a work of literature It gives us a particular way of understanding the text from a specific viewpoint Formalism maintains that a literary work contains certain intrinsic features, and the theory "...defined and addressed the specifically literary qualities in the text" (Richter 699). Therefore, it's easy to see Formalism's relation to Aristotle's theories of dramatic construction Dramatic Form Denouement—Climax and unraveling Dramatic Conflict Builds Rising Action Falling action Resolution Applying Formalist Dramatic Form to Understanding Shakespeare’s Hamlet Hamlet Dramatic Form What is the rising action, conflict, denouement, and falling action in Shakespeare’s Hamlet? How does dramatic form analysis help us to understand the play? Formalism: New Criticism New Critical theories are still used in secondary and college level instruction in literature and even writing •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? Using New Critical Approaches to Understand Hamlet What are the main ironies in Hamlet? What are several strong tragic ironies in the play? Is there a central passage or passages that sums up the play? That captures the essence of Hamlet’s character? What recurring images or symbols connect the various parts of the play? What recurring themes create the overall meaning of the play? Reader Response/Close Reading What Do You Think? At its most basic level, reader response criticism considers readers' reactions to literature as vital to interpreting the meaning of the text • The role of the reader is critical to the meaning of the text • There is no objective literary text • Readers create the meaning of the text through the act of reading and interpreting The reader, not the writer, creates the text!!!! What Does Hamlet Mean to You?? What meaning do you create as you read the text? How might we interpret a literary text to show that the reader's response is the topic of the story? Historicism Historicism places the literary text in an historical context. History is a series of events that have a linear, causal relationship: event A caused event B; event B caused event C; and so on The literary text is a product of history, a reflection of history, and a record of history • What language/characters/events present in the work reflect the current events of the author’s 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...? Using Historicism to Understand Hamlet What language/characters/events present in the play reflect the current events of the author’s day? How does this portrayal criticize the leading political figures or movements of the day? How does the play relate to other historical/cultural texts from the same period? Relate Hamlet to Dr. Faustus Feminist Literary Criticism Feminist criticism makes women’s experience, status, and power the center of reading and interpretation Feminist criticism is concerned with "...the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women Feminist Principles that Inform Feminist Literary Criticism Women are oppressed by patriarchy economically, politically, socially, and psychologically; patriarchal ideology is the primary means by which they are kept oppressed Using Feminist Criticism to Understand Hamlet What are the power differences between women and men? How do these power differences limit the power, status and choices of women?