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Introduction to Literary Criticism


Literary criticism is usually expressed in the form of a critical ... is a performative art and each reading is a performance Literature exists only ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to Literary Criticism

Introduction to Literary Criticism
  • Part One Goals
  • -define Literary Criticism
  • -define and describe Reader Response Criticism
  • -define and describe Formalism
  • -contrast Reader Response Criticism to Formalism

What is Literary Criticism?
  • Literary criticism is an attempt to evaluate and
    understand the literature of an author.
  • Literary criticism is a description, analysis,
    evaluation, or interpretation of a particular
    literary work or an author's writings as a whole.
  • Literary criticism is usually expressed in the
    form of a critical essay. In-depth book reviews
    are also sometimes viewed as literary criticism.

In other words,
  • Literary criticism is a view or opinion on what a
    particular written work means.
  • It is about the meanings that a reader finds in
    an author's literature.

Types of Criticism
  • There is much debate about the proper way to
    critically study a work of literature.
  • Some of the types, or schools, of criticism well
    be studying this year
  • Reader Response vs. Formalism
  • Psychoanalytical (Freudian, Jungian, Lacanian)
  • Marxist Criticism
  • Feminist Criticism
  • Post-Colonialism
  • Eco-criticism? Historicism? Others?

Reader Response Criticism
  • Literature is an incomplete work of sculpture.
  • We have to bring our own imagination to see the
    works full potential
  • Seems to be the most common way students are
    asked to analyze literature

First Type Reader Response
  • One of the oldest types of criticism based on
    Greek and Roman focus on rhetoric. They saw
    literature as a means of making an audience react
    in a certain way
  • In the reader-response critical approach, the
    primary focus falls on the reader and the process
    of reading rather than on the author or the text.

Theoretical Assumptions
  • Literature is a performative art and each reading
    is a performance
  • Literature exists only when it is read (If a
    tree falls in the forest)
  • The literary text possesses no fixed and final
    meaning or value there is no one "correct"
  • Literary meaning and value are "transactional,"
    or "dialogic," meaning they are created by the
    interaction of the reader and the text.

Different Audiences in Reader Response
  • IDEAL READER a hypothetical reader who possesses
    the competence to understand all parts of the
    text with absolute clarity.
  • INTENDED READER the reader consciously or
    unconsciously envisioned by the author when the
    text was produced.
  • REAL READER used to describe the overall meaning
    and effect of the text on an actual reader
    (including yourself!).

Figuring it out is the readers job
  • The reader is not passive! They have to work to
    find meaning in the text.
  • The text doesnt have a meaning in and of itself-
    it has meaning in relation to the reader
  • Meaning may come from relating to personal
    experiences, or filling in gaps in the text
    with your own thinking/analysis
  • Meaning changes depending on who the reader is,
    and what their background is.

Questions to ask
  • How does the text govern the reader? Focus on
    how texts guide, constrain, control reading
    through stylistic or linguistic analysis
  • Basically, how/why do you feel the way you do
    about the book based on how its written? Think
  • How true does this text feel?
  • Reader evaluates the text by comparing events,
    characters, settings to his or her real world
  • How do you react to the text?

The Anti-Reader Response Formalism, or New
  • The approach to literary analysis known as
    Formalism or New Criticism is a way of
    determining the meaning of a literary text by
    using only the text itself.
  • Formalism says a book has meaning independent of
    the readers response
  • Idea that a book should be analyzed as a
    reflection of whats IN the text, not what a
    reader interprets it to mean
  • More emphasis on ONE correct reading of a text,
    looking for ONE valid interpretation

This is similar to what you have already done
  • Think of Formalism as close reading. Really close
    reading, focusing on specific images or details
    and explaining how the text shows meaning through
    those details.
  • For example, A comparison is made between the
    flow of human blood in human veins, to that of
    the flow of water in the river. The river
    represents the blood that has been shed. Both are
    encompassed by a larger element. Rivers are
    contained by the earth much like blood is
    contained by the body.

Meaning comes from whats there, not what we
assign to whats there
  • Every piece of the text, like every cell in an
    organism or every brick in a building,
    contributes to the life or meaning of the text.
    Formalists ideally seek to explain and assess the
    function of all pieces of the text.
  • Ways to do this in the case of poetry, identify
    the speaker the event that prompted the poem
    the genre of poetry the text belongs to the
    person(s) to whom the poem seems to be addressed
    the literal meaning of the poem figurative uses
    of language--metaphors and their implications,
    symbols, tone, structure, etc.

The job of a Formalist critic
  • Identify what the text is doing
  • Explain how the text does that
  • Explain why the text does that
  • For example
  • The text shows a mans struggle to understand
    his father.
  • It shows this through the use of words like
    difficult, dominating, and opaque.
  • These words explain that the relationship was
    unclear to the speaker and that it was not an
    overall positive experience.

Formalisms diss to Reader Response Criticism
  • The "Intentional Fallacy" is the mistake of
    attempting to understand the author's intentions
    when interpreting a literary work.
  • The "Affective Fallacy" is the mistake of
    equating a work with its emotional effects upon
    an audience.
  • Ummeverything we did with TTTC?!

In conclusion,
  • Literary Criticism is the lens through which a
    reader makes meaning from a text. There are many
    different beliefs as to the real meaning of a
    text and how to get to that meaning.
  • Reader Response Criticism values the readers
    experience with literature, and says the meaning
    of a text comes from that interaction. The reader
    has a dialogue with the text, and that dialogue
    is the texts meaning
  • Formalism says that the text stands on its own
    without influence from personal reader responses
    and it shows a careful analysis of the components
    that add up to the whole. The result of that
    analysis is the meaning of the text.