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What is literature?

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Works that fit the parameters of literary genres: poem, essay, short story, novel? Anything that is written? What is literature? ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: What is literature?


1
What is literature?
Any work with a unique aesthetic quality? Texts
that have stood the test of time? Works of the
imagination/creative writing? Works with a
particular set of qualitiese.g., plot,
character, tone, setting, etc.? Works that
emphasize universal themes (i.e., transcend the
merely social or political)? Works that fit
the parameters of literary genres poem, essay,
short story, novel? Anything that is written?
2
What is literary theory?
  • The capacity to generalize about phenomena and to
    develop concepts that form the basis for
    interpretation and analysisin this instance, of
    a literary text.

3
What is literary criticism?
  • The disciplined application of theoretical
    principles for the purpose of analyzing,
    interpreting, and evaluating literary texts.

4
THE 4 CRITICAL VARIABLES of LITERARY THEORY
CRITICISM
1. The World
2. The Author
3. The Text
Other Texts
Real World
Beyond the World
Text Ideologically constructed language
ITS CONTEXT
Text Objective reality
Text Symbol,
Archetype
4. The Reader

Gender Studies WORLD/author/text/reader
Postcolonial AUTHOR/world/text/reader Marxist
WORLD/text Territorial TEXT/?reader/
author/world)
Formalism the TEXT (as art) Structuralism the
TEXT (as language system) Psychoanalytic
AUTHOR/READER/text Reader Response
READER/TEXT/community of readers w/shared values
5
SOME TRADITIONAL APPROACHES
  • Historicalauthors historical moment is key to
    understanding a literary text
  • Biographicalauthors personal experiences are
    central to understanding the text
  • Social realism (?)social transparency is key to
    understanding the text

6
Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893)
  • Applying the scientific method to artassumes
    language is factual, reality is absolute, the
    truth can be verified.
  • Taines three major factors for interpreting a
    text
  • Racei.e., national characteristics of the
    artists historical place and time
  • Milieui.e., sum total of artists experience
  • Momentintellectual philosophical currents of
    artists historical place and time

7
Wellek and WarrenTheory of Literature (1949)
  • Key issues to understanding a text
  • The writers heredity environment (Taines
    milieu)
  • The fictional world of the text vis-à-vis the
    world outside the text (Taines race moment
  • The audience for which the text was intended

8
Irresolvable problem with traditional (pre-1970)
social approaches to literary interpretation
  • Practitioners assumed that historical,
    biographical, and social information could be
    accurately gathered and verified. They viewed
    language as transparent, facts as reliable,
    history as objective. Poststructuralist theories
    about the ideological appropriation of language
    by dominant groups postmodernist
    disillusionment with objective reality both
    undermine old-style criticism.

9
NEW CRITICISM
  • Meaning resides in the textnot in reader,
    author, or world
  • Texts may contain numerous messages, but must
    have a unifying central theme created by the
    perfect union of all artistic elements.
  • Texts are artistic creations
  • Close reading is the basis of new critical
    analysis
  • The methodology for finding meaning is clear-cut
    the tools are unique to literary analysis
  • one type of formalism

10
READER RESPONSE
  • Text has many interpretationstext reader
    interact to create meaning
  • Meaning ultimately resides in the readers mind
  • or the consensual mind of a community of
    readers (this class, for example)
  • A texts truth is relative
  • Readers may reach the same conclusions about a
    work--but approach the task quite differently

11
STRUCTURALISM
  • Meaning resides in the structure of language, not
    in art nor in the readers mind
  • Scientific approach to literary analysis
  • structure of language as a logical sign
    system determines meaning
  • Two levels of language langue (the Kings
    English) parole (everyday speech)
  • Interpret a text or part of a text by taking its
    language apart (study word derivations, sentence
    syntax, etc.)

12
POSTSTRUCTURALSOCIAL CRITICISM
13

meaning
meaning
Deconstruction
  • Textscomposed of language, an unstable sign
    system that always defers meaning.
  • Truth is constructed, not given, so theres no
    such thing as A correct interpretation
  • Look for an apparent meaning of some aspect of
    the text show how the text undermines
    (deconstructs) it look again show how the text
    undermines the latest interpretation, etc.
  • Look for oppositions good vs. evil, e.g. Show
    how the text undermines first one, then the other
    so that good and evil are exposed as empty
    concepts

Jacques Derrida
14
NEW HISTORICISM
  • Literature is one among many socially constructed
    texts. If there is a difference, its the
    intentional use of the imagination to convey
    ideas.
  • History is every bit as subjective as
    intentionally imaginative texts
  • Purpose of analyzing literature is to locate
    hidden social messages, especially those that
    promote oppression.
  • Texts have no final interpretation
  • Language, though socially constructed, is stable
    enough to be useful.
  • Find a small intriguing or odd piece of the text
    and interpret it by comparing it to contemporary
    sign systemsmagazines, newspapers, fads, laws.
    Try to locate uses abuses of power.

15
POSTCOLONIALISM
  • Meaning resides in text, history, and ideology
  • Literature is a political toolthose in power
    decide what is art
  • Truth is relative
  • Study the authors (and readers) life
    times locate tensions between conflicting
    cultures explore the double consciousness of
    colonized postcolonized writers observe how
    colonizers refashion the colonized

16
MARXISM
  • Meaning resides in text, history, ideology
    messages of oppression class conflict
  • Texts are commodities, not timeless works of art
  • Truths are socially constructed.
  • Look for evidence of oppressive ideologies of the
    dominant social group look for uses abuses of
    power

What workers look like to a capitalist
17
FEMINIST CRITICISM
  • Meaning is socially constructed.
  • Texts have more than one interpretation
  • Texts are commodities (products of society)
  • Truth is relative, highly dependent on arbitrary
    categories of difference, esp. those based
    on sex and gender
  • Look for systems of containment for evidence of
    repression, oppression, suppression, subversion,
    rebellion in texts by women study womens
    unique ways of understanding and writing about
    the human condition.

18
Territorialism
  • Possessions (objects of desire) are metaphors for
    who we are or how we wish to be perceivedaspects
    of the self.
  • Possessions may be tangible or intangible (my car
    or my idea, e.g.)
  • They occupy mental space cognitive, affective,
    and conative.
  • These spaces strongly resemble territorieswith
    rights of ownership, markers, boundaries, rules
    of in and out, defensive strategies, etc.
  • Look for territorial behaviors determine the
    object(s) of desire what aspect of self is in
    play? Who owns the object? Who wants it? Why?
    Identify the territorial act acquisition,
    management, or defense? How does this information
    improve our understanding of the text?
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