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Chapter 32: Critical Approaches Important in the Study of Literature

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1 Chapter 32: Critical Approaches Important in the Study of Literature
AP English Literature & Composition Introduction to AP Literature

2 Literary Criticism Concerned with
Reading and interpreting stories, poems, and plays Establishing a theoretical understanding of literature May utilize a variety of lenses or approaches with which a reader can view and analyze the text.

3 Caveats for Critical Approaches
Not every approach is appropriate for every work. The approaches are not always mutually exclusive. A critic taking one approach may utilize methods that technically belong to another. Most criticism is pragmatic or eclectic rather than rigid.

4 Ten Basic Approaches Moral / Intellectual Topical / Historical
New Critical / Formalist Structuralist Feminist Criticism / Gender Studies / Queer Theory Economic Determinist / Marxist Psychological / Psychoanalytic Archetypal / Symbolic / Mythic Deconstructionalist Reader-Response

5 Moral / Intellectual Concerned with content, ideas, and values (moral, philosophical, and religious). Seeks to determine whether a work conveys a lesson or a message and whether it can help readers lead better lives and improve their understanding of the world. Readers should be left with the decision to accept the ideas conveyed by the work.

6 Topical / Historical Stresses the relationship of literature to its historical period, including Words and concepts unfamiliar to modern readers Biographical information about the author Criticism of this approach is that it deals with the history rather than the literature New Historicism: parallel reading of literary and nonliterary works to better understand the context of the literary work

7 New Critical / Formalist
Focuses on literary texts as formal works of art; discusses the use of literary elements in the manner of artistic technique Goes beyond explaining the content (what does it say?) and evaluates artistic quality (how well is it said?) One criticism of this approach is that it focuses on the author to the exclusion of the reader’s reaction.

8 Structuralist Attempts to discover the forms unifying all literature
Enables critics to discuss works from varied cultures and historical periods Most appropriate for longer narrative literature (novels, myths, stories, plays, and films)

9 Feminist Criticism / Gender Studies / Queer Theory
Promotes reading of non-canonical women writers Investigates how male and female characters are portrayed in literature, including Whether societal norms are supported or subverted The effect of patriarchal institutions (i.e. marriage) Interested in how interpretations differ between the sexes (do men and women read and write things differently?)

10 Feminist Criticism / Gender Studies / Queer Theory continued
Brings attention to gender rather than sexual differences Sees the masculine/feminine divide as socially constructed, not innate Challenges traditional patriarchal modes of thinking, which tend to value male over female experience

11 Feminist Criticism / Gender Studies / Queer Theory continued
Interested in how homosexuals are portrayed in literature and whether they write or read literature differently than heterosexuals Deals with lesbian and gay themes that Are explicit, usually in modern literature May be the subject of “veiled” references in canonical literature Queer theory analysis is often theoretical.

12 Economic Determinist / Marxist
Karl Marx emphasized that the primary influence on life was economic; society is in continuous conflict between capitalist oppressors and oppressed working people Approach judges literature from the perspective of economic and social class inequality and oppression.

13 Psychological / Psychoanalytic
Psychoanalysis: behavior is caused by hidden and unconscious motives This approach may be used to Explain the actions of fictional characters What motives influence behavior and speech? How much background info. does the author give? Analyze authors and the artistic process What life experiences relate to and explain characteristic subjects or preoccupations?

14 Archetypal / Symbolic / Mythic
Presupposes that human life is built up out of patterns (archetypes) that are similar throughout various cultures and historical times Similar to structuralist analysis Common archetypes God’s / god’s creation of human beings Sacrifice of a hero Search for paradise

15 Deconstructionist Seeks to challenge and undermine logocentrism (belief that the words of a text directly express the author’s intentions) Assumes the instability of language and impossibility of arriving at a fixed standard General strategy Begin with standard formalist reading of text Undermine formalist interpretation in order to yield a new reading of the text

16 Reader-Response Phenomenology: our knowledge is based on our collective and personal understanding of the world and our conclusions about it A literary work is the result of the relationship and interaction between the author, the text, and the reader.

17 Reader-Response continued
Literature is not fully created until the reader assimilates and actualizes it. This method is initially personal and anecdotal. The more that readers bring to the literature (experiences, knowledge, interests, and studies) the more competent and comprehensive their “transactions” will be.

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