2LITERARY CRITICISMThe discipline of interpreting, analyzing, and evaluatingliterature…. Long-standing texts with timeless values,values, universal themes, & exceptional artistry and powerInterpret: What does this work of literature MEAN?Analyze: HOW does this piece of literature WORK? (pull thingsapart, examine relationships, figure out effects, etc.)Evaluate: What is this work’s VALUE?Literary Criticism improves reading skills, gives tools to solveproblems and understand literature, expands awareness, givesmore ways to respond, gives more things to FIND in lit., anddevelops CRITICAL THINKING skills“criticism” here does NOT mean finding fault or expressingdislike or saying what is “wrong” with literatureMust be backed up with logical reasons and textual evidenceLITERARY CRITICISM
3WHAT IS LITERARY THEORY? The body of ideas and methods used in the reading and studying of literatureVarious theories, focal points, “lenses”, and approaches to explain and interpret textsApplication of diverse knowledge and perspectives to yield multiple interpretations of literatureWHAT IS LITERARY THEORY?
4Reader-Response Theory vs. Critical Theory Whatever you think; like ordislike; personal opinions,connections, reactionsPURPOSEFUL reading and DECODINGaccording to a specific lens, viewpoint,approach; identifying particular elementsand meanings that emerge BASED ON thatlens, view, perspectiveReader-Response Theory vs. Critical Theory
6THE ARCHETYPAL LENS / APPROACH Identifies and analyzes the variance of ARCHETYPES in literatureCommon patterns, symbols, motifs shared / repeated across cultures & erasStock characters; common, basic plot patterns; traditions, rituals, and imagesfrom ancient works that recur in many works and many culturesCarl Jung: archetypes exist is collective unconscious; shared, universalimages and patterns in every human’s subconscious (product of inheritedexperiences of primordal ancestors; imprints in minds at birth)AKA: Mythic Approach or Symbolic ApproachMythological and/or Biblical elementsThe stuff of dreams and fairytalesWHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (great for Archetypal Lens)THE ARCHETYPAL APPROACH / LENS
7ARCHETYPAL CHARACTERS EXAMPLES:ARCHETYPAL CHARACTERSthe hero, helper, sidekick, villain, usurper, wise old sage, outcast, caring mother, sternfather, underdog, femme fatale, the innocent, the avengerARCHETYPAL SITUALTIONSthe task / trial, journey / quest, loss of innocence, initiation, coming of age,Pursuit of revenge, ascent into heaven or some “greater plane”, descentInto the underworld or afterlife, searching for father, damsel in distress, loss,Confusion, banishment, discovery of identity or worthARCHETYPAL IMAGESthe flood, water, fire, seasons, circles, colors, heavenly bodies,plants, animals, forest, numbers, the magical weaponEXAMPLES: ARCHETYPAL CHARACTERS
8QUESTIONS AN ARCHETYPAL THEORIST WOULD ASK: What images, symbols, character TYPES, or stereotypical life events are present that also exist in many other works?What motifs / events from this work resemble motifs / events from myths, fairy tales, or other ancient stories?What traditions or ritualistic human behaviors are present that are common across vast cultures and vast eras?QUESTIONS AN ARCHETYPAL THEORIST WOULD ASK:
9Archetypal Characters to Explore In Hamlet: Gertrude = the femme fataleOphelia = the innocent, obedient, oppressed little girlHamlet = the avengerClaudius = the villain or usurperIn Hamlet:
11THE GENDER LENS / APPROACH Grew out of “Feminist Theory” (focusing on women’s roles /analysis of society’s beliefs about the function of womenInvestigates gender & sexual categories and identitiesSocietal gender roles (traditionally and culturally)Sexual dynamics and interactions between men and womenGender roles as a human construct, products of cultureExamines how feminine and masculine roles are representedImportance of language use with each genderSociety’s biases and beliefs and sexual stereotypes in literatureTHE GENDER LENS / APPROACH
12Questions a Gender Theorist Would Ask: How are women portrayed? Men? What stereotypes are reinforced?Does the text subvert the role of women? Of men?To what extend do men show dominant roles in order to control or suppress women?Does the text deal with seeking intimacy in relationships?Do women in this text seek independence from male domination?To what extent does the text show a female as “caregiver”?a male as “doer”?
13‘Gender Criticism’ Issues to Explore in Hamlet: A “Gender Theorist” would assert that Ophelia’s madness stands for the oppression of women in societyAct III, scene I – from Ophelia’s entrance after Hamlet’s soliloquy to Ophelia’s exitAct III, scene ii – from Hamlet’s initial exchanges with Ophelia before the ‘play’ begins to Hamlet’s line “As woman’s love…”Act III, scene v – Ophelia’s 1st and 2nd set of linesGertude’s role in the play? Especially Act III, scene iv (“The Closet Scene”)Example: A “Gender Theorist” would assert that Ophelia’s madness stands for the oppression of women in society
15THE HISTORICAL LENS / APPROACH Examines the events, culture, and lifestyle surrounding theSETTING of the novel (historical context of the story)AUTHOR’S life and times (historical context of HIS world)Identifies historical and cultural aspects that influence AND thatare revealed in the workIdentifies links between fictional characters in a work and actualhistorical figures
16EXAMPLE: In examining THE CRUCIBLE, Historical Criticism would delve into two areas: the lives of Puritans during the Salem WitchTrials (the play’s setting), AND the politics of the 1950s in America(the McCarthy ‘red scare’, when the play was written)Why, in 1953 America, did Arthur Miller write a play about theSalem Witch Trials that occurred in 1692 Massachusetts?
17Questions a Historicism Theorist Would Ask: What historical events relate to / are significant to the contextof the story?When and where was this written, and what was going on inthe world at that time and place?What was the culture and lifestyle of the author?What was the culture and lifestyle of the people who livedduring this era?How do the text, author, and cultural context work togetherto produce meaning?
18Historical Theory Issues to Explore in Hamlet: Link between Hamlet and historical figure Robert Dereveaux, the 2nd Earlof Essex (spoke treasonous words while appearing mad)Act II, scenes i and ii – Polonius attempts to explain cause of Hamlet’smadnessAct V, scene I – Gravediggers discuss Hamlet’s madnessAny scenes involving Claudius, Gertrude, or the political background(Norway and Denmark) could be explored for historical parallelsLong discussion Hamlet has with players, Act II, scene ii, about whythey are now a traveling company, is based on events during theElizabethan period
20MARXIST CRITICISM / THE MARXIST LENS Explores class conflict, class distinctions, and economic status in the workExamines social, political, and economic meanings of literatureFocuses on struggle for power and its effect on social classBelief that social and economic conditions directly influence beliefs and valuesEconomic determinismClass warfare is a product of cultureEffects of those in power and how they seek to maintain that power(especially through art, literature, education, propaganda)Struggle between working class and ruling eliteExamines portrayal of behaviors and traits ‘typical’ of different social classesMaterial forces that shape the physiological experienceMARXIST CRITICISM / THE MARXIST LENS
21“For Marxism, getting and keeping economic power is the motive Marxism in Movies:The TitanicToy Story 3Fight Club“For Marxism, getting and keeping economic power is the motivebehind all social and political activities, including education,philosophy, religion, government, the arts, science, technology,the media, and so on.” (Tyson 53)
22Questions a Marxist Theorist Would Ask: What is the economic situation of the characters, and what happensas a result of this status?To what extent are the characters’ lives influenced or determinedby social, political, and economic forces?What social forces and institutions are represented in the work?Does the work OVERLOOK or neglect economic, social, and politicalimplications?How is the lower-class shown? How is the upper-class portrayed?Is there are subversion of the ‘typical’ behavior / traits of each class?Is there a certain class that the work seems to favor, advocate,or champion? Is there a class the work seems to satirize? Isthe author bringing attention to the flaws of ‘class distinction’?
23Marxist Theory Applied to Hamlet Claudius’ rise to power and subsequent struggle to maintain powerSubversion of the traits / behaviors typically associated with wealthy,upper class (gravedigger outsmarts and confuses Hamlet; gravediggersargue the importance of their job)Hamlet’s assertion that death is the final and permanent equalizer(social classes, social distinctions disappear)Elements of the “Lower Class Carnival” (masks, chaos, scandals, drinking, sex, etc.) are actually quite rampant in the play’s upper classes(Claudius’ drinking, Hamlet’s many sexual references, Claudius’ “mask”,Hamlet’s “mask”, Claudius and the Queen’s scandalous marriage)Questions the Psychoanalytical Theorist Would Ask:
25PSYCHOANALYTICAL CRITICISM / THE PSYCHOANALYTICAL LENS Analyzes lit. in terms of psychoanalysis of the author AND of the characterDynamics of the human mind; how the human mind works; mental processesCharacter motivations AND author motivationsHow human development occurs; root causes of the formation of the psycheAuthor’s psychological history / problems AND character’s psych. history / problemsFREUD – id, ego, superego, Oedipus, ElectraFreud argued that the id desired the destruction of the same-sex parentIceberg metaphorHow id, ego, superego are represented in literatureParental relationships – in Freudian psychology, one’s relationship with one’s parentsis a significant determiner of how person relates with other humansDream analysisGreen Eggs and Ham (great for Psychoanalytical Criticism)PSYCHOANALYTICAL CRITICISM / THE PSYCHOANALYTICAL LENS
26IDRage, evil, sexual desire, addiction, impulse, pleasure, hedonismWithout restraint; drive to survive, procreate, and have unbridled fun;needs to be held in checkEGOIntermediary between id’s desires / impulses and external world;Guidelines for behavior; Ego balances demands of id with restrictions ofSuperego; Ego represses id and allows for acceptable levels of satisfyingneedsSUPEREGOMental province that responds to parental, social, moral, religiousinfluences re: behavior and propriety; Parental and ideal force thatpermeates regarding the best, right way to be
28Questions a Psychoanalytical Theorist Would Ask: What motivates (deep within his mind) the protagonist or antagonist?In what way does text show psychosexual development of character?Does the character demonstrate any neuroses or psychoses?How might the character’s behavior be influenced by forces of id, ego, or superego?What conflicts occur between the character’s id, ego, superego?Are there any implications of an Oedipus or Electra complex in the text?What are the deeper effects of the character’s parental relationships?What happened in the author’s childhood that may have influenced his thinking?Is the author trying to work out a psychological problem or situation?Does the text reveal the author’s repressed desires?What was the relationship like between the author and his parents? Does thathave any impact on the crafting of this text?
29Psychoanalytical Issues to Explore in Hamlet: Critic Janet Aldeman asserts that at the center of Hamlet lies the problemOf Hamlet having to struggle with the father figure in his life.Act I, scene ii – Hamlet discusses his sullied flesh and Claudius’ actionsAct III, scene ii – The play-within-a-play, as Hamlet acts as a ChorusAct III, scene iii – Hamlet explains why he must wait to kill ClaudiusAct III, scene iv – Hamlet confronts GertrudeAct IV, scene iii – Hamlet insults Claudius