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Think of a family myth and write it down. Do people ever have different perspectives about what really happened? Write the myth from someone else’s perspective in the family Share “The Three Little Pigs” version 1 & 2 How do we know which version is true? Introduction
Any piece of text can be read with a number of different sets of “glasses,” meaning you are looking for different things within the text. The terms “literary theory” and “critical theory” are ways of looking at literature beyond the typical plot-theme character- setting studies. What is literary or critical theory?
There are several benefits: One of the views is likely to affirm your perspective and speak to what you see in the literature you are studying. Studying a view different from yours—not to disagree with it, but to understand it—helps you understand those who hold that view. Studying a work from more than one view gives you a deeper understanding of the author’s work and a better appreciation for the richness of it. What are the Benefits?
When analyzing literature, the most common ‘theories’ or ‘philosophies’ are: Feminist / Gender Marxist Psychological Archetypal or Mythological New Historicism Formalism Deconstructionist Main Types of Critical Perspectives
A formalist (aka New Criticism) reading of a text focuses on symbol, metaphor, imagery, and so on. Formalism ignores the author’s biography and focuses only on the interaction of literary elements within the text. It’s what you do most often in English literature. Ask the question: How is the story structured? It’s form, patterns, absences. (Ex. TLP) Structuralism/Formalism
Three Little Pigs What does the wolf symbolize? Notice the consonance of “I’ll huff and I’ll puff…” How does the story foreshadow the final fate of the pigs? What does the wolf’s dialogue tell us about his character? Structuralism/Formalism
Gender criticism analyzes literature through the lens of socially-constructed gender roles. The largest part of gender criticism is feminism, which critiques and seeks to correct women’s subordination to men in society. In its purist form, feminism is about equality and power. Ask the question: What does it mean to be female in this story? (Ex. Goldilocks) Feminism / Gender Theory
Goldilocks and the Three Bears As a single, young woman, Goldilocks finds herself without means or opportunity because she is unattached to a father or a husband. Perhaps, this is why she’s alone in the woods. An independent woman, then, is a threat to the “normal” nuclear family, represented by the three bears. Feminist
This critical viewpoint examines a text in relation to its historical or cultural backdrop. You may examine a text’s effect on history or culture. A historical/cultural analysis is often very similar to a biographical analysis, and it’s possible to view history, culture, and biography in a single essay. Ask the Question: What is going on in history that influences the text? (Ex. Crucible) Historical
The Crucible How accurate is Arthur Miller’s account of the Salem Witch Trials? What can The Crucible reveal about colonial New England and Puritan society? Historical
Psychological critical theory applies the theories of psychology to a text to better understand its characters Based largely on Freud, this theory hinges on the belief that an examination of people’s (characters’) unconscious desires. Drives governing human behavior Id – the animal nature that says, “Do what feels good.” Ego – the reality-based part of your personality that makes decisions to satisfy the Id and Superego Superego – the socialized “conscience” that tells you what’s right or fair Psychoanalytical
Oedipus Complex – Every boy has the unconscious desire to have sex with their mother; consequently, sons are deeply afraid of their fathers, and fathers are deeply threatened by their sons. Elektra Complex – Every daughter has the unconscious desire to have sex with their father; consequently, daughters are deeply afraid of their mothers, and mothers are deeply threatened by their daughters. Ask the Question: What drives a character? (Ex. Homer Simpson) Psychoanalytical
The Simpsons Why does Bart behave the way he does? What influences the relationships in the family? Psychoanalytical
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