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Literary Theory Dr. Maier. Aristotle: Poetics ●First significant work of literary criticism ●Authored in 335 B.C. ●Pity and Fear (Eleos and Phobos) ●Catharsis.

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Presentation on theme: "Literary Theory Dr. Maier. Aristotle: Poetics ●First significant work of literary criticism ●Authored in 335 B.C. ●Pity and Fear (Eleos and Phobos) ●Catharsis."— Presentation transcript:

1 Literary Theory Dr. Maier

2 Aristotle: Poetics ●First significant work of literary criticism ●Authored in 335 B.C. ●Pity and Fear (Eleos and Phobos) ●Catharsis ●Mimesis

3 A Multiplicity of Approaches Literary critics are almost never unified in their interpretation of a novel or any literary work. Why do you suppose this is the case? What factors make it virtually impossible for critics to come to a consensus regarding the meaning of a literary work?

4 The “Traditional” Approach to Reading The literary text has a moral “meaning” that is to be ascertained through careful reading and analysis of themes, characters, and passages. This meaning contributes to the moral edification of the reader and makes him or her a better citizen. Literature is universal and its moral messages transcend historical circumstances.

5 Hermeneutics Originally derived from Biblical interpretation in the Middle Ages Later iterations of theory developed idea of “hermeneutic circle” Constant interplay between part and whole. A close reading of a short passage in a novel can be related to the overarching themes of the novel.

6 Biographical Criticism Understands literature in terms of the author’s life, education, philosophical and political orientation, and his or her other works. For some critics, the main task of reading should be determining an author’s original intent in crafting the literary work.

7 Russian Formalist Approach Rejects moralistic approach to reading. Literature is unique and is different from other forms of language. Literary language has a special property that sets it off from ordinary language. Reading literature means paying close attention to the literary properties of its language. The literary work is a closed “system.”

8 The New Critical Approach Not really “new” anymore. Anglo-American school. The historical circumstances of the work play no role in interpretation The author’s life is likewise irrelevant to understanding the literary work. Focus should be on literary work as a single entity, understood entirely on its own terms.

9 The Marxist Approach Economic motives drive all aspects of human existence. Novels are cultural productions that obey the same economic laws. Novels are to be read for the insight they provide into certain socioeconomic structures. No novel can be understood independently of its historical context. The author is the slave of history and the economic forces that drive history.

10 Archetypal Criticism Literature should be understood in terms of its relationships to cultural archetypes that transcend cultures. These archetypes appear and reappear throughout the history of literature. Archetypal criticism draws connections across cultures and literary periods.

11 Psychoanalytical Criticism Understands literature according to Freudian psychology and its terms. The Unconscious plays a significant role in all human behavior. Literature illuminates the motives of human action and the influence of unconscious drives.

12 The Poststructuralist/Deconstruction Approach Rejects Marxist incorporation of history into literary interpretation. Endorses the focus on language in New Criticism and Russian Formalism. However, language itself is inherently unreliable. Language does not carry absolute, fixed meaning. It is linguistic play.

13 Postmodernism Rejects traditional distinction between “high” and “low” culture. Likewise rejects dichotomy of literature and popular fiction. All forms of cultural production and linguistic play can be studied to demonstrate false suppositions and deceptive practices.

14 Feminism Literature can be read in terms of gender relations and the problematic assignment of gender roles. Gender is not a static category but a construct Traditional discourse is dominated by male society. Criticism should unmask the presuppositions of a male-dominated society and present the whole picture.

15 New Historicism Accepts the postmodern idea that “high” culture should not be unique focus of study. Incorporates non-traditional elements into literary analysis such as pamphlets, advertisements, and other non-literary texts from a particular historical era. A Shakespeare play can be interpreted through use of a medical text from Elizabethan times.

16 Ecocriticism A more recent school of criticism endeavors to approach literature through the lens of ecology. Central question of Ecocriticism: How does literature illuminate man’s relationship to nature?

17 Questions? 1. What is the basic contrast between New Criticism and Biographical Criticism? 2. What is the bone of contention between Marxist and archetypal critics? 3. How might an advocate of Russian Formalism approach a work of literature? How would a New-Historical approach conflict with a Formalist approach?

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