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Literary Theory Source - http://bghs.d214.org/TeachersProjectSite/miceandmen_multiple.htm and http://bghs.d214.org/TeachersProjectSite/miceandmen_multiple.htm A Guide to Literary Criticism
Literary Theory or Criticism: Methods used by readers, and those who study literature, to make sense out of a work of literature -- to determine its meaning.
Literary Theory or Criticism: It is the art of making judgments on the merit of the literary work when weighed against a set of standards or criteria.
Major Literary Theory Perspectives Textual/Formal Biographical Historical Sociological Feminist Marxist Racial or Ethical Perspectives Religious or Political Points of View Reader Response
Textual/Formalist Theory (also called New Critical Theory) Text meaning is objective Readers should not bring outside information to the text Literature for literature’s sake
Questions Formalists ask: How is the work structured or organized? What is the plot and how does it relate to the structure? Who are the major and minor characters? What do they represent? How do they relate to one another?
Questions Formalists ask (cont’d): What is the setting? How does it relate to the characters and the action? Is the setting symbolic? Does the author use imagery? Figurative language? Symbols? What is their function?
Biographical Looks at how author’s background effects his/her work Sees a single work as part of a larger body of work Believe authors write from experience and are consistent in their themes, topics, and styles
Questions to ask from a biographical perspective What influences -- persons, ideas, movements -- are evident in the writer’s life and reflected in his work? What events in the author’s life are represented? Why might the author alter facts? How does this work fit into the author’s larger body of work?
Historical Criticism Looks at time period in which work was written Looks at time in which novel is set Literature can help us understand time periods in history
Questions Historical Critics ask When was the work written? What does it reveal about the standards, values, and tastes at the time it was written? How does the setting of the book relate to the time in which it was written?
Sociological Criticism Concerned about the concept of power Marxist -- economic power Feminist -- portrayal of gender Literature as a way of understanding how humans relate to each other
Questions Sociological Critics ask What forces and institutions are represented in the work? How are they portrayed? To what extent are the lives of the characters influenced or determined by social, political and economic forces? To what extent are they aware of these forces?
Questions Sociological Critics ask Questions Sociological Critics ask con’t. What roles do men and women assume in the work? How are the relationships between men and women portrayed? To what extent does the portrayal of men and women reflect the time and place in which the work was written? Does the author present the work from a predominantly male or female point of view?
Reader Response Theory What we do naturally Meaning of text is negotiated Highly subjective Literature as a way of understanding our lives
Questions RR Critics ask What is your reaction to the work? How do you feel about the characters? What places in the text caused you to stop and think? Do you agree with the author’s statement or perspective?
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