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Critical Theories A Matter of Perspective. History of Literary Criticism  Biographical/ Historical Approach  Used in late 19thC  Seeks to understand.

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Presentation on theme: "Critical Theories A Matter of Perspective. History of Literary Criticism  Biographical/ Historical Approach  Used in late 19thC  Seeks to understand."— Presentation transcript:

1 Critical Theories A Matter of Perspective

2 History of Literary Criticism  Biographical/ Historical Approach  Used in late 19thC  Seeks to understand works by looking at the lives and times of the authors.  Only by understanding the authors’ perspectives could one truly understand the text.  Only one correct interpretation possible.

3 History Cont…  New Criticism  Early 20thC  It was developed as a reaction to the historical/biographical approach  Focuses on the text itself and disregards the life and times of the author.  Textual support is its legacy.

4 History Cont…  Critical Theories  Gained popularity in the 1970’s  Focuses on multiple interpretations of a single text. (Not only one possible interpretation)  Not only is the text important, but the reader must also be analyzed  Everything still requires textual support (owes debt to New Criticism)

5 Let’s look a little closer at our 5 theories. (which is not an exhaustive list)

6 New Criticism  Included in this list because it is still widely used.  Focuses on “organic unity” of a text. (Overall theme)  Critics must use elements like symbolism, metaphor, characters and such to support theme.  Only ONE correct way to interpret the text.

7 Questions New Critics Ask: 1. What is the single overarching meaning of the work? 2. How do the elements of the story (plot, setting, symbols, etc) contribute to its meaning? 3. Are there any conflicts amongst the elements which take away from the overall meaning?

8 Reader Response Theory  Created as a reaction to New Criticism  Examines the relationship between individual readers and the text  Everyone will take something different from the text.  Examine elements in the text that lead you to develop a certain point of view, or predict certain events in the story.

9 Questions Reader Response Critics Ask: 1. Are there any characters in this story that remind me of someone I know? How does this affect my understanding of the work? 2. What do certain scenes look like when I picture them? What techniques has the author used to create this image? 3. What are the ambiguous or unexplained parts? How do I understand them? Why? 4. How might others’ interpretations of this piece be different from mine? Why? 5. How might I have understood this work differently a year ago, or a year from now?

10 Marxist Theory  Based on Karl Marx’s ideas on class and economics  Society is made up of “upper” (rich) and “lower” (poor) classes  Most (if not all) conflict is a direct result of class inequality  Capitalism creates false value based on rarity not usefullness  Exposes repressive ideologies (partiotism, consumerism, etc.)

11 Questions Marxist Theorists Ask: 1. Does the work reinforce (intentionally or not) classist values? 2. How might this work be interpreted as a critique of classist values? 3. Does the work in some ways support a Marxist agenda and in other ways condemn it? In other words, is it ideologically conflicted? (Intentionally or not) 4. How does the work reflect the socioeconomic conditions of the time it is set? 5. Does this work critique or condone any oppressive ideologies?

12 Feminist Theory  Analyze the roles women play in our world  Traditionally the white male point of view has been treated as the “universal view”  Women and (other cultures) have been seen as “alternative viewpoints.”  Patriarchy undermines women’s freedom, and treats this lack of freedom as “the natural order.”  Women are objectified either by being blatantly repressed or elevated (put on a pedestal)

13 Questions Feminist Theorists Ask: 1. Are there any examples of universalism? (especially from a patriarchical perspective) 2. What does this work reveal about the operations of patriarchy? Does it reinforce or undermine patriarchy? 3. How are women portrayed? How is this portrayal related to the time period in which the piece is set? 4. What does the work suggest about the relationship between race and gender? 5. What does the history of the work’s acceptance or rejection by the public and critics say about the operations of patriarchy?

14 Postcolonial Theory  Examine both acceptance and resistance to colonization  Usually takes the perspective of the colonized  While most colonizers have withdrawn their militaries and governments from colonized countries the legacy of colonization remains  Postcolonial theorists look for colonial themes (first encounters, alienation, Othering, mimicry, exile, identity, etc.)

15 Questions Postcolonial Theorists Ask: 1. How does the text represent various aspects of colonial oppression? 2. What does the text reveal about the politics/psychology of colonialism and anti- colonialism? 3. What does the work reveal about cultural differences? Are there any examples of “Othering?” 4. How does the text represent the internal conflicts among both the colonizers and the colonized? 5. What does the work say about identity?

16 Overall  Shift from one answer to multiple perspectives (objective vs. subjective)  “Death of the author” (focus on textual support rather than life of author)  There is a great deal of overlap between theories  Interpret anything (everything) in your life (Just don’t drive yourself crazy)

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