Historical biographical literary theory
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Historical/Biographical Literary Theory. By Eves & Jevie. What It Means.

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Historical/Biographical Literary Theory

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Historical biographical literary theory

Historical/Biographical Literary Theory

By Eves & Jevie


What it means

What It Means

Historical/Biographical criticism evaluates literature as a reflection upon the author’s life and times (also/or the characters’ life and times). This method stresses the influence of the author’s background and the political, economical, and sociological context of her time as crucial to understanding the meaning of her works.

As opposed to other methods, historical/biographical places more emphasis on outside influences on the text than on the text itself.


How it s used

How It’s Used

  • In History or English

  • To understand the author’s work, as well as their intent, and how their life and personal history may have influenced it

  • For a fun, fun, fun way to spend ones time


The good the bad and the boring

The Good, the Bad, and the Boring

Advantages

Disadvantages

  • Works well for some works that are obviously political or semi-autobiographical in nature

  • Places allusions in their proper classical, political, or biblical background

  • It assumes that there is a direct connection between the author’s personal experiences and their works

  • Reduces art to the level of biographies and historical accounts

  • Makes the work relative to the times and author rather than universal

  • Induces an “intentional fallacy”—the belief that a work’s meaning or value is determined by the author’s intention


Huh types of questions asked

Huh? Types of Questions Asked

  • Is this text an extension of the author’s position on issues in the author’s life?

  • How are events in the novel similar to major events in the author’s time period?

  • How did the time period influence the style and plot?

  • How does the text reflect the author’s life?

  • How is the main character similar to the author?

  • How are the events in the novel similar to events that happened in the author’s life?

  • Is the setting similar to the author’s home?


You ve actually done this before

You’ve Actually Done this Before

Historical Example

Biographical Example

The Crucible, Arthur Miller

  • Salem witch trials of 1692 and McCarthyism/House Un-American Committee persecution (1950s)

  • Communism and witchcraft

  • Unjust accusation and treatment by people of power with little justification

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

  • Atticus Finch strongly resembles Lee’s father, Amasa Coleman Lee

  • 1919 Amasa defended 2 black men accused of murder

  • Lee’s brother Edwin is 4 years older than her, just as Jem is to Scout


You ve probably not done this before

You’ve Probably Not Done This Before

Historical Example

Biographical Example

Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens

  • The story of child laborer Robert Blincoe was widely read in the 1830s, when Oliver Twist was published (1838)

  • Direct contextual reference to what the author viewed as social evils of the time

  • Focuses on a major social/political/economical issue (poverty)

Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton

  • Wharton makes constant parallels between her character Newland Archer and her real-life lover, Walter Berry

  • The society and locales in the novel are strikingly similar to Wharton’s childhood

  • Disdain for New York traditions expressed in the novel resemble Wharton’s own feelings


Sites cited

Sites Cited

  • http://www.cla.purdue.edu/blackmon/engl360k/critical.html

  • http://www.york.ac.uk/res/researchintegration/Integrative_Research_Methods/Apitzsch%20Biographical%20Analysis%20April%202007.pdf

  • http://home.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/200/litcrit.html

  • http://eolit.hrw.com/hlla/litelem/histbiochart.pdf

  • http://www.literatureclassics.com/ancientpaths/litcrit.html


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