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Approaches to Literary Criticism AP English Language Ms. Glass, Emily Doyle, and Carter Smith. Psychological Criticism Gender Criticism Marxist Criticism Historical & Biographical Criticism. Psychological Criticism. Key Concepts. Personal trauma ----- > hidden, unacceptable fears

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approaches to literary criticism ap english language ms glass emily doyle and carter smith

Approaches to Literary CriticismAP English LanguageMs. Glass, Emily Doyle, and Carter Smith

Psychological Criticism

Gender Criticism

Marxist Criticism

Historical & Biographical Criticism

psychological criticism
Psychological Criticism

Key Concepts

  • Personal trauma ----- > hidden, unacceptable fears
  • Hidden, unacceptable fears or desires ------ > internal conflict
  • Ways in which internal conflict manifests itself: depression, emotional disturbance, “abnormal” sexual activity, drug and alcohol abuse, obsessive behavior, violence, etc.
methods of dealing with conflict
Methods of Dealing with Conflict:
  • Repression: hiding one’s desires and fears in the unconscious
  • Isolation: disconnecting one’s emotions from a traumatic event
  • Sublimation: redirecting an unacceptable desire into a creative act
  • Displacement: replacing an unacceptable object of one’s emotion
methods of dealing with internal conflict continued
Methods of Dealing with Internal Conflict (continued):
  • Denial: refusing to accept one’s unacceptable desires or fears, or refusing to accept a traumatic event.
  • Projection: placing one’s unacceptable or unworthy desires or fears onto another.
  • Intellectualization: avoiding one’s desires and fears by analyzing and rationalizing them – instead of feeling them.
  • Reaction Formation: believing the opposite is true to avoid facing the truth about a traumatic event.
psychological criticism questions to ask
Psychological Criticism: Questions to Ask
  • Why did the author create such a text? What may have been his/her unconscious motivations?
  • Why did the character act a certain way? What may have been his/her unconscious motivations?
  • How did the reader’s unconscious “motivate” a particular reaction to the text?
psychological criticism what to look for
Psychological Criticism: What to Look For
  • Instances of repression, isolation, sublimation, displacement, denial, projection, intellectualization, and/or reaction formation in the actions of characters.
  • Internal conflicts present in characters that cause them difficulty fitting into society or being happy.
psychological criticism what to look for continued
Psychological Criticism: What to Look For (continued)
  • Expressions of the unconscious in characters – dreams, voices, creative acts (or any actions), slips of the tongue, jokes, etc.
  • Descriptions of the unconscious in texts.
  • Patterns or repeated behavior in the text.
  • How a character’s identity is developed.
let s practice applying the psychological approach to catcher
Let’s Practice Applying the Psychological Approach to Catcher.

Brainstorm to create a preliminary list of examples of the following methods of coping with internal conflict:

  • Isolation:
  • Displacement:
  • Projection:
  • Denial:
let s practice applying the psychological approach to catcher ii
Let’s Practice Applying the Psychological Approach to Catcher, II

Brainstorm to create a preliminary list of examples:

  • Dreams, fantasies, and creative acts (including lies) that reveal Holden’s unconcious fears and desires?
gender criticism
Gender Criticism
  • Essentialism: The view that women are essentially different from men and vice-versa. Essentialists focus on the sexed (i.e. biological) body.
  • Constructionism: view that most of the differences between men and women are characteristics not of the male and female sex (nature) but rather of the masculine and feminine genders (nurture).
  • Gender criticism views gender as a construct.

Key Terms:

gender criticism what to look for
Gender Criticism: What to Look For
  • Portrayals of female and male characters
  • Portrayals of motherhood, fatherhood and marriage.
  • Standards of masculinity & femininity
    • reinforced (already present in the culture)

OR

    • constructed (a new vision of either role)
gender criticism questions to ask
Gender Criticism: Questions to Ask
  • Which roles, feminine or masculine, are most pronounced within the entirety of the text?
  • What standard of femininity does the text reinforce (already exists in the culture) or construct (a new vision of what femininity means)?
gender criticism questions to ask continued
Gender Criticism:Questions to Ask (continued)
  • What standard of masculinity does the text reinforce (already exists in the culture) or construct (a new vision of what masculinity means)?
  • How does the text portray the institutions of motherhood, fatherhood and marriage, which are traditionally linked to gender roles?
gender criticism questions to ask continued 2
Gender Criticism:Questions to Ask (continued 2)
  • How are male-female, female-female, and male-male (not necessarily romantic) relationships portrayed in the text? Do any of these kinds of relationships seem to be more highly valued by the author (i.e. because they are portrayed as closer, more genuine, more rewarding, etc.) than the others?
  • How do either of the genders or any of the sexual orientations in this text intersect with social status, ethnic identity, national identity?
slide15

Review: Women in Gatsby

Daisy

  • physical beauty and grace
  • a soft voice
  • flirtatiousness
  • apparently submissive role in marriage

However,

  • uses traditional femininity to gain significant power over men, including Tom

Myrtle

  • looks to Tom to “rescue” her from the Valley of Ashes.
  • materialistic and emotionally shallow

However,

  • colorful, assertive, and “vital”: foil to Daisy

Jordan

  • Physically attractive
  • dishonest and apparently shallow

However,

  • unsentimental, independent and athletic
  • cold, but not as destructive as Daisy
slide16

Review: Men in Gatsby

Nick

  • emotionally

detached

  • noncommittal in relationships w/women

However,

more interested

in/may also be

attracted to men

(Mr. McKee;

Gatbsy)

Mr. Wilson

  • faithful husband
  • ambitious but not greedy
  • fantasy of

‘pioneering

westward’

However,

  • subservient to

Myrtle and Tom

  • seems weak and lifeless

Tom

  • physically abusive
  • more virile and

stronger than Mr.

Wilson, others

However,

  • not very intelligent
  • not very likeable
  • controlled by Daisy
let s try to answer some gender criticism questions for gatsby
Let’s Try to Answer Some Gender Criticism Questions for Gatsby.
  • Does Gatsby challenge or reinforce traditional femininity and masculinity? Or both?
  • Most of the interpersonal relationships in Gatsby are either shallow or dysfunctional in some way. However, are cross-gender and same-gender relationships depicted as equally dysfunctional? Is one kind of relationship depicted more positively?
marxist criticism
Marxist Criticism

The Basics

  • Terry Eagleton, a leading Marxist critic, writes that the task of Marxist literary criticism "is to show the text as it cannot know itself, to manifest those conditions of its making (inscribed in its very letter) about which it is necessarily silent."
  • Marxist criticism = concerned not with what the text says but what it hides.
marxist criticism1
Marxist Criticism

Warrants

  • Our existence is marked by an on going struggle between the classes in a given society (haves vs. have-nots, capitalists vs. workers).
  • Capitalists’ consciousness of the world is impaired. As consumers, who only manipulate the commodities, they cannot see through the process of reification. They have no knowledge of the details of production.
marxist criticism2
Marxist Criticism

Warrants (continued)

  • The proletarian (worker) through his direct contact with the commodity is a producer, a revolutionary, and a positive member of a society.
  • The capitalists maintain the status quo by using “ideological state apparatus” and “repressive state apparatus”. “Repressive” institutions include: schools, churches, official culture, the military and the police force.
according to marxist theory capitalistic society results in
According to Marxist Theory, capitalistic society results in:

Fragmentation:

As workers are alienated from each other and oppressed, the society as a whole becomes fragmented, rather than unified.

Alienation:

Because the worker is detached from the commodity (s)he produces, (s)he becomes detached also from members and groups in the society.

Oppression:

The subject’s identity is under constant pressure and erasure from the various state apparatuses.

marxist criticism3
Marxist Criticism

Key Terms and Concepts

  • Ideology: the shared beliefs and values held in an unquestioning manner by a culture.
  • Ideology governs what that culture deems to be normative and valuable.
  • For Marxists, ideology is determined by economics. A rough approximation: “tell me how much money you have, and I'll tell you how you think.”
  • Ideology, by its very nature, is silent. This invisibility gives it great power.
marxist criticism4
Marxist Criticism

Key Terms and Concepts

  • Base vs. Superstructure:

Base in Marxism refers to economic base.

Superstructure, according to Marx and Engels, emerges from this base and consists of law, politics, philosophy, religion, art

marxist criticism5
Marxist Criticism

Key Terms and Concepts (continued)

  • Reification: the way in which people are turned into commodities useful in market exchange (e.g. workers, celebrities)
  • Hegemony: the predominant influence of a group, state, or institution in power over another or others.
marxist criticism questions to ask
Marxist Criticism:Questions to Ask
  • Whose story gets told in the text? Are lower economic groups ignored or devalued?
  • Does the text reflect or resist a dominant ideology? Does it do both?
  • Does the main character in a narrative affirm or resist bourgeois values (capitalistic, materialistic, stereotypically middle-class values)?
marxist criticism some thoughts on gatsby
Marxist Criticism: Some Thoughts on Gatsby

Whose story gets told?

Capitalists

East Eggers = old-money, landed aristocracy

West Eggers = new money bourgeoisie, earned $ through trade

Jay Gatsby as epitome of bourgeois, rags to riches

Workers

The Wilsons

(James Gatz)

marxist criticism some thoughts on gatsby 2
Marxist Criticism: Some Thoughts on Gatsby 2

Does the text reflect or resist a dominant ideology? Does it do both?

Reflects?

  • Arguably, focus is on aristocracy vs. bourgeoisie, not capitalists vs. workers
  • Gatsby = most intriguing character, is bourgeois
  • Gatsby suffers in the end, BUT…
  • Most readers pity him, despite the fact that he is morally ambiguous.
  • Gatsby is not a working class hero: earned his money in a dishonest, manipulative way
marxist criticism some thoughts on gatsby 21
Marxist Criticism: Some Thoughts on Gatsby 2

Does the text reflect or resist a dominant ideology? Does it do both?

Resists?

  • Wilson arguably most morally upstanding character
  • Wilson = synecdoche for the proletariat: works hard, has little money, wife succumbs to the temptations of the upper class
  • Capitalists, although they do not lose their hegemony, are generally unhappy (in unsatisfying relationships, distant from their children, etc.)
historical biographical criticism goals
Historical & Biographical CriticismGoals
  • To strive to understand a literary text as a product of the social, cultural, and intellectual context in which it was created.
  • To examine how the text was initially received by readers as well as how its reception has changed over time.
  • To examine how the author’s own experiences may be reflected in the text.
historical biographical criticism questions to ask
Historical/Biographical Criticism: Questions to Ask
  • Which historical events, cultural trends, and social issues are explored in the novel, and how: through which characters, events, symbols, motifs, relationships, etc.?
  • Which arguments, if any, does the author seem to be making about these events, trends, or issues, and how?
  • Does the text reflect or challenge the Zeitgeist

(“spirit of the times”)? How is the text similar to or

different from other works of art from the same

time period?

historical biographical criticism questions to ask 2
Historical/Biographical Criticism: Questions to Ask 2
  • What specific events or experiences in the author’s life might have motivated him or her to write this novel?
  • Do you see any obvious parallels between real people, places, and events in the author’s life and those in the novel?
  • Do the attitudes and arguments voiced through the novel seem to have been shaped by the author’s personal experiences? Why or why not?
historical biographical criticism some thoughts on gatsby
Historical/Biographical Criticism: Some Thoughts on Gatsby
  • Which historical events, cultural trends, and social issues are explored in the novel, and how (through which characters, events, symbols, motifs, relationships, etc.)?

~WWI (Gatsby and Nick)

~Conspicuous consumption of the 1920’s (Gatsby’s parties)

~Flappers (Gatsby’s parties)

~Prohibition (Gatsby’s bootlegging)

~Racism (first dialogue scene at the Buchanans’)

~Anti-Semitism (Wolfsheim portrayed as miserly, crude, unpleasant)

historical biographical criticism some thoughts on gatsby1
Historical/Biographical Criticism: Some Thoughts on Gatsby

DISCUSS:

Which arguments, if any, does the author seem to

be making about these events, trends, or issues,

and how?

To consider:

  • Gatsby’s character
  • What happens at the end of the novel?
  • Overall portrayal of 1920’s culture
  • Fitzgerald and Nick: how similar?
works consulted
Works Consulted

Ady, Paul. Marxist Literary Criticism: Brief Guide. May

2003. Assumption College. 12 Mar. 2009

<http://dsteinbe.intrasun.tcnj.edu/

Courses/Approaches/theory/gendercrit.htm>.

“Critical Approaches.” VirtualLit Interactive Poetry Tutorial. 12 Mar.

2009 <http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/Virtualit/poetry/critical.html>.

Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry,

and Drama. 6th ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

works consulted1
Works Consulted

Mansur, Visam. Marxist Literary Theory. 2000. 12 Mar. 2009

<http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/4573/

Lectures/lectures.html>.

Padgett, John B. Critical Approaches to Literature.

1998. University of Mississippi. 10 Mar. 2009

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

Piro, Vincent F. “Psychological Literary Criticism.” Merced College, Merced.

<http://www.mccd.edu/faculty/pirov/

Engl1B/Psychological_files/frame.htm>.