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Critical Theory. Strategies for reading. What is Critical Theory?. Different ways of looking at text (think new lenses) None is “more right” than another Some stories can be viewed through many perspectives – even at the same time!

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critical theory

Critical Theory

Strategies for reading

what is critical theory
What is Critical Theory?
  • Different ways of looking at text (think new lenses)
  • None is “more right” than another
  • Some stories can be viewed through many perspectives – even at the same time!
  • Multiple perspectives allow us to see things in new light and think about these things in different ways
formalist criticism
Formalist Criticism
  • Formal elements of a work – language, structure, and tone
  • How do the parts connect to the whole
    • Modern Formalists – New Critics
    • “Just the facts ma’am”
    • Poetry lends itself nicely to this lens
biographical criticism
Biographical Criticism
  • Author’s background aids in enriching themes, ideas, topics, etc. developed in a text
  • May not always reflect the author’s life, but it may give clarity or add richness to our reading of it
psychoanalytical criticism
Psychoanalytical Criticism
  • Sigmund Freud – psychoanalytic theory (unconscious mind)
    • Id – basic desires (repressed)
    • Superego – morals, codes, guilt
    • Ego – the arbitrator (how far should I go?)
  • Oedipus/Electra Complex – competition with the father/mother (respectively) to take their place.
  • Uncover the author’s unconscious meaning behind a text (or the reader’s)
historical criticism
Historical Criticism
  • Four main types
    • Literary History
    • Marxist
    • New Historicist
    • Cultural
literary history
Literary History
  • Examine the “life and times” of the society in which it was written
  • Look for social currents/trends
  • Examine multiple perspectives of people during this time on this topic
marxis t
  • Proletariat vs. Bourgeoisie
  • Struggles with:
    • Culture
    • Race
    • Class
    • Power
new historicist
New Historicist
  • History read in a modern context
    • Examine all facets of history – economical, sociological, anthropological, political
  • Popular cultural influences
  • A combination of new historicism, psychology, gender, and deconstructionism
  • Looks at comics, TV shows, commercials, radio shows, etc.
gender criticism
Gender Criticism
  • Focus on how men and women are socially constructed in text
  • Includes:
    • Gay/Lesbian Criticism
    • Feminist Criticism
  • Places literature in a social context
  • Looks at the representation of women through what has been a traditionally male-dominated society
gay and lesbian
Gay and Lesbian
  • Focuses on how homosexuals are represented in text
  • Looks at how sexuality and gender are constructed in society
mythological criticism
Mythological Criticism
  • Archetypal critiques examine the hopes, fears, and expectations of cultures
  • Look for common human concerns in text
    • Archetypes – universal symbols that embody the basic human experience
reader response criticism
Reader Response Criticism
  • Focuses on, you guessed it, the reader
  • Bring our own assumptions and expectations to a work – so what do we see?
deconstructionist criticism
Deconstructionist Criticism
  • Literary works do not yield fixed, single meanings
  • Language is too easily interpreted in various ways – therefore no right answer can be found
  • Find the ways to destabilize meanings