Theories of Literary Criticism. English 113 Literature-Based Research Suzann Ledford. Introduction to Literary Criticism. Literary criticism has two main functions: To analyze, study, and evaluate works of literature. To form general principles for the examination of works of literature.
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Literary criticism has two main functions:
M.H. Abrams points out in The Mirror and the Lamp that “any reasonably adequate theory takes some account of . . . four elements” (6). These elements are
The following slides discuss specific 20th century literary theories. As we discuss these, you may find yourself agreeing with one or two theories while disagreeing heartily with another. Keep in mind that no single theory offers the “right” answer about a work of literature; good literature is simply too varied. Keeping an open mind and listening to other points of view can enrich your own insights; that is the purpose of criticism.
Today, few critics adhere only to the formalist or New Criticism theory. However, its back-to-the-basics approach pervades many other critical theories.
Reception theory is applied to the general reading public rather than an individual reader.
Maintains that the literary work cannot be separated from the social context in which it was created. In general, sociological criticism examines one of these two aspects:
Sociological theory is so broad that it can be subdivided in many different categories. Two dominant theories we’ll study are
Feminist critics have been responsible for recovering neglected works by women authors through the ages and creating a canon of women’s writing.
A case in point is Kate Chopin. She was fairly widely published in the 1890s, but her work was largely neglected by literary critics until the 1960s, when Chopin was “rediscovered” by feminist critics.
Abrams, M.H. The Mirror and the Lamp. London: Oxford UP, 1953.
Arnold, Matthew. “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time.” Selected Prose. Ed. P.J. Keating. London: Penguin, 1970. 130-157.
Holman, C. Hugh and William Harmon. A Handbook to Literature. 6th ed. New York: Macmillan, 1992.
Keating, P.J. Introduction. Selected Prose. By Matthew Arnold. Ed. Keating. London: Penguin, 1970. 9-36.
Kirszner, Laurie G. and Stephen R. Mandell. Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. 3rd ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1997.
Pope, Alexander. An Essay on Criticism. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th Major Authors ed. Ed. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. New York: Norton, 2001. 1123-1134.