Critical approaches to literature
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Critical Approaches to Literature. We’ll play Name That Critical Approach game at the end, so be ready!. What is literary criticsm ?. A way of talking about literature The lens through which we like to examine literature For example

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Critical approaches to literature

Critical Approaches to Literature

We’ll play Name That Critical Approach game at the end, so be ready!


What is literary criticsm
What is literary criticsm?

  • A way of talking about literature

  • The lens through which we like to examine literature

  • For example

    • People who believe that understanding the author’s life can help readers better understand his/her work, often use Biographical Criticism


Major critical approaches
Major Critical Approaches

  • There are manycritical approaches however here are some major ones to which we may be referring:

  • Formalist

  • Biographical

  • Historical

  • Psychological

  • Mythological

  • Sociological

  • Gender

  • Reader-Response

  • Deconstructionist

  • Cultural Studies


Kinds of approaches
Kinds of approaches

  • Reader-based

    • Literature does not exist separate from those who read it

    • An individual’s background and feelings are part of how they read and interpret literature

  • Text-based

    • Primarily look at the work itself, separate from context in which it was written or who wrote it

  • Context-based

    • Examines the context in which a work was produced


Formalist criticism
Formalist Criticism

  • Strongly examines elements such as plot, character, style and tone, irony, symbol, etc.

  • Believes that studying these elements is the most significant way to find meaning about the text

  • Seeks to examine a work in isolation from

    • the reader,

    • the author,

    • the context in which it was written

  • Do you think this approach is reader, text, or context based?


Biographical criticism
Biographical Criticism

  • Examines how details and people in author’s life have affected a work

  • Might examine the events of writer’s life, (Hemingway’s reporting about the Spanish Civil war) and use them to better understand For Whom the Bell Tolls

  • Might examine multiple drafts to try and decipher why a writer crafted the way she did

  • Danger: often life stories can overwhelm the literature, making it difficult to understand or examine the work for its own merits


Historical criticism
Historical Criticism

  • Seeks to understand a literary work by investigating the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced it

  • Context includes author’s biography

  • Less concerned with a work’s significance today than what it meant in its time

  • How the time and place of a story’s creation affect its meaning


Psychological criticism
Psychological Criticism

  • Emphasizes the underlying meaning in literature in relationship to psychological components

    • Sexual symbols, dreams, repressed feelings, an individual character’s conscious and/or subconscious motives, etc.

  • The critic might look at a character’s psychological make-up, sanity, etc.


Mythological criticism
Mythological Criticism

  • An interdisciplinary approach

  • Often draws from anthropology, comparative religion, history, and psychology

  • Explore literature through examination of common humanity

  • Commonly discuss archetypes in literature: symbols or situations that evoke a universal response

    • Coming of age motif

    • The hero’s journey

    • Good v. evil as seen in light v. dark


Sociological criticism
Sociological Criticism

  • Examines literature in the cultural, economic, and political context in which is it written or received

  • Looks at the relationship of the artist and society

    • How the social classes of characters influence their outcomes

    • The political or social statements a work offers


Gender criticism
Gender Criticism

  • Examines how sexual identity influences the creation and reception of literary works

  • Began with the feminist movement

  • Often looks at how text by examining “male-produced” assumptions in works

  • Men’s movement: seeks to examine ideas of masculinity

  • May examine how women are stereotyped or what roles they play in literatureI

  • nfluenced by sociology, psychology, and anthropology


Reader response criticism
Reader-Response Criticism

Attempts to describe what happens in the reader’s mind while reading a text

Acknowledges that different readers come to a text with different backgrounds that will affect their interpretations

Though it rejects the idea that there is a singular, correct interpretation, it notes that there are not an infinite number of interpretations


Cultural studies
Cultural Studies

  • No central methodology is used

  • Interdisciplinary field

  • Primary looks at the nature of social power as revealed in “texts”

    • Cereal boxes

    • Commercials

    • Literature

  • Seeks to identify the overt and covert values reflected in a cultural practice