literary approaches in criticizing texts n.
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Critical approaches to literature reveal how or why a particular work is constructed and what its social and cultural implications are. Understanding critical perspectives will help you to see and appreciate a literary work as a multilayered construct of meaning. Reading literary criticism will inspire you to reread, rethink, and respond. Soon you will be a full participant in an endless and enriching conversation about literature.


Questions:1.) What biographical facts has the authorused in the text?2.) What biographical facts has the author changed?  Why?3.) What insights do we acquire about the author’s life by reading the text?4.) How do these facts and insights increase (or diminish) our understanding of the text?5.) In what ways does the author seem to consider his or her own life as "typical" or significant?


Questions:1.) What specific historical events were happening when the work was being composed? (See timelines in history or literature texts.)2.) What historical events does the work deal with?3.) In what ways did historyaffectthe writer's outlook?4.) In what ways didhistoryaffect the style?language? content?5.) In what waysand for what reasonsdid the writer alterhistorical events?


Questions: 1.) Which geographical features in the text are actual?2.) What aspects of the geography are essential to the story? And which are non-essential?3.) To what extent has the geography limited the kind of story that can happen?4.) In what ways has the writer altered the geography to suit his or her purposes?  Has the writer made any geographical errors?


Questions: 1.) What political events are significant in the text?2.) What political events were occurring at the time the text was written?   (See timelines in history or literature texts.)3.) What political events were occurring at the time the text was written? 4.) What political beliefs does the author seem to have?  And how are those beliefs shown?5.) What political beliefs does the author seem to dislike?  How can you tell?


Questions: 1.) What religious or ethical beliefs does the text deal with directly?  Are any religions or philosophies mentioned pecifically in the text?2.) What religious or ethical beliefs or philosophies does the author seem to favor? How can you tell?3.) What religious or ethical beliefs orphilosophies does the author seem todisfavor? How can you tell?4.) What behaviors do the characters display that the author wants us to think are “right”?  How can youtell?5.) What behavior is“wrong”?  How canyou tell?


Questions:1.) Are there any specific psychologists or psychological theories mentioned in the text? In what ways?2.) What theories of human behavior doesthe writer seem to believe?  How can you tell?3.) What theories of human behavior doesthe writer seem to reject?  How can you tell?4.) How do people’s minds work in the text?  How do people think?  How are their thoughts shown?5.) In what ways do the structure and organization of the text indicate the writer’s beliefs about the workings of the mind?


Questions: 1.) What sort of society does the author describe?  (How is it set up?  What rules are there?  What happens to people who break them?  Who enforces the rules?)2.) What does the writer seem to like or dislike about this society?3.) What changes do you think the writer would like to make in the society?  And how can you tell?4.) What sorts of pressures does the society put on its members?  How do the members respond to this pressure?



  • How do you feel about what you read?
  • What does it make you think of?
  • How do evaluate
  • the text as a
  • reader?


Why do you either identify or resist the cultural values of the piece?

Are you an insider or an outsider to the culture in this book?

How does the work reflect a particular culture or cultural values?

How does the culture reflected in the writing affect your understanding of it? How does your own culture affect your understanding of it?



What did the author want me to get out of this piece?

What techniques did the author use to get his/her point across?

How were those techniques used to develop theme? character?

How were those techniques used to manipulate the reader?



How did the time period in which the work was written affect how and why it was written?

How would the work be perceived in its own time period?

How does placing the piece in the context of our time period affect its meaning and how it is perceived?



  • What ideas does the work contain?
  • How strongly does the work bring forth its ideas?
  • What application do the ideas have to the work’s characters and situations?
  • How may the ideas be evaluated intellectually? Morally?


  • What role does class play in the work; what is the author's analysis of class relations?
  • How do characters overcome oppression?
  • In what ways does the work serve as propaganda for the status quo; or does it try to undermine it?
  • What does the work say about oppression; or are social conflicts ignored or blamed elsewhere?
  • Does the work propose some form of utopian vision as a solution to the problems encountered in the work?


  • How would a female (probably you) respond to a story, especially as that response would be significantly different that that of a male.
  • How are female (and male) roles played out in the work? What stereotypes - overt or subtle - are portrayed?  What messages about gender roles are being sent?
  • How would the story change if gender roles were shifted?
  • How would the piece differ if the author were of the other gender?


  • How is the work structured or organized? How does it begin? Where does it go next? How does it end? What is the work’s plot? How is its plot related to its structure?
  • What is the relationship of each part of the work to the work as a whole? How are the parts related to one another?
  • Who is narrating or telling what happens in the work? How is the narrator, speaker, or character revealed to readers? How do we come to know and understand this figure?


  • Who are the major and minor characters, what do they represent, and how do they relate to one another?
  • What are the time and place of the work—it’s setting? How is the setting related to what we know of the characters and their actions? To what extent is the setting symbolic?
  • What kind of language does the author use to describe, narrate, explain, or otherwise create the world of the literary work? More specifically, what images, similes, metaphors, symbols appear in the work? What is their function? What meanings do they convey?


  • How is language thrown into freeplay or questioned in the work?
  • How does the work undermine or contradict generally accepted truths?
  • How does the author (or a character) omit, change, or reconstruct memory and identity?
  • How does a work fulfill or move outside the established conventions of its genre?


  • How does the work deal with the separation (or lack thereof) between writer, work, and reader?
  • What ideology does the text seem to promote?
  • What is left out of the text that if included might undermine the goal of the work?
  • If we changed the point of view of the text - say from one character to another, or multiple characters - how would the story change? Whose story is not told in the text? Who is left out and why might the author have omitted this character's tale?


  • What incidents in the work seem common or familiar enough as actions that they might be considered symbolic or archetypal? Are there any journeys, battles, falls, reversals of fortune, etc.?
  • What kinds of character types appear in the work? How might they be classified?
  • What creatures, elements of nature, or man-made objects playing a role in the work might be considered symbolic?
  • What changes do the characters undergo? How can those changes be
  • characterized or named? To what might they be related or compared?
  • What religious or quasi-religious traditions might the work’s story, characters, elements, or objects be compared to or affiliated with? Why?


Do you understand that my reactions to the text are symbolic rather than literal? Do I also understand that literal is still a good place to start?

Since I do realize that the text I respond to is symbolic of my reactions to aspects in my personality, I also realize that Lacan gave us categories for those symbols: the mother and the father. Which of these types of symbols am you responding to? Your need for security or safety (the mother)? Or your need for acceptance by others (the father)?

And for all of this, do you understand the mirror principle - the idea that we form images of ourselves based on how we think we are perceived by others?

What text - exact words, phrases, or passages - causes in you a strong emotional response?  What exactly about that text is affecting your mirror image?



Do you understand that to look at a text from a Freudian point of view is to see it as symbolic rather than literal?

Do you understand that suppressed wants, needs, and even memories force their way through symbolically in dreams and - of course - writing?

What text - exact words, phrases, or passages - represents a symbolic expression of the author's sublimated wants and needs?

What conclusions can you draw about the author and his/her work based on your Freudian analysis of the text?



How is the work’s structure unified?

How do various elements of the work reinforce its meaning?

What recurring patterns (repeated or related words, images, etc.) can you find? What is the effect of these patterns or motifs?

How does repetition reinforce the theme(s)?

How does the writer’s diction reveal or reflect the work’s meaning?

What is the effect of the plot, and what parts specifically produce that effect?

What figures of speech are used?



Note the writer’s use of paradox, irony, symbol, plot, characterization, and style of narration. What effects are produced? Do any of these relate to one another or to the theme?

Is there a relationship between the beginning and the end of the story?

What tone and mood are created at various parts of the work?

How does the author create tone and mood? What relationship is there between tone and mood and the effect of the story?

How do the various elements interact to create a unified whole? Socio-Analytic

People are working only to have a good life.



Is there any evidence in the text indicating a possible secondary meaning?

Do you know enough about the primary meaning to attempt to find a secondary?

Assuming you have your initial clue, can you then adequately extend your secondary meanings throughout the work?

Do you really understand primary and a secondary meanings?



  • How does this story resemble other stories in plot, character, setting, or symbolism?
  • What universal experiences are depicted?
  • Are patterns suggested? Are seasons used to suggest a pattern or cycle?
  • Does the protagonist undergo any kind of transformation, such as movement from innocence to experience, that seems archetypal?
  • Are the names significant?
  • Is there a Christ-like figure in the work?
  • Does the writer allude to biblical or mythological literature? For what purpose?


  • How does the work reflect the hopes, fears, and expectations of entire cultures
  • How do myths attempt to explain the unexplainable: origin of man? Purpose and destiny of human beings?
  • What common human concerns are revealed in the story?
  • How do stories from one culture correspond to those of another?
  • How does the story reflect the experiences of death and rebirth?


  • What archetypal events occur in the story?
  • What archetypal images occur?
  • What archetypal characters appear in the story?
  • What archetypal settings appear?
  • How and why are these archetypes embodied in the work?
  • What aspects of the work create deep universal responses to it?

Prepared by:

Elizabeth C. Neuda

Mignonette Florentino


Mery Grace Valin

Joana Dayag

Rose Fajardo

Niña Reyes

Patricia Villaflor

Arianne Hilario

Raquel Reyes

Davies Alfonso

Camille Gonzales

Annaren de Mesa