Types of literary criticism
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Types of Literary Criticism. Formalist/ Close Reading. Concentrate on how the words on the page produce meaning and disregard anything but the text itself as relevant to reading and interpretation.

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Formalist close reading
Formalist/ Close Reading

  • Concentrate on how the words on the page produce meaning and disregard anything but the text itself as relevant to reading and interpretation.

  • The author’s stated values and beliefs ( or anything we know about his/her life) have no bearing on how we understand the text

Humanist criticism 1 2
Humanist Criticism (1/2)

  • Examines the timeless value,

    the secrets of human nature,

    the moral lessons literature


  • If you believe that “truth” is

    relative, this perspective is


Humanist criticism 1 21
Humanist Criticism (1/2)

  • Lost some popularity after 1960’s when the “timelessness” of literature was called into question ( i.e. Is Shakespeare really timeless or is it the perspective of a 16th C white, male author?

Feminist literary criticism 1 2
Feminist Literary Criticism (1/2)

  • Aims to reinterpret literature from a female point of view by seeking to interpret the works of male authors, with particular attention to female characters, in order to explore the moral, political, and social restrictions faced by women.

Feminist literary criticism 2 2
Feminist Literary Criticism (2/2)

  • Other feminist critics choose to analyze the works of women authors that have been overlooked previously.

  • Famous contributors: Elaine Showwalter, Adrienne Rich, Virginia Woolf, Luce Irigaray, Gertrude Stein, etc.

Reader response criticism 1 2
Reader-Response Criticism (1/2)

  • Explains the diversity of readers’ responses to literary works.

  • Meaning or even the notion of a “poem” is cooperatively produced by a “reader” and by the “poem itself”

Reader response criticism 2 2
Reader-Response Criticism (2/2)

  • Stanley Fish ( mid 1970s) claimed that literature only exists when it is read.

  • Wolfgang Iser ( The Implied Reader), argues that texts contain gaps that the reader must explain or connect in his/her mind in order to complete the meaning of the text.

Postcolonialism 1 2
Postcolonialism (1/2)

  • The “post” can mean either “after” or “against”.

  • Examines the literary

    culture of former colonies and the

    consequences of imperial

    (ex. England) expansion.

Postcolonialism 1 21
Postcolonialism (1/2)

  • Tries to recover voices and traditions that have been silenced in the past

  • Can examine literature from Australia, Ireland, West Indies, Africa, India and even Canada.

  • Famous Contributors: Edward Said ( Orientalism), HomiBhabha ) Postcolonial Criticism)

Marxist criticism 1 4
Marxist Criticism ( 1/4)

  • Karl Marx- German philosopher

    who proposed a model of history

    in which economic and political

    conditions determine social


  • Responded to social hardships

    stemming from the rise of capitalism.

Marxist criticism 2 4
Marxist Criticism ( 2/4)

  • Marx wrote The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto

  • The social class into which a person is born determines his/her outlook and viewpoints.

  • A society’s economic base determines the interests and styles of its literature.

Marxist criticism 3 4
Marxist Criticism ( 3/4)

  • Ideologies are changing ideas, values, and feelings through which individuals experiences their societies. They present dominant ideas and values as the beliefs of a society as a whole, and thus prevent individuals from seeing how society really functions.

  • Literature as a product of the culture, is a form of ideology that legitimizes the power of the ruling class.

Marxist criticism 4 4
Marxist Criticism ( 4/4)

  • Hegemony: a deception in which an individual forgets his/her own desires and accepts dominant values as his/her own. Literature helps present this constructed notion of society.

  • Ex: Someone might think that going to college is a necessary step in every life, when in reality his/her belief is socially constructed.

Psychoanalytic criticism 1 4
Psychoanalytic Criticism (1/4)

  • A) Sigmund Freud’s ( 1856-1939) Ideas:

    1- The unconscious: the iceberg which

    contains the hidden, repressed desire

    of life can be released through


    2- dreams: latent content is the real

    desire; manifest content is the

    remembered, reported dream- in

    literature, the manifest is the plot; the latent is the true meaning of the author ( the unconscious) which the reader ( a psychoanalytic critic) can uncover.

Psychoanalytic criticism 2 4
Psychoanalytic Criticism (2/4)

3- Id ( pleasure principle) –ego-superego ( reality principle): sometimes characters can take these roles ( always symbolic).

4- Oedipal complex ( internalization of one’s father-manifests itself in guilt): can influence a character’s action; perhaps they can relate to thematic elements.

Psychoanalytic criticism 3 4
Psychoanalytic Criticism (3/4)

  • B) Carl Jung’s Ideas

    • Humanity shares knowledge,

      experiences, images with the

      entire human race, resulting in

      archetypes that affect how people

      respond to life-when certain

      images are in literature, they call up

      one’s archetypal feelings.

Psychoanalytic criticism 4 4
Psychoanalytic Criticism (4/4)

  • Traditional archetypes: the quest, the underworld, the martyr, the wise old man, etc.

  • Other major contributors:

    • Jacques Lacan ( 1901-1981): Language theory

    • Julia Kristeva ( 1941- ): Feminist theory.

  • Postmodernism 1 2
    Postmodernism (1/2)

    • Late 20th century

    • Based on two premises:

      • 1) Master Narratives (the “givens” of a society) no longer have meaning- progress, reason, self, etc.

      • 2) “Reality” is no longer a given.

    Postmodernism 2 2
    Postmodernism (2/2)

    • Offers playfulness and plurality

    • Not concerned with originality, so much as with irony, because they have a sense that everything has already been done in the past ( their strategies include parody, collage, rewriting.

    • Ex: The Simpson’s