登录  
 加关注
查看详情
   显示下一条  |  关闭
温馨提示!由于新浪微博认证机制调整,您的新浪微博帐号绑定已过期,请重新绑定!立即重新绑定新浪微博》  |  关闭

我的地盘我做主

悦民园

 
 
 

日志

 
 

Critical Theories and Literature   

2009-07-11 04:05:42|  分类: 西北师大学位论文 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

  下载LOFTER 我的照片书  |
Critical Theories and Literature

Through the course of reading, thinking and writing about literature, it is often helpful to consider some of the broader categories of critical theory. Not only will this enrich your understanding of a work, but in considering these theories, you may also discover new approaches to focus on in your writing.

The following terms are defined briefly and are linked to further explanations from outside sources. If you're interested in any of these theories, be sure to investigate each more thoroughly--through reading and research--to gain a more complete understanding of the ideas involved.


Formalism/New Criticism
This school of criticism examines the work itself as a stand-alone product and does not take into account the history of either the author or time period.

Deconstruction/Post-Structuralism
This approach relies on the written product as a clue to the actual meaning of the writer, which can be elusive and self-contradictory (the opposite of Formalism), as no one can be certain of what the actual meaning is except the original writer.
 
Reader-Response
This method relies on the reader making mental and life-experience connections to the work. The meaning of the work depends upon the reader’s state of mind at the time of the reading and the reader’s previous life-experiences.
 
Archetypal (Myth) Criticism
This approach relies on the idea of the “collective unconscious,” a set of mythic experiences that repeat themselves throughout human history. The writer and reader are assumed to share these experiences; the writer reveals patterns that make the work comparative to and distinct from other works.
 
New Historicism
This methodology relies on the view that history is not the absolute rendition of societal events. The past is disputable and uncertain and may reveal heroic actions as nothing more than despotism. This approach tries to get away from the fallacies that dominant societies inevitably produce when creating their history.
 
Post-Colonialism
This viewpoint supposes a society moving away from cultural, economic, psychological, and social dependence on another society in the creation of its literature.
 
Lesbian and Gay Criticism (Queer Theory)
This school of thought deals with the effect sexual orientation has on interpreting a text. This view also deals with the literary representation of homosexuals in the past. Furthermore, it discusses the ideas of closeted and guilt-ridden sentiment (as well as current uncloseted sentiment in the gay and lesbian community), and also how gays and lesbians have dealt with making their work more acceptable to the general public.

Sources:

Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing About Literature. Harper Collins:         &nbspNew York, 1996.

Belton, Robert. “Words of Art: Front Page.” Okanagan University College.         &nbspPosted 2000. Accessed March 2001.
    


Literary Critical Theory        Background

What are my first questions for this course?

  • What is literature?
  • What are we supposed to do with it? How do we approach literature?

Critical theory articulates what we bring to literature, which presumably determines what we get out of it. This is not a chaos of subjectivity. Instead, critical theory tries to examine what types of questions we should pose about literary works.

What does "common sense" say about this? That literature is about life, or is a reflection of life written from personal experience? That we study literature in order to "appreciate" something:

  • an historical time period and what life was like then?
  • or a particular author's ideas and feelings?

These indeed were the standard and unarticulated assumptions about literature traditionally.


HISTORICAL / BIOGRAPHICAL CRITICISM

Until well into the 20th century, much of literary study was based on the assumption that to understand a work you need to understand the author's social background, the author's life, ideas circulating during the time the author was writing, what other works influenced the creation of the one under examination, and so on. Most book introductions still offer this kind of material. Valuable literature, therefore, is that which tells us truths about the period which produced them. We are getting, according to this approach, a vision of human nature or the world in general as filtered through an author's individual insight and perceptions.

One problem with this assumption is that it requires a crash course in matters falling outside the work itself. The reader presumably must rely on an expert's special knowledge before being able to "appreciate" the work, and this makes the study of literature rather elitist. Literature seen this way seems dismissed almost, or at least presented as simply a way of arriving at something anterior to itself: the convictions of the author or that author's experience as part of a specific society. And so why not just study history?


EXPRESSIVE REALISM

When the Aristotelian concept that art is an imitation of reality fused with the Romantic conviction that poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, the "expressive realist" notion took hold, insisting that truly authentic and valuable works are those expressing the perceptions and emotions of a person of sensibility. Thus we gush about how well an author captured the whale-killing experience or conveyed his or her vision of love during the Civil War. But critic Northrup Frye objects to this attitude:

The absurd quantum formula of criticism, the assertion that the critic should confine himself to 'getting out' of a poem exactly what the poet may vaguely be assumed to have been aware of 'putting in', is one of the many slovenly illiteracies that the absence of systematic criticism has allowed to grow up. This quantum theory is the literary form of what may be called the fallacy of premature teleology. It corresponds, in the natural sciences, to the assertion that a phenomenon is as it is because Providence in its inscrutable wisdom made it so. That is, the critic is assumed to have no conceptual framework: it is simply his job to take a poem into which a poet has diligently stuffed a specific number of beauties or effects, and complacently extract them one by one, like his prototype Little Jack Horner. (qtd. in Belsey 27)


Both of the above approaches have fallen under attack in recent decades by scholars objecting to the inherent elitism of the approaches, or the notion of the reader being in the position of passive consumer of literature, or in some cases how these approaches make literary criticism parasitic on literature.

Before we involve ourselves with their approaches, here are some terms designed to codify the most general tendencies in literary criticism.

THEORETICAL CRITICISM

proposes a theory of literature and general principles as to how to approach it; criteria for evaluation emerge.

PRACTICAL / APPLIED CRITICISM

discusses particular works and authors; the theoretical principles are implicit within the analysis or interpretation.

IMPRESSIONISTIC CRITICISM

"appreciates" the responses evoked by works of literaturewith oohs and ahhs regarding "the soul" and declarations of "masterpieces."

JUDICIAL CRITICISM

attempts to analyze and explain those effects through the basic forms of "dissection": subject, style, organization, techniques.

MIMETIC CRITICISM

seeks to evaluate literature as an imitation or representation of life.

PRAGMATIC CRITICISM

decides how well a work achieves its aims due to the author's strategies.

EXPRESSIVE CRITICISM

gushes about how well an author expressed or conveyed him or herself, his or her visions and feelings.

TEXTUAL CRITICISM

aims to establish an accurate uncorrupted original text identical with what the author intended. This may involve collating manuscripts and printed versions, deciding on the validity of rediscovered versions or chapters, deciphering damaged manuscripts and illegible handwriting, etc. One medieval problem, for example, is that of minims: ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? = minimum.


Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Belsey, Catherine. Critical Practice. London: Methuen, 1980.

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random House, 1989.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 2nd ed. NY: Longman, 1998.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Literary Critical Theory:
Interpretive Strategies


Historicism considers the literary work in light of "what really happened" during the period reflected in that work. It insists that to understand a piece, we need to understand the author's biography and social background, ideas circulating at the time, and the cultural milieu. Historicism also "finds significance in the ways a particular work resembles or differs from other works of its period and/or genre," and therefore may involve source studies. It may also include examination of philology and linguistics. It is typically a discipline involving impressively extensive research.

New Criticism examines the relationships between a text's ideas and its form, "the connection between what a text says and the way it's said." New Critics/Formalists "may find tension, irony, or paradox in this relation, but they usually resolve it into unity and coherence of meaning." New Critics look for patterns of sound, imagery, narrative structure, point of view, and other techniques discernible on close reading of "the work itself." They insist that the meaning of a text should not be confused with the author's intentions nor the text's affective dimension--its effects on the reader. The objective determination as to "how a piece works" can be found through close focus and analysis, rather than through extraneous and erudite special knowledge.

Archetypal criticism "traces cultural and psychological 'myths' that shape the meaning of texts." It argues that "certain literary archetypes determine the structure and function of individual literary works," and therefore that literature imitates not the world but rather the "total dream of humankind." Archetypes (recurring images or symbols, patterns, universal experiences) may include motifs such as the quest or the heavenly ascent, symbols such as the apple or snake, or images such as crucifixion--all laden with meaning already when employed in a particular work.

Psychoanalytic criticism adopts the methods of "reading" employed by Freud and later theorists to interpret what a text really indicates. It argues that "unresolved and sometimes unconscious ambivalences in the author's own life may lead to a disunified literary work," and that the literary work is a manifestation of the author's own neuroses. Psychoanalytic critics focus on apparent dilemmas and conflicts in a work and "attempt to read an author's own family life and traumas into the actions of their characters," realizing that the psychological material will be expressed indirectly, encoded (similar to dreams) through principles such as "condensation," "displacement," and "symbolism."

Feminist criticism critiques patriarchal language and literature by exposing how a work reflects masculine ideology. It examines gender politics in works and traces the subtle construction of masculinity and femininity, and their relative status, positionings, and marginalizations within works.

Marxist criticism argues that literature reflects social institutions and that it is one itself, with a particular ideological function: that literature participates in the series of struggles between oppressed and oppressing classes which makes up human history. Similar to Marx's historical theory, Marxist criticism will focus on the distribution of resources, materialism, class conflict, or the author's analysis of class relations. It examines how some works attempt to shore up an oppressive social order or how they idealize social conflict out of existence, how others offer an alternative collective life or propose a utopian vision as a solution.

Cultural criticism questions traditional value hierarchies and takes a cross-disciplinary approach to works traditionally marginalized by the aesthetic ideology of white European males. Instead of more attention to the canon, cultural studies examines works by minority ethnic groups and postcolonial writers, and the products of folk, urban, and mass culture. Popular literature, soap opera, rock and rap music, cartoons, professional wrestling, food, etc. -- all fall within the domain of cultural criticism. We are focusing on it particularly as it concerns questioning the ways Western cultural tradition expressed in literature defines itself partly by stifling the voices of oppressed groups or even by demonizing those groups. We will focus on how literary tradition has constructed models of identity for oppressed groups, how these groups have constructed oppositional literary identities, and how different communities of readers might interpret the same text differently due to varied value systems.

New Historicism "finds meaning by looking at a text within the framework of the prevailing ideas and assumptions of its historical era, or by considering its contents within a context of 'what really happened' during the period that produced the text." New Historicists concern themselves with the political function of literature and with the concept of power, "the complex means by which societies produce and reproduce themselves." These critics focus on revealing the historically specific model of truth and authority reflected in a given work.

Reader-Response criticism "insists that all literature is a structure of experience, not just a form or meaning," and therefore focuses on finding meaning in the act of reading itself and examines the ways individual readers or communities of readers experience texts. These critics examine how the reader joins with the author "to help the text mean." They determine what kind of reader or what community of readers the work implies and helps to create. They examine "the significance of the series of interpretations the reader goes through in the process of reading."

Deconstruction is a recent school of criticism which ventures beyond the structuralists' assertion that all aspects of human culture are fundamentally languages--complex systems of signs: signifieds (concepts) and signifiers (verbal or non-verbal--and that therefore a quasi-scientific formalism is available for approaching literature (and advertising, fashion, food, etc.). Deconstructionists oppose the "metaphysics of presence," that is, the claim of literature or philosophy that we can find some full, rich meaning outside of or prior to language itself. Like formalists, these critics also look "at the relation of a text's ideas to the way the ideas are expressed. Unlike formalists, though, deconstructionists find meaning in the ways the text breaks down: for instance, in the ways the rhetoric contradicts the ostensible message." Deconstructive criticism "typically argues that a particular literary, historical, or philosophical work both claims to possess full and immediate presence and admits the impossibility of attaining such presence,"--that texts, rather than revealing the New Critic's "unities," actually dismantle themselves due to their intertwined, inevitably opposite "discourses" (strands of narrative, threads of meaning).
Archetypal Criticism

Archetypal criticism argues that archetypes determine the form and function of literary works, that a text's meaning is shaped by cultural and psychological myths. Archetypes are the unknowable basic forms personified or concretized in recurring images, symbols, or patterns which may include motifs such as the quest or the heavenly ascent, recognizable character types such as the trickster or the hero, symbols such as the apple or snake, or images such as crucifixion (as in King Kong, or Bride of Frankenstein)--all laden with meaning already when employed in a particular work.

Archetypal criticism gets its impetus from psychologist Carl Jung, who postulated that humankind has a "collective unconscious," a kind of universal psyche, which is manifested in dreams and myths and which harbors themes and images that we all inherit. Literature, therefore, imitates not the world but rather the "total dream of humankind." Jung called mythology "the textbook of the archetypes" (qtd. in Walker 17).

Archetypal critics find New Criticism too atomistic in ignoring intertextual elements and in approaching the text as if it existed in a vacuum. After all, we recognize story patterns and symbolic associations at least from other texts we have read, if not innately; we know how to form assumptions and expectations from encounters with black hats, springtime settings, evil stepmothers, and so forth. So surely meaning cannot exist solely on the page of a work, nor can that work be treated as an independent entity.

Archetypal images and story patterns encourage readers (and viewers of films and advertisements) to participate ritualistically in basic beliefs, fears, and anxieties of their age. These archetypal features not only constitute the intelligibility of the text but also tap into a level of desires and anxieties of humankind.

[Whereas Freudian, Lacanian, and other schools of psychological criticism operate within a linguistic paradigm regarding the unconscious, the Jungian approach to myth emphasizes the notion of image (Walker 3).]


Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. "Archetypal Criticism." A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999. 12-14.

---. "Psychological and Psychoanalytic Criticism." A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999. 247-253.

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random House, 1989.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 2nd ed. NY: Longman, 1998.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Walker, Steven F. Jung and the Jungians on Myth. NY: Routledge, 2002.


Psychoanalytic Criticism

Psychoanalytic criticism adopts the methods of "reading" employed by Freud and later theorists to interpret texts. It argues that literary texts, like dreams, express the secret unconscious desires and anxieties of the author, that a literary work is a manifestation of the author's own neuroses. One may psychoanalyze a particular character within a literary work, but it is usually assumed that all such characters are projections of the author's psyche.

One interesting facet of this approach is that it validates the importance of literature, as it is built on a literary key for the decoding. Freud himself wrote, "The dream-thoughts which we first come across as we proceed with our analysis often strike us by the unusual form in which they are expressed; they are not clothed in the prosaic language usually employed by our thoughts, but are on the contrary represented symbolically by means of similes and metaphors, in images resembling those of poetic speech" (26).

Like psychoanalysis itself, this critical endeavor seeks evidence of unresolved emotions, psychological conflicts, guilts, ambivalences, and so forth within what may well be a disunified literary work. The author's own childhood traumas, family life, sexual conflicts, fixations, and such will be traceable within the behavior of the characters in the literary work. But psychological material will be expressed indirectly, disguised, or encoded (as in dreams) through principles such as "symbolism" (the repressed object represented in disguise), "condensation" (several thoughts or persons represented in a single image), and "displacement" (anxiety located onto another image by means of association).

Despite the importance of the author here, psychoanalytic criticism is similar to New Criticism in not concerning itself with "what the author intended." But what the author never intended (that is, repressed) is sought. The unconscious material has been distorted by the censoring conscious mind.

Psychoanalytic critics will ask such questions as, "What is Hamlet's problem?" or "Why can't Bront? seem to portray any positive mother figures?"


Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. "Psychological and Psychoanalytic Criticism." A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999. 247-253.

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random House, 1989.

Freud, Sigmund. "On Dreams." Excerpts. Art in Theory 1900-1990. Ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Cambridge: Blackwell Pub., Inc., 1993. 26-34.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 2nd ed. NY: Longman, 1998.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Feminism

Sooner or later in an Introduction to Literature class, we need to discuss "the F word": Feminism. I don't understand statements of this sort:

  • I think that the media exploits women's bodies, sure, but I'm not one of those feminists!
  • I think it sucks that women get 71? on the dollar compared to men for equal work, but I'm not one of those feminists!
  • I think the fact that "she was askin' fer it" is a viable defense in spousal abuse and rape cases in Idaho shows a touch of injustice, but I'm sure not one of those feminists!

Who turned "feminist" into a dirty word? (Probably George Bush and that batch; Pat Robertson occasionally rants against "witches, lesbians, and feminists.")

Feminist literary criticism, arising in conjunction with sociopolitical feminism, critiques patriarchal language and literature by exposing how these reflect masculine ideology. It examines gender politics in works and traces the subtle construction of masculinity and femininity, and their relative status, positionings, and marginalizations within works.

Beyond making us aware of the marginalizing uses of traditional language (the presumptuousness of the pronoun "he," or occupational words such as "mailman") feminists focused on language have noticed a stylistic difference in women's writing: women tend to use reflexive constructions more than men (e.g., "She found herself crying"). They have noticed that women and men tend to communicate differently: men directed towards solutions, women towards connecting.

Feminist criticism concern itself with stereotypical representations of genders. It also may trace the history of relatively unknown or undervalued women writers, potentially earning them their rightful place within the literary canon, and helps create a climate in which women's creativity may be fully realized and appreciated.

One will frequently hear the term "patriarchy" used among feminist critics, referring to traditional male-dominated society. "Marginalization" refers to being forced to the outskirts of what is considered socially and politically significant; the female voice was traditionally marginalized, or discounted altogether.


Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random House, 1989.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 2nd ed. NY: Longman, 1998.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Marxism

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was primarily a theorist and historian (less the evil pinko commie demon that McCarthyism fretted about). After examining social organization in a scientific way (thereby creating a methodology for social science: political science), he perceived human history to have consisted of a series of struggles between classes--between the oppressed and the oppressing. Whereas Freud saw "sexual energy" to be the motivating factor behind human endeavor and Nabokov seemed to feel artistic impulse was the real factor, Marx thought that "historical materialism" was the ultimate driving force, a notion involving the distribution of resources, gain, production, and such matters.

The supposedly "natural" political evolution involved (and would in the future involve) "feudalism" leading to "bourgeois capitalism" leading to "socialism" and finally to "utopian communism." In bourgeois capitalism, the privileged bourgeoisie rely on the proletariat--the labor force responsible for survival. Marx theorized that when profits are not reinvested in the workers but in creating more factories, the workers will grow poorer and poorer until no short-term patching is possible or successful. At a crisis point, revolt will lead to a restructuring of the system.

For a political system to be considered communist, the underclasses must own the means of production--not the government nor the police force. Therefore, aside from certain first-century Christian communities and other temporary communes, communism has not yet really existed. (The Soviet Union was actually state-run capitalism.)

Marx is known also for saying that "Religion is the opiate of the people," so he was somewhat aware of the problem that Lenin later dwelt on. Lenin was convinced that workers remain largely unaware of their own oppression since they are convinced by the state to be selfless. One might point to many "opiates of the people" under most political systems--diversions that prevent real consideration of trying to change unjust economic conditions.

Marxist Criticism

According to Marxists, and to other scholars in fact, literature reflects those social institutions out of which it emerges and is itself a social institution with a particular ideological function. Literature reflects class struggle and materialism: think how often the quest for wealth traditionally defines characters. So Marxists generally view literature "not as works created in accordance with timeless artistic criteria, but as 'products' of the economic and ideological determinants specific to that era" (Abrams 149). Literature reflects an author's own class or analysis of class relations, however piercing or shallow that analysis may be.

The Marxist critic simply is a careful reader or viewer who keeps in mind issues of power and money, and any of the following kinds of questions:

  • 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?


Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. "Marxist Criticism." A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999. 147-153.

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random House, 1989.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 2nd ed. NY: Longman, 1998.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Reader-Response Criticism

Reader-Response criticism is not a subjective, impressionistic free-for-all, nor a legitimizing of all half-baked, arbitrary, personal comments on literary works. Instead, it is a school of criticism which emerged in the 1970s, focused on finding meaning in the act of reading itself and examining the ways individual readers or communities of readers experience texts. These critics raise theoretical questions regarding how the reader joins with the author "to help the text mean." They determine what kind of reader or what community of readers the work implies and helps to create. They also may examine the significance of the series of interpretations the reader undergoes in the reading process.

Like New Critics, reader-response critics focus on what texts do; but instead of regarding texts as self-contained entities, reader-response criticism plunges into what the New Critics called the affective fallacy: what do texts do in the minds of the readers? In fact, a text can exist only as activated by the mind of the reader. Thus, where formalists saw texts as spacial, reader-response critics view them as temporal phenomena. And, as Stanley Fish states, "It is not that the presence of poetic qualities compels a certain kind of attention but that the paying of a certain kind of attention results in the emergence of poetic qualities. . . . Interpretation is not the art of construing but the art of constructing. Interpreters do not decode poems; they make them" (326-327).


Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random House, 1989.

Fish, Stanley. Is There A Text in This Class? Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 2nd ed. NY: Longman, 1998.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Cultural Criticism

Cultural criticism, or cultural studies, is related to New Historicism but with a particular and cross-disciplinary emphasis on taking seriously those works traditionally marginalized by the aesthetic ideology of white European males. It examines social, economic, and political conditions that effect institutions and products such as literature and questions traditional value hierarchies. Thus it scrutinizes the habitual privileging of race, class, and gender, and also subverts the standard distinctions between "high art" and low. Instead of more attention to the canon, cultural studies examines works by minority ethnic groups and postcolonial writers, the products of folk, urban, and mass culture. Popular literature, soap opera, rock and rap music, cartoons, professional wrestling, food, etc. -- all fall within the domain of cultural criticism.

Obviously the field of cultural criticism is broad. We will focus on it particularly as it concerns itself with questioning the ways Western cultural tradition expressed in literature defines itself partly by stifling the voices of oppressed groups or even by demonizing those groups. We will focus on how literary tradition has constructed models of identity for oppressed groups, how these groups have constructed oppositional literary identities, and how different communities of readers might interpret the same text differently due to varied value systems.


Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

New Historicism

Historical Criticism insisted that to understand a literary piece, we need to understand the author's biography and social background, ideas circulating at the time, and the cultural milieu. This school of criticism fell into disfavor as the New Critics emerged.

New Historicism seeks to find meaning in a text by considering the work within the framework of the prevailing ideas and assumptions of its historical era. New Historicists concern themselves with the political function of literature and with the concept of power, the intricate means by which cultures produce and reproduce themselves. These critics focus on revealing the historically specific model of truth and authority (not a "truth" but a "cultural construct") reflected in a given work.

In other words, history here is not a mere chronicle of facts and events, but rather a complex description of human reality and evolution of preconceived notions. Literary works may or may not tell us about various factual aspects of the world from which they emerge, but they will tell us about prevailing ways of thinking at the time: ideas of social organization, prejudices, taboos, etc. They raise questions of interest to anthropologists and sociologists.

New Historicism is more "sociohistorical" than it is a delving into factoids: concerned with ideological products or cultural constructs which are formations of any era. (It's not just where would Keats have seen a Grecian urn in England, but from where he may have absorbed the definitions of art and beauty.)

So, New Historicists, insisting that ideology manifests itself in literary productions and discourse, interest themselves in the interpretive constructions which the members of a society or culture apply to their experience.


Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random House, 1989.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 2nd ed. NY: Longman, 1998.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Structuralism

Post-Structuralism

Deconstruction


STRUCTURALIST CRITICISM

Structuralism is concerned not so much with what things mean, but how they mean; it is a science designed to show that all elements of human culture, including literature, are understandable as parts of a system of signs. This science of signs is called "semiotics" or "semiology." The goal is to discover the codes, structures, and processes involved in the production of meaning. "Structuralism claims that human culture itself is fundamentally a language, a complex system of signifieds (concepts) and signifiers. These signifiers can be verbal (like language itself or literature) or nonverbal (like face painting, advertising, or fashion)" (Biddle 80). Thus, linguistics is to language as structuralism is to literature.

Structuralists often would break myths into their smallest units, and realign corresponding ones. Opposite terms modulate until resolved or reconciled by an intermediary third term.

Structuralism was a reaction to modern alienation and despair; it sought to recover literature from the isolation in which it had been studied, since laws governing it govern all sign systems -- clothing, food, body 'language,' etc.

What quickly became apparent, though, was that signs and words don't have meaning in and of themselves, only in relations to other signs and entire systems. Hence, post-structuralism.


POST-STRUCTURALISM

Post-structuralism contests and subverts structuralism and formalism. Structuralists are convinced that systematic knowledge is possible; post-structuralists claim to know only the impossibility of this knowledge. They counter the possibility of knowing systematically a text by revealing the "grammar" behind its form and meaning. Texts contradict not only the structuralist accounts of them, but also themselves. All signifieds are also signifiers (a car symbolizes achievement).


DECONSTRUCTION

Deconstructive criticism posits an undecidability of meaning for all texts. The text has intertwined and contradictory discourses, gaps, and incoherencies, since language itself is unstable and arbitrary. The critic doesn't undermine the text; the text already dismantles itself. Its rhetoric subverts or undermines its ostensible meaning.

Jacques Derrida opposed the "metaphysics of presence, . . . the claim in literature or philosophy that we can find some full, rich meaning outside of or prior to language itself." The hierarchy of binaries on which this assertion rests is untenable. Privileging speech over writing = logocentrism; spoken or written words have meaning only by "differance" from other words. Deconstructive critics focus on the text like the formalists, but direct attention to the opposite of the New Critical "unities." Instead, they view the "decentering" of texts and point out incompatabilities, rhetorical grain-against-grain contradictions, undecidability within texts. There is often a playfulness to deconstruction, but it can be daunting to read too.


Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random House, 1989.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 2nd ed. NY: Longman, 1998.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Conclusion

We've mined much material, discussion, and speculative lunacy out of these literary works this semester. What if we were wrong? What was the point?

If what we determined about the meanings of these works was indeed consciously intended by the authors?

Then we've been translating the implications, bringing the subtler message out into the open, articulating the nuances for what ideally can be our hightened awareness and our better selves.

If not consciously done, but the text itself does convey and contain the richer meanings than intended by the author?

Why stop at exactly what was intended? Freudian slips are reflections of deeper workings beyond face value. What if not the author but the work speaks for an age and a culture, or humanity? Value systems and problems are perpetuated every day without one single person being responsible. Art is more important than the author. We reevaluate, recreate the text anew ourselves.

But what if our meanings were not intended by the author AND are not at all in the text? What if our creative interpretation indeed went too far?

Well, at least we're practicing our "reading" and reasoning skills. It's the human impulse to discover a point, to find meaning in experience, and typically there is no author or authority figure assuring us that what we decide for ourselves is indeed the objective intended purpose of our lives. So we've made dynamic sense of an enigma; more power to us.

The liberal arts are supposed to liberate us, give us control over the bombardment of values and experiences which oppress if not baffle us daily. This is especially crucial now in an age of imitation, cloning, and anti-identity (e.g., originality points for lip-synching).

Besides, as Buzz says in Rebel Without a Cause, "You've gotta do something."



  评论这张
 
阅读(681)| 评论(0)

历史上的今天

在LOFTER的更多文章

评论

<#--最新日志,群博日志--> <#--推荐日志--> <#--引用记录--> <#--博主推荐--> <#--随机阅读--> <#--首页推荐--> <#--历史上的今天--> <#--被推荐日志--> <#--上一篇,下一篇--> <#-- 热度 --> <#-- 网易新闻广告 --> <#--右边模块结构--> <#--评论模块结构--> <#--引用模块结构--> <#--博主发起的投票-->
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

页脚

网易公司版权所有 ©1997-2018