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Literary Theories

In: English and Literature

Submitted By eyelerz08
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1. Formalism (also called New Criticism) a. Analysis based on the idea that the form of a piece of literature will echo or somehow illuminate its content. b. These two very similar approaches to literature involve a close reading of the text itself. Formalist and New Critics look only at the language and elements of the text, and disregard the context in which the text was written or received. c. The main thing to consider when approaching a work of literature from the formalist or new critic's point of view is to analyze how all the elements of the piece (plot, point of view, character, tone and style, symbolism, setting and theme) work together to create a certain effect on the reader. d. A formalist or new critic perspective demands lots of evidence from the primary source. When interpreting a text using this approach, you'll need to identify quotes and specific references that support your ideas about what the text is "saying" to the reader. 2. Marxism e. 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: i. What role does class play in the work; what is the author's analysis of class relations? ii. How do characters overcome oppression? iii. In what ways does the work serve as propaganda for the status quo; or does it try to undermine it? iv. What does the work say about oppression; or are social conflicts ignored or blamed elsewhere? v. Does the work propose some form of utopian vision as a solution to the problems encountered in the work? 3. Feminism f. 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. g. 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. h. 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. i. 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.


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