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Literary Theories: A Sampling of Critical Lenses
Terms in this set (19)
Narrative design, character type, or image that is common in all types of literature, dreams, and social behavior. Archetypal similarities reflect universal, primitive, and elemental patterns which evokes a profound response from the reader.
-Search for the father
Feminist critics see cultural and economic disabilities in a "patriarchal" society that has hindered women from realizing their creative possibility and cultural identity. They focus on the relationship between genders. They assume:
1. Our civilization is pervasively patriarchal
2. The concepts of "gender" are largely, if not entirely, cultural constructs, effected by the omnipresent patriarchal biases of our civilization.
3. This patriarchal ideology also pervades those writings that have been considered great literature. Such works lack autonomous female role models, are implicitly addressed to male readers, and leave the woman reader an alien outsider or else solicit her to identify against herself by assuming male values and ways of perceiving, feeling, and acting.
Ground theory and practice on the economic and cultural theory of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, especially on the following claims:
1. The evolving history of humanity, its institutions, and its ways of thinking are determined by the changing mode of its "material production"--or, its basic economic organization.
2. Historical changes in fundamental mode of production effect essential changes both in the constitution and power relations of social classes, which carry on a conflict for economic, political, and social advantage.
3. Human consciousness in any era is constituted by an ideology--a set of concepts, beliefs, and values which humans perceive and explain reality. A Marxist critics tries to "explain" literature in an era by revealing the economic, class, and ideological determinants of the way an author writes, and examine the relation of the text to the social reality of that time and place.
-Power & Money in literature. Who has power/money? Who does not? What happens as a result?
(AKA "New criticism")
1. A poem should be treated as primarily poetry and should be regarded as an independent and self-sufficient object.
2. The distinctive procedure of the formalist is explication or close reading: The detailed and subtle analysis of the complex interrelations and ambiguities of the components within a work.
3. The principles of formalism are basically verbal. That is, literature is conceived to be a special kind of language whose attributes are defined by systematic opposition to the language of science and of interactions of words, figures of speech, and symbols.
4. Form is meaning
Psychological and Psychoanalytic Criticism
Deals with literature as an expression, in fictional form, of the personality, state of mind, feelings, and desires of its author/main character(s).
1. Reference to the author's personality is used to explain and interpret a literary work.
2. Reference to literary works is made in order to establish, biographically, and personality of the author.
3. The mode of reading a literary work itself is a way of experiencing the distinctive subjectivity or consciousness of its author.
Does not designate any one critical theory, but focuses on the activity of reading a work of literature. A literary work is converted into an activity that goes on in a reader's mind, and what had been features of the work itself--including narrator, plot, characters, style, and structure--are less important than the connection between a reader's experience and the text. It is through this interaction that meaning is made.
Post-structuralists view the world in this way and question the basic assumptions of "truth." Deconstructionists declare that literature means nothing because language means nothing. We cannot say what the "meaning" of a story is because there is no way of knowing. However, by constantly displacing the "center" or "truth," critics are allowed to "play" in the in-between spaces where language, experience, and systematic binaries break down. Deconstruction is a reaction to modernism; modernists tend to force the pieces of a broken and fragmented world together while post-modernists are more interested in reveling in the brokenness of it.
Requires that the critic applies a text to specific historical information (social, political, economic, cultural and/or intellectual climate) about the time during which an author wrote. New Historicism assumes that context is key to understanding a text.
Concentrates completely on the text, bringing nothing else to it. It depends on linguistic theory, so it is difficult to do without some background. It breaks up words, and sentences into parts in order to better understand them. On the most basic level, structuralism investigates the kinds of patterns that are built up and broken down within a text and uses them to get at an interpretation of that text.
The study of literature and environment from an interdisciplinary point of view where all sciences come together to analyze the environment and brainstorm possible solutions for the correction of the contemporary environmental situation. Literary eco-critics examine texts in terms of ideas such as landscape, nature, environment, and a character's relationship between these things.
Critical Race Theory (CRT)
An academic discipline focused upon the intersection of race, law, and power. CRT is unified by two common areas of inquiry:
1. CRT analyzed the way in which white supremacy and racial power are reproduced over time and how the role of law plays in this process.
2. CRT work has investigated the possibility of transforming the relationship between law and racial power, and more broadly, the possibility of achieving racial emancipation and anti-subordination.
A type of post-structuralist critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s out of the fields of queer studies and Women's studies. Queer theory includes both queer readings of texts and the theorization of 'queerness' itself. Queer theory builds both upon feminist challenges to the idea that gender is part of the essential self and upon gay/lesbian studies' close examination of the socially constructed nature of sexual acts and identities. Whereas gay/lesbian studies focused its inquiries into "natural" and "unnatural" behavior with respect to homosexual behavior, queer theory expands its focus to encompass any kind of sexual activity or identity that falls into normative and deviant categories.
This approach addresses the matters of post-colonial identity (cultural, national, ethnic), gender, race, and racism, and their interactions in the development of a post-colonial society, and of a post-colonial national identity; of how a colonized people's (cultural) knowledge was used against them, in service of the colonizer's interests; and of how knowledge about the world is generated under specific socio-economic relations, between the powerful and powerless. Identity politics comprise the perspectives of the colonial subjects, his and her creative resistance to the colonizer's culture; and how that resistance psychologically complicated the imperial-colony project for the European man and woman.
Activities that cross state borders based around economic, social, and political exchanges outside of state control. traditionally represented by three kinds of movements: physicial objects (including people), info and ideas, money and credit.
Argues that humans generate identities including gender, through performance or expression.
Studies that examine cross-ethnic group differences within a country.
Pop Culture Studies
Studies how popular cultural trends affect a text.
Adaption Studies (& film studies)
Studies how a text is translated into different mediums, including film. It observes the adaption process and how meaning is transformed.
Studies the affects of American culture on literature.
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