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Comprehensive Approaches

Comprehensive Approaches

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APPROACHES TO LITERARY CRITICISMStructuralism
Inliterary theory,structuralism is an approach to analyzing the narrative material by examining the underlyinginvariant structure, which is based on the linguistic sign system of Ferdinand de Saussure.The structuralists claim thatthere must be a structure in every text, which explains why it is easier for experienced readers than for non-experiencedreaders to interpret a text. Hence, they say that everything that is written seems to be governed by specific rules, a"grammar of literature"
, that one learns in educational institutions and that are to be unmasked. For example, a literarycritic applying a structuralist literary theory might say that the authors of  
did not write anything "really"new, because their work has the same structure as Shakespeare'sRomeo and Juliet.In both texts a girl and a boy fall inlove (a "formula" with a symbolic operator between them would be "Boy
+
Girl") despite the fact that they belong totwo groups that hate each other ("Boy's Group
-
Girl's Group" or "Opposing forces") and conflict is resolved by their death.The versatility of structuralism is such that a literary critic could make the same claim about a story of two
 friendly
families ("Boy's Family
+
Girl's Family") that arrange a marriage between their children despite the fact that thechildren hate each other ("Boy
-
Girl") and then the children commit suicide to escape the arranged marriage; the justification is that the second story's structure is an 'inversion' of the first story's structure: the relationship between thevalues of love and the two pairs of parties involved have been reversed.Structuralistic literary criticism argues that the "novelty value of a literary text" can lie only in new structure,rather than in the specifics of character development and voice in which that structure is expressed. One branch of literary structuralism, likeFreudianism,Marxism,andtransformational grammar , posits both a deep and a surface structure. In Freudianism and Marxism the deep structure is a story, in Freud's case the battle, ultimately, between thelife and death instincts, and in Marx, the conflicts between classes that are rooted in the economic "base."Literary structuralism often follows the lead of Vladimir ProppandClaude Levi-Straussin seeking out basic deep elements in stories andmyths,which are combined in various ways to produce the many versions of the ur-story or ur-myth. As in Freud and Marx, but in contrast to transformational grammar, these basic elements are meaning-bearing.There is considerable similarity between structural literary theory and Northrop Frye's archetypal criticism, which is alsoindebted to the anthropological study of myths. Some critics have also tried to apply the theory to individual works, butthe effort to find unique structures in individual literary works runs counter to the structuralist program and has anaffinity with New Criticism.Structuralism is a way of thinking about the world which is predominantly concerned with the perceptions anddescription of structures. At its simplest, structuralism claims that the nature of every element in any given situation hasno significance by itself, and in fact is determined by all the other elements involved in that situation. The fullsignificance of any entity cannot be perceived unless and until it is integrated into the structure of which it forms a part(Hawkes, p. 11). Structuralists believe that all human activity is constructed, not natural or "essential." Consequently, itis the systems of organization that are important (what we do is always a matter of selection within a given construct).By this formulation, "any activity, from the actions of a narrative to not eating one's peas with a knife, takes place withina system of differences and has meaning only in its relation to other possible activities within that system, not to somemeaning that emanates from nature or the divine" (Childers & Hentzi, p. 286.).
Major figures
include Claude Lévi-Strauss (LAY-vee-strows), A. J. Greimas (GREE-mahs), Jonathan Culler, Roland Barthes (bart), Ferdinand de Saussure(soh-SURR or soh-ZHOR), Roman Jakobson (YAH-keb-sen), Vladimir Propp, and Terence Hawkes.
Psychological criticism
 An approach to literature that draws upon psychoanalytic theories, especially those of Sigmund Freud or Jacques Lacan to understand more fully the text, the writer, and the reader. The basis of this approach is the idea of theexistence of a human unconscious—those impulses, desires, and feelings about which a person is unaware but whichinfluence emotions and behavior. Critics use psychological approaches to explore the motivations of characters and thesymbolic meanings of events, while biographers speculate about a writer’s own motivations—conscious or unconscious —in a literary work. Psychological approaches are also used to describe and analyze the reader’s personal responses to atext.Psychological critics view works through the lens of psychology. They look either at the psychologicalmotivations of the characters or of the authors themselves, although the former is generally considered a morerespectable approach. Most frequently, psychological critics apply Freudian psychology to works, but otheapproaches (such as a Jungian approach) also exist.
Freudian Approach:
A Freudian approach often includes pinpointing the influences of a character's
id
(the instinctual, pleasure seeking part of the mind),
superego
(the part of the mind that represses the id's impulses) and the
ego
(the part of the mindthat controls but does not repress the id's impulses, releasing them in a healthy way). Freudian critics like to pointout the sexual implications of symbols and imagery, since Freud's believed that all human behavior is motivated bysexuality. They tend to see
concave
images, such as ponds, flowers, cups, and caves as female symbols; whereasobjects that are longer than they are wide are usually seen as
phallic symbols
. Dancing, riding, and flying areassociated with sexual pleasure. Water is usually associated with birth, the female principle, the maternal, thewomb, and the death wish. Freudian critics occasionally discern the presence of an
Oedipus complex
(a boy'sunconscious rivalry with his father for the love of his mother) in the male characters of certain works, such asHamlet. They may also refer to Freud's psychology of child development, which includes the
oral stage
, the
analstage
, and the
genital stage
.
Jungian Approach:
 
Jung is also an influential force in myth (archetypal) criticism. Psychological critics are generally concerned withhis concept of the process of 
individuation
(the process of discovering what makes one different form everyoneelse). Jung labeled three parts of the self: the
shadow
, or the darker, unconscious self (usually the villain inliterature); the
persona
, or a man's social personality (usually the hero); and the
anima
, or a man's "soul image"(usually the heroine). A
neurosis
occurs when someone fails to assimilate one of these unconscious componentsinto his conscious and
projects
it on someone else. The persona must be flexible and be able to balance thecomponents of the psyche.
Advantages:
It can be a useful tool for understanding some works, such as Henry James The Turning of the Screw, in whichcharacters obviously have psychological issues. Like the biographical approach, knowing something about awriter's psychological make up can give us insight into his work.
Disadvantages:
Psychological criticism can turn a work into little more than a psychological case study, neglecting to view it as a piece of art. Critics sometimes attempt to diagnose long dead authors based on their works, which is perhaps notthe best evidence of their psychology. Critics tend to see sex in everything, exaggerating this aspect of literature.Finally, some works do not lend themselves readily to this approach.
Feminist criticism
 An approach to literature that seeks to correct or supplement what may be regarded as a predominantly male-dominated critical perspective with a feminist consciousness. Feminist criticism places literature in a social context anduses a broad range of disciplines, including history, sociology, psychology, and linguistics, to provide a perspectivesensitive to feminist issues. Feminist theories also attempt to understand representation from a woman’s point of viewand to explain women’s writing strategies as specific to their social conditions.Feminist criticism is concerned with the impact of gender on writing and reading. It usually begins with acritique of patriarchal culture. It is concerned with the place of female writers in the cannon. Finally, it includes asearch for a feminine theory or approach to texts. Feminist criticism is political and often revisionist. Feministsoften argue that male fears are portrayed through female characters. They may argue that gender determineseverything, or just the opposite: that all gender differences are imposed by society, and gender determines nothing.
Advantages:
Women have been somewhat underrepresented in the traditional cannon, and a feminist approach to literatureredresses this problem.
Disadvantages:
Feminist turn literary criticism into a political battlefield and overlook the merits of works they consider "patriarchal." When arguing for a distinct feminine writing style, they tend to relegate women's literature to aghetto status; this in turn prevents female literature from being naturally included in the literary cannon. Thefeminist approach is often too theoretical.
Marxist criticism
 An approach to literature that focuses on the ideological content of a work—its explicit and implicitassumptions and values about matters such as culture, race, class, and power. Marxist criticism, based largely on thewritings of Karl Marx, typically aims at not only revealing and clarifying ideological issues but also correcting socialinjustices. Some Marxist critics use literature to describe the competing socioeconomic interests that too often advancecapitalist interests such as money and power rather than socialist interests such as morality and justice. They argue thatliterature and literary criticism are essentially political because they either challenge or support economic oppression.Because of this strong emphasis on the political aspects of texts, Marxist criticism focuses more on the content andthemes of literature than on its form.
Origins of Marxist Approach:
The Marxist Approach is based on the theories of the philosopher Karl Marx. These theories were developedspecifically to analyze how society functions where there is constant change. 
Marx’s Beliefs:
Philosophy was meant to be used as a tool to bring about change
The capitalist system caused the alienation of the workers, therefore causing them not to be able to live to thefullest
Capalist system would eventually cause the proletarians to rise up against the upper classes in a bloody revoltand replace the system with a communist one. Marx mainly focused on economics, particularly the materialforces of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption 
History of the Marxist Approach:
19
th
century experiments in communal living
Publication of Marx’s works laid the groundwork for literary critics
20
th
Century saw interest in analyzing class conflict and the capitalist system
The Marxist Approach evolve and gained interest when people felt that the formalistic approach wasinadequate 
The Marxist Approach focuses on
:
Concentrates most on the relationship between the test and reality
 
Those using the methods tend to look at tensions and contradictions within a literary work. Marxism originallydeveloped to analyze just such tensions and contradictions within society
See literature as intimately linked to social power, and thus their analysis of literature is linked to larger socialquestions
Ultimately past of a much larger effort to uncover the inner workings of society
Formalists generally look at a piece of literature as a self-contained entity while those analyzing using theMarxist Method those generally look at the unresolved tensions or conflicts
Archetype
 A term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses in a reader.In literature, characters, images, and themes that symbolically embody universal meanings and basic human experiences,regardless of when or where they live, are considered archetypes. Common literary archetypes include stories of quests,initiations, scapegoats, descents to the underworld, and ascents to heaven.
Archetypal literary criticism
is a type of critical theory that interprets a text by focusing on recurringmyths andarchetypes (from the Greek 
archē 
, or beginning, and
typos
, or imprint) in thenarrative, symbols,images, and character types in a literary work. As a form of literary criticism, it dates back to 1934 whenMaud Bodkinpublished
. Archetypal literary criticism’s origins are rooted in two other academic disciplines,socialanthropology and  psychoanalysis; each contributed to the literary criticism in separate ways, with the latter being a sub-  branch of the critical theory. Archetypal criticism was its most popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s, largely due to the work of Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye.Though archetypal literary criticism is no longer widely practiced, nor have there been any major developments in the field, it still has a place in the tradition of literary studies.Femme Fatale: A female character type who brings upon catastrophic and disastrous events.Evefrom the story of Genesis or Pandora from Greek mythology are two such figures. The Journey: A narrative archetype where the protagonist must overcome a series of obstacles before reachinghis or her goal. The quintessential journey archetype in Western culture is arguably Homer s
.Archetypal symbols vary more than archetype narratives or character types is the best archetipical pattern anysymbol with deep roots in a culture's mythology, such as the forbidden fruit in Genesis or even the poison apple inSnowWhite,is an example of a symbol that resonates to archetypal critics.
Canon
 Those works generally considered by scholars, critics, and teachers to be the most important to read and study,which collectively constitute the "masterpieces" of literature. Since the 1960s, the traditional English and Americanliterary canon, consisting mostly of works by white male writers, has been rapidly expanding to include many femalewriters and writers of varying ethnic backgrounds.
Formalist criticism
 An approach to literature that focuses on the formal elements of a work, such as its language, structure, andtone. Formalist critics offer intense examinations of the relationship between form and meaning in a work, emphasizingthe subtle complexity in how a work is arranged. Formalists pay special attention to diction, irony, paradox, metaphor,and symbol, as well as larger elements such as plot, characterization, and narrative technique. Formalist critics readliterature as an independent work of art rather than as a reflection of the author’s state of mind or as a representation of amoment in history. Therefore, anything outside of the work, including historical influences and authorial intent, isgenerally not examined by formalist critics.
New Criticism
 An approach to literature made popular between the 1940s and the 1960s that evolved out of formalistcriticism. New Critics suggest that detailed analysis of the language of a literary text can uncover important layers of meaning in that work. New Criticism consciously downplays the historical influences, authorial intentions, and socialcontexts that surround texts in order to focus on explication—extremely close textual analysis. Critics such as JohnCrowe Ransom, I. A. Richards, and Robert Penn Warren are commonly associated with New Criticism.
Biographical criticism
An approach to literature which suggests that knowledge of the author’s life experiences can aid in theunderstanding of his or her work. While biographical information can sometimes complicate one’s interpretation of awork, and some formalist critics (such as the New Critics) disparage the use of the author’s biography as a tool for textual interpretation, learning about the life of the author can often enrich a reader’s appreciation for that author’s work.
Historical criticism
 An approach to literature that uses history as a means of understanding a literary work more clearly. Suchcriticism moves beyond both the facts of an author’s personal life and the text itself in order to examine the social andintellectual currents in which the author composed the work.
New historicism
 An approach to literature that emphasizes the interaction between the historic context of the work and a modernreader’s understanding and interpretation of the work. New historicists attempt to describe the culture of a period byreading many different kinds of texts and paying close attention to many different dimensions of a culture, including

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