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Be able to describe different approaches to literature. Be able to draw from only one selection questions for all the approaches to literature to show versatility with which a piece can be handled.
APPROACHES TO LITERATURE FORMALISTIC OR LITERARY APPROACH The first approach is called “formalistic” or “pure” or “literary.” The selection is read and viewed intrinsically, or for itself; independent of author, age, or any other extrinsic factor. This approach is close to the “art for art’s sake” dictum. The study of the selection is more or less based on the so-called literary elements which more or less boil down to the literal level (subject matter), the affective values (emotion, mood, atmosphere, tone, attitudes, empathy), the ideational values (themes, “vision”, universal truths, character), technical values (plot, structure, scene, language, pint of view, imagery, figure, metrics, etc.) and the total effect (the interrelation of foregoing elements) and communication. This approach could also include the selection against any literary concept or term like “satire,” “comedy,” “symbol,” etc; or against any literary tradition or movement like the folk tradition, classical, romantic or realistic tradition etc. The Formalistic Approach to literature is also called “pure” or “literary.” The selection is read and viewed fundamentally (basically), or simply for ‘itself’, independent of author, age or other external factor. The Formalistic or Literary Approach is close to Jose Garcia Villa’s “art for art’s sake.” Jose Garcia Villa was a Filipino poet, literary critic, short story writer and painter. He was awarded the National Artist of the Philippines title for Literature in 1973, as well as the Guggenheim Fellowship in creative writing by Conrad Aiken. He is known to have introduced the “reverse consonance rime scheme” in writing poetry, as well as the extensive use of punctuation marks-especially commas, which made him known as the Comma Poet. He used the penname Doveglion (derived from “Dove, Eagle, Lion”), based from the characters he derived from himself. Villa was considered the leader of Filipino "artsakists", a group of writers who believe that art should be "for art's sake" hence the term. He once pronounced that "art is never a means; it is an end in itself.” Villa's tart poetic style was considered too aggressive at that time. In 1929 he published Man Songs, a series of erotic poems, which the administrators in UP found too bold and was even fined P70 for obscenity by the Manila Court of First Instance. In that same year, Villa won Best Story of the Year from Philippine Free Press magazine for Mir-I-Nisa. He also received P1,000 prize money, which he used to migrate for the United States.
He enrolled at the University of New Mexico, wherein he was one of the founders of Clay, a mimeographed literary magazine. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and pursued post-graduate work at Columbia University. Villa had gradually caught the attention of the country's literary circles, one of the few Asians to do so at that time. Villa was considered as a powerful literary influence in the Philippines throughout much of the 20th century, although he had lived most of his life in the United States. His writing style, as well as his personality and staunch opinions on writing, has often made him considered as an eccentric. Francia explained in Asiaweek magazine, "In a world of English-language poetry dominated by British and Americans, Villa stood out for the ascetic brilliance of his poetry and for his national origin." Fellow Filipino writer Salvador P. López described Villa as "the one Filipino writer today who it would be futile to deride and impossible to ignore … the pace-setter for an entire generation of young writers, the mentor laying down the law for the whole tribe, the patron-saint of a cult of rebellious moderns.” On 07 February 1997, Jose Garcia Villa died at a New York hospital, two days after he was found unconscious in his apartment. He died of cerebral stroke and multi lobar pneumonia at the St. Vincent Hospital in Greenwich. He was 88. MORAL OR HUMANISTIC APPROACH Another approach is the moral or humanistic approach where the nature of man is central to literature. The reader or teacher or critic more or less “requires” that the piece present man as essentially rational; that is endowed with intellect and free will; or that the piece does not misinterpret the true nature of man. In these times of course, the true nature of man is hotly contested, making literature all the more challenging. Whatever the case, this approach is close to the “morality” of literature, to questions of ethical goodness and badness. HISTORICAL APPROACH The very popular historical approach, based on Taine’s “moment-milieu-race,” sees literature as both a reflection and a product of the times and circumstances in which it was written. Man as a member of a particular society or nation at a particular time, is central to the approach and whenever a teacher gives a historical or biographical backgrounds in introducing a selection, or arranges a literature course in chronological order, he is hewing close to this approach. (From this approach; the sociological approach may be said to have branched out.) The historical approach is often suitable to high school classes, to survey courses, for “average” classes, and for pieces tackled or “discovered” for the first time. It operates on the premise that the history of a nation has telling effects on its literature and that a piece can be better understood and appreciated if one knows the times around its creation.
CULTURAL APPROACH This approach considers literature as one of the principal manifestations and vehicles of a nation’s or a race’s culture and tradition. It includes the entire complex of what goes under “culture” – the technological, the artistic, the sociological, the ideological aspects; and considers the literary piece in the total culture milieu in which it was born. This approach is one of the richest ways to arrive at the culture of the people and one of the most pleasurable ways of appreciating the literature of a people. It goes by the dictum “culture teaching through literature.” PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACH Set in dizzying motion, principally by Freud, perhaps beyond his wildest expectations, it considers literature as the expression of “personality,” of “inner drives” of “neurosis.” It includes the psychology of the author, of the characters, and even the “psychology of creation.” It has resulted in an almost exhausting and exhaustive “psychological analysis” of characters, of symbols and images, of recurrent themes, etc. CONCLUSION The “formalistic” or “literary” approach is close to the “art for art’s sake” dictum by Jose Garcia Villa. The study of the selection is more or less based on the so-called literary elements which more or less boil down to the literal level, the affective values, the ideational values, technical values and the total effect and communication. For moral or humanistic approach, the nature of man is central to literature. This approach is close to the “morality” of literature, to questions of ethical goodness and badness. Historical approach is based on the “moment-milieu-race,” it sees literature as both a reflection and a product of the times and circumstances in which it was written. It operates on the premise that the history of a nation has telling effects on its literature and that a piece can be better understood and appreciated if one knows the times around its creation. Cultural approach is one of the richest ways to arrive at the culture of the people and one of the most pleasurable ways of appreciating the literature of a people. It goes by the dictum “culture teaching through literature. Psychological approach considers literature as the expression of “personality,” of “inner drives” of “neurosis.” It has resulted in an almost exhausting and exhaustive “psychological analysis” of characters, of symbols and images, of recurrent themes, and the likes. Therefore, it is possible to draw different questions from one literary selection using the different approaches to literature. Hence, this may as well show the versatility of a literary piece.
REFERENCES David-Maramba, Asuncion. Philippine Contemporary Literature in English and Filipino, Bookmark Inc, Manila, 1993 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Garcia_Villa
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