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Approaches to interpreting literature

Marxist theory/approach
Marxist criticism is a type of criticism in which literary works are viewed as the product
of work and whose practitioners emphasize the role of class and ideology as they reflect,
propagate, and even challenge the prevailing social order. Rather than viewing texts as
repositories for hidden meanings, Marxist critics view texts as material products to be understood
in broadly historical terms. In short, literary works are viewed as a product of work (and hence of
the realm of production and consumption we call economics).
Historical biographical theory
Historical-Biographical approach can be defined as the approach that "...sees a literary
work chiefly, if not exclusively, as a reflection of the author's life and times or the life and
times of the characters in the work" (Guerin, 22). Understanding the social structure or way of
life of a certain time period give the reader a greater knowledge base from which to draw
conclusions and better understand the story. Discovering details about the author's life and times
also provide similar ways to further develop ideas about a story.
Feminist/gender/womanist theory
This school of theory looks at how aspects of our culture are inherently patriarchal (male
dominated) and "...this critique strives to expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in male
writing about women" (Richter 1346).
Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical discourse.
It aims to understand the nature of gender inequality. It examines women's social roles,
experience, and feminist politics in a variety of fields, such as anthropology and sociology,
communication, psychoanalysis, economics, literary, education, and philosophy. While generally
providing a critique of social relations, much of feminist theory also focuses on analyzing gender
inequality and the promotion of women's rights, interests, and issues.
Readers response theory
It focuses on the reader (or "audience") and his or her experience of a literary work, in
contrast to other schools and theories that focus attention primarily on the author or the content
and form of the work.
Mimetic theory
Mimesis is the idea that art imitates reality, an idea that traces back to Aristotle who
argued that the universal can be found in the concrete.
Psychoanalytic theory
It is the literary criticism or literary theory which, in method, concept, or form, is
influenced by the tradition of psychoanalysis.
Formalist theory/approach
Formalism maintains that a literary work contains certain intrinsic features, and the
Formalism attempts to treat each work as its own distinct piece, free from its
environment, era, and even author.
Mythic/archetypal approach
It is the universal patterns of human behavior and thinking as conveyed in literature.
Archetypal critics make the reasonable assumption that human beings all over the world
have basic experiences in common and have developed similar stories and symbols to express
these experiences. Their assumption that myths from distant countries might help to explain a
work of literature might seem a little far-fetched. However, critics of this persuasion believe it is
Structural theory
It is a theoretical paradigm that emphasizes that elements of culture must be understood
in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure.
Deconstruction theory
It embraces the precept that meaning is always uncertain and that it is not the task of the
literary critic to illuminate meaning in a given text.