How to do a Critical Reading

1. Read the text carefully, write down marginal notes (questions raised by the text, insights, points you need to research on about cultural or historical context). 2. Look through your notes and find which method of critical analysis your notes are leaning toward. 3. Try to answer the questions or guidelines for the type of critical analysis you have chosen: New Criticism: 1. What complexities (or tensions, ironies, paradoxes, oppositions, ambiguities) can you find in the text? 2. What idea unifies the work, and therefore resolves these ambiguities? 3. What details or images support this resolution (that is, connect the parts/elements to the whole?) Reader-Response Criticism 1. How do I respond to the work? 2. How does the text aid in shaping my response? 3. How might other readers respond to the text? Will theirs differ from mine? What are the possible reasons for these differing responses? Deconstructive Criticism A 1. Identify the oppositions in the text (X vs. Y). 2. Determine which member of the opposition (X or Y) appears to be favored. 3. Look for evidence that contradicts that favoring. 4. Expose the text’s indeterminacy.

Deconstructive Criticism B 1. What is the most obvious statement the text is trying to make? What effect is it trying to create? 2. How might the text tend also to create the very attitude, feeling, or assumptions it is trying to remove? How does the text do or say contradictory things? How does this contradiction influence the text’s effectiveness? Biographical, Historical, or New Historical Criticism 1. Determine the historical setting of the work. Investigate the author’s biography. 2. Consider how the historical or biographical background helps us understand the work. Or, consider how the work contradicts or stands apart from the usual historical or biographical background of its milieu. 3. Consider what other texts of the same time might be related to the text. Identify the ideology that is shaping this system of texts. Psychological Criticism ! Upon closer examination of the text, what underlying meanings and significance can be found? Feminist Criticism ! How does the piece try to move away from or expose the dominant discourse (patriarchal texts or ideologies)? 4. Try to come up with a thesis statement to focus your ideas and then draft an outline to organize your thoughts. 5. Now, write your paper—make sure to include textual evidence and use the MLA Documentation Format.

Based on handout prepared by M.A. Villaceran, UP Diliman

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