Reading and Writing about Literature: Chapter 9

Formalism and New Criticism
focus on structure, tone, characters, setting, symbols and linguistic features through explication and close-reading
focus solely on text and not on extratextual factors

Feminist and Gender Criticism
Feminist: focus on roles of women in literature or culture
Gender: focus on gender roles or relationships between sexes

Queer Theory
sexuality is culturally constructed rather than determined by physical characteristics present at birth
focus varies from studying texts from LGBTQ community, portrayals of LGBTQ people by either straight or LGBTQ members

Marxist Criticism
(modernized) looks at socioeconomic factors that affect people’s lives (i.e. class structure)

Cultural Studies
focus on blurring “high” and “low” art/literature and broaden the canon (in topic, genre, and style)

Postcolonial Criticism
discover attitudes and tastes, recovering lost literary history during the colonial period, celebrating indigenous cultures that involved storytelling, drama and poetry
focus on how occupation disrupted and changed the course of history in a particular place

Historical Criticism
uses background reading about the life and times of an author (newspaper articles to personal letters) to gain insights into the composition and significance of a given work

New Historicism
focus on what history teaches about literature and what literature teaches about history to see/recreate as much of the cultural context that surrounded both the author and the original intended audience

Psychological Theories
focus on internal mental states, desires, and motivations of characters (or of the author or the readers)

Reader-Response Theories
focus on gaps (those things that a text doesn’t tell that we need to fill in and work out for ourselves) and process (that the meaning of the text is not fixed and complete but rather evolving as the text unfolds in the time it takes to read)

Structuralism
focus on structures that help us understand and interpret texts; cultural v. literary

Poststructuralism and Deconstruction
focus on that no text has a fixed or real meaning because no meaning exists outside of the network of other meanings to which it is connected
meaning within a text is contingent on all sorts of exterior understandings, allowing for several and even contradictory interpretations to exist simultaneously