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LITERARY CRITICISM It is the study, discussion, evaluation and interpretation of literature.

. It asks what literature is, what it does and what it is worth. HISTORY OF LITERARY CRITICISM Even though the majority of literary criticism available today was produced in the 20th century, literary criticism has a long history dating back to antiquity. Ancient World

Platos The Republic and Aristotles Poetics are said to be the stepping stones of literary criticism. However, Aristotle's work is seen as some of the first literary criticism because it also deals with cataloging and identifying different types of poetry, the elements within them, and their effects. The Republic The major intent of the debate in the Republic is to determine an extended definition of what constitutes Justice in a given state, and how Justice may be accomplished in a given state (how laws might be enacted that would serve the citizens of a just state in courts of law). Thus it is that the conversation in the Republic proceeds from a question of meaning (what is Justice?), augmented by questions of fact (are there examples of justice in action or of just men?), to a question of policy (what laws may be effected to ensure the carriage of justice?). Contents of Aristotles Poetics: Poem as medium of imitation Kinds and structure of poems Difference between tragedy and comedy Elements of tragedy Components of plot Personalities of Characters: good, manly valor, true to life and consistent Elements of successful imitation Tragedy as the higher art that the epic poem

Medieval Period

This hegemony of Christian authority over critical thought is what characterizes the Middle Ages as a period in the history of literary theory and criticism. All criticisms are done within the narrow scope of Christian theology.

This aspect of medieval criticism directs its attention not to the way works should be, but to the way they are; not to works which must be written, but to works which are already written and are of religious or moral significance. Renaissance

During the Renaissance, the revival of the classical texts as well as the extensive translations done and the extreme interest in literature in general served literary criticism well. Renaissance focused its expansion on literary criticism again on Aristotle's "Poetics," but the ideas eventually spread to England as well, where the first literary criticism was written in English by George Gascoigne. Neoclassicism

Two concepts central to neoclassical literary practice are imitation and nature. It is the imitation of classical models, works of Homer and Virgil, which neoclassicist critics considered as simple yet perfect masterpieces. Literary criticism focused on the use of clear and distinct ideas with the use of standardized spelling and grammar. They felt that art should be logically organized, rather than a conspicuous burst of emotion. Romanticism

Literary critics adhere to these principles: Poetry as a transcendentally important activity Poetry as a way of finding meaning Poetry as a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings Late 19th Century

Writers began to favor realism. Literary criticism moved toward a strictly academic discipline, while intellectuals studied literature through the lenses of race, class, nationalism, and history. Realism was best represented by novels that should be narrated in an objective, unbiased perspective that simply and clearly represented the factual elements of the story. They became masters at psychological characterization, detailed descriptions of everyday life in realistic settings, and dialogue that captures the idioms of natural human speech. The realists endeavored to accurately represent contemporary culture and people from all walks of life. 20th Century

Modern criticism expanded exponentially in the 20th century as schools of study continued to be born and writers as well as anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists all seemed to have a say in literary criticism. The wave of new criticism suggests that perhaps the 20th century went too far and literature should only be examined autonomously of these extraneous details.

THEORIES ON LITERARY CRITICISM 1. Formalist Theory Focus: the work itself, its creative components (elements), and how they work together 2. Freudian Theory Focus: unconscious aspect of human psyche The id which says, Do what feels good; the superego which tells what is right and fair; and the ego that controls and plan satisfying both the id and superego by conforming to reality. 3. Reader-Response Theory Focus: meaning that resides in the readers mind (reader-text interaction) A text truth is relative. 4. Structuralism Theory Focus: meaning of text in the structure of language 5. Feminist Theory Focus: Female experiences from all races, classes and cultures Differences between men and women Power dynamics between men and women 6. Deconstructionism Theory Focus: multiple valid meanings of the text depending on the understanding of the reader 7. Marxist Theory Focus: economic power, materialism vs. spirituality and class conflict 8. Mythological Theory Focus: archetypal characters, images and situations

PURPOSES OF LITERARY CRITICISM Literary criticism help us to understand what is important about the text - its structure - its context: social, economic, historical - what is written - how the text manipulates the reader It also serves the following functions: - understanding of meaning - philosophical foundation - discovery of the history - development of writing skills Literary criticisms help us to understand the relationship between the author, the reader and the text. Readers develop critical thinking. It maintains the high quality of literature. The act of literary criticism enhances the enjoyment of reading a literary text. The analysis of literature is used to study life itself. An unexamined life is not worth living. - Socrates

REFERENCES: The Literary Principles of the Neoclassical Age |


TOPICS: History of Literary Criticism Theories on Literary Criticism Purposes of Literary Criticism