Literary Analysis Questions
A. Historical 1.
Is this method of composition indicative of the period? 2.
Is the subject matter representative of events occurring at this time? 3.
Is the philosophical outlook indicative of the historical period? 4.
How does the work relate to works in the same time period? To other periods? To works from other countries at this time? 5.
What culture existed for this writer? 6.
Is the work part of a historical trend (novel, Christian literature, allegory, political fiction, epic, etc.)?
B. Biographical 1. Does this work reflect the writer's concerns and conflicts? Examine elements within the work reflective of the writer's life (word, allusions to local and historical events, conflicts, themes, characters, settings, etc.). 2.
Does this work take on greater significance because of the writer's life? 3. What were the writer's intentions (be very careful answering this question)? Who was the writer's audience? 4.
Is this work representative of this writer's artistic development? Atypical? C.
Social Criticism 1. What is the social situation the work describes? Does the work reveal anything about the culture in which it is set? (consider food/eating, clothing, religion, work/economy, class/social structure, housing/architecture, tools/utensils, arts/recreation, family, sex roles, education, transportation) 2.
What was the author's attitude towards the social situation? 3. Does the writer seem to argue for a solution? Does the speaker feel society has to be the way s/he describes it? 4.
Compare the author's depiction of an historical situation to the actual events (use secondary sources)? 5.
Do particular economic and social theories explain the author's social concerns? D. Marxist Criticism 1.
Do the economic tensions in the text represent those in society? 2.
Does the text work to reveal the economic pitfalls of capitalism? 3. Examine ideology of the text. How is what the text says and does not say connected to the power structure and power relations of society? In other words, what are the methods of feeling, valuing, perceiving and believing that are valorized in this text? And how are those related to the maintenance and reproduction of social power? 4.
On a larger scale, how does the publication or suppression (popularity or not) of this text relate to the power structure of society? What about how the critics dealt with this text? Trace the critical responses toward the text over a period of time and relate to the power hierarchy in society. !"#$%&'()#
E. Psychological 1.
Can the conflict in the work be seen in terms of struggle by EGO (protagonist) to reconcile the conflicting demands of SUPEREGO (society) and by the ID (pleasure)? 2.
Are phallic symbols, womb symbols, or breast symbols emphasized? 3. What motivates the characters in the work? Can the conflict be seen as a struggle for power? A quest for identity? 4.
What unconscious clues (dreams, symbols, metaphors) exist to help reveal the characters?
F. Archetypal Characters:
Are any of the characters archetypes (hero, rake, scapegoat, outcast, hypersensitive youth, earth mother, terrible mother, princess, soul-mate, martyr, femme fatale, rebel, cruel stepmother, saint, "spiritual" woman, tyrannical father, star-crossed lovers, ruler, etc. Situations 2. Do characters go on quests? Initiations? Journeys? Fall from grace? Experience death and rebirth? Complete a task? (For example, a hero's quest can involve a miraculous birth, early signs of greatness, period of withdrawal, journey/mission/quest, death [as scapegoat], lack of burial, descent to underworld, atonement, resurrection, return to society, bestowing of boons on fellow humans.) 3.
Are human life cycles compared to seasons or days? Symbols and Associations; 4.
Do symbols suggest polarities or complementary images? Light-darkness? Water-desert? Heights-depths? Spring-winter? Activity-passivity? Male-female? Creativity-nurturing? Sky-earth? 5.
Do you recognize motifs like...
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