Critical Theory Notes
Practical Criticism → close reading
I.A. Richards introduces Practical Criticism and centers on close analysis of the words that comprise each page of text William Empson was a pupil of Richard's. He applies an assiduously strict, almost mathematical formula to textual analysis, the drawback of which is that the flexibility of language is largely discounted. F.R. Leavis, along with Q. D. Roth (whom he eventually marries), takes the process of close reading to the next level by examining its application to written forms ranging from journalism to popular fiction. Unfortunately, he tends to identity key textual passages without fully explaining their significance. → New Criticism 19th Century → critics begin looking at something other than poetry
Ten Major Claims of Liberal Humanism:
1. “Good” literature has transcendent value, applies universally to human experience, and will remain “good” literature “not for an age, but for all time.” 2. It follows, then, that literature contains a meaning and value entirely its own, which can be ascertained without taking historical, social, political, autobiographical, or intra-literary contexts into consideration 3. A literary work stands on its own and should be examined in isolation 4. In order for the value of literature to be universal, human nature must remain static. That is, people experience the same fundamental emotions, thoughts, and concerns across time. 5. We, as individuals, contain an immutable “essence” that is impervious to change at the hands of external conditions that nonetheless influence our development from the moment we are born. This putatively explains why transformative episodes in literature have an unsettling effect upon the reader. 6. Since human nature and the individual do not change, literature that purports to sway our opinions or cause us to reassess our value systems must harbor a political agenda, and as such cannot be considered great. 7. In great literature, an organic correspondence exists between form and content. One complements and accentuates the other. This is particularly evident in great works of poetry. 8. Great literature is innately sincere. That is not to say that the author's intention can be seen as more or less sincere, but that the means of expression contained within the text (the choice of words and their arrangement) effectively closes the distance between language and what it represents. 9. As a corollary to 8, great literature shows more than it tells. Great literature does not overtly explain what it means, rather it creates the idea of a world within the text whose ultimate value is only implicitly accessible. 10. Criticism cannot do more than serve as an intermediary between the text and the reader, should only assist in the interpretation of the text, and should avoid 'theorizing' on the nature of the reading process, the possibility of political ramifications, or center on a single idea as a point of departure for reading the work in question.
Intentional Fallacy → the problem inherent in trying to judge a work of art by assuming the intent or purpose of the artist who created it. Affective Fallacy → refer to the supposed error of judging or evaluating a text on the basis of its emotional effects on a reader.
Liberal humanism is the predecessor to new criticism, but the two are very close
Mimesis → Repeating of events; infers what it means; telling Diegesis → We're told what's going on; showing
2 French theorists credited with the inception of structuralism
Claude Levi-Strauss: Anthropologist who applies Saussure's idea of langue and parole to analysis of cultural mythology. Using Oedipus as his model, he demonstrates that a complete understanding of the Oedipus myth (the parole, in this case)) can only be gleaned through a more comprehensive understanding of the entire cycle of Theban myths (the langue) of which it is a part. This, by extension, requires us...
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