Role of the Author: New Criticism and Poststructuralism

Topics: Literary criticism, Structuralism, Roland Barthes Pages: 4 (1158 words) Published: December 12, 2013
Role of the Author: New Criticism and Poststructuralism
This paper studies the role of the author from the perspectives of New Criticism and Poststructuralism. The nature of the two critical approaches must be elucidated before the discussion.
According to ‘The Norton Introduction to Literature’, New Critics’ critical practice is to demonstrate formal unity by showing how every part of a work contributes to a central unifying theme. Every part is related to the whole and the whole is reflected in each part. This ‘organic unity’ is different from ‘mechanic unity’, the external, perceived structure or rules that arise not from the individuality of the work, but from the type or genre. As they focus on theme or meaning as well as form, the New Critics see literature referential, pointing to something outside itself, things in real, external world or in human experience. In general, the New Critics do not question the reality of the phenomenal world or the ability of language to represent it.

Poststructuralism is the broad term used to designate the several directions of literary criticism that attacks the very idea that any kind of certitude can exist about the meaning, understandability or shareability of texts. Poststructuralists ultimately doubt the possibility of certainties of any kind and see language as especially elusive and unfaithful. Therefore, close reading, in which text itself is the only focus, is not a preferable practice in poststructuralism. Much of poststructuralism involves undoing, i.e. deconstruction. Unlike structuralism and New Criticism, deconstruction denies that the verbal world adds up to anything coherent, consistent, or meaningful in itself.

The similarity between the two approaches on the role of the author
Both New Criticism and Poststructuralism belong to Objectivism, thinking of literature as a ‘fixed and freestanding object made up of words on a page’ (Beaty et al. A18). Therefore, a literary work has very little or...
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