Texts and Contexts Writing About Literature with Critical Theory

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  • Edition: 6th
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  • Copyright: 2010-06-21
  • Publisher: Pearson
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This book is deeply rooted in the views, responses, and history of contemporary critical theories. This popular book presents a user-friendly introduction to contemporary critical theories-from new criticism to cultural studies-as part of the practice of analyzing and writing about literature. The new edition has more coverage of film and other genres reflecting the growing interest in film as an academic field. There is more on current approaches to literature, including the relationship between rhetoric and reader-response criticism, Marxism, postcolonialism, queer theory, feminist theory, and African-American studies. For anyone interested in applying critical theory to writing about literature.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
An Introduction, Theoreticallyp. 3
Textual Toursp. 3
Checking Some Baggagep. 5
"Is there one correct interpretation of a literary work?"p. 6
"So, are all opinions about literature equally valid?"p. 6
Anything to Declare?p. 9
Theory enables practicep. 9
You already have a theoretical stancep. 10
This is an introductionp. 11
Here's the planp. 11
Recommended Further Readingp. 12
Critical Worlds: A Selective Tourp. 15
Brendan Gill, from Here at "The New Yorker"p. 16
New Criticismp. 17
Reader-Response Criticismp. 19
Structuralist and Deconstructive Criticismp. 22
Historical, Postcolonial, and Cultural Studiesp. 24
Psychological Criticismp. 29
Political Criticismp. 31
Other Approachesp. 34
Works Citedp. 35
Recommended Further Readingp. 35
Unifying the Work: New Criticismp. 37
The Purpose of New Criticismp. 37
Basic Principles Reflectedp. 38
Archibald MacLeish, Ars Poeticap. 38
Radicals in Tweed Jacketsp. 42
How to Do New Criticismp. 45
Film and Other Genresp. 47
The Writing Process: A Sample Essayp. 49
Gwendolyn Brooks, The Motherp. 49
Preparing to Writep. 50
Shapingp. 52
Draftingp. 53
Practicing New Criticismp. 55
Lucille Clifton, forgiving my fatherp. 55
Questionsp. 56
Stephen Shu-ning Liu, My Father's Martial Artp. 56
Questionsp. 57
Ben Jonson, On My First Sonp. 57
Questionsp. 58
The Parable of the Prodigal Sonp. 58
Questionsp. 60
Useful Terms for New Criticismp. 60
Checklist for New Criticismp. 61
Works Citedp. 62
Recommended Further Readingp. 62
Creating the Text: Reader-Response Criticismp. 65
The Purpose of Reader-Response Criticismp. 65
New Criticism as the Old Criticismp. 65
The Reader Emergesp. 66
Hypertextual Readersp. 70
How to Do Reader-Response Criticismp. 71
Preparing to Respondp. 71
Sandra Cisneros, Love Poem #1p. 71
Making Sensep. 72
Subjective Responsep. 73
Receptive Responsep. 75
The Writing Process: A Sample Essayp. 80
Preparing to Respondp. 80
Ernest Hemingway, A Very Short Storyp. 81
Preparing to Writep. 85
Shapingp. 88
Draftingp. 88
Practicing Reader-Response Criticismp. 91
Michael Drayton, Since There's No Helpp. 91
Questionsp. 92
Judith Minty, Killing the Bearp. 92
Questionsp. 96
Caroline Fraser, All Bearsp. 97
Questionsp. 98
Emily Dickinson, Through the Dark Sodp. 98
Questionsp. 98
Useful Terms for Reader-Response Criticismp. 99
Checklist: Using Reader-Response Criticismp. 99
Works Citedp. 100
Recommended Further Readingp. 100
Opening Up the Text: Structuralism and Deconstructionp. 103
The Purposes of Structuralism and Deconstructionp. 103
Structuralism and Semioticsp. 104
Post-structuralism and Deconstructionp. 105
How to Do Structuralism and Deconstructionp. 111
William Butler Yeats, Sailing to Byzantiump. 111
The Writing Process: A Sample Essayp. 117
Amy Clampitt, Discoveryp. 117
Preparing to Writep. 118
Shapingp. 123
Draftingp. 125
Practicing Structuralist and Deconstructive Criticismp. 129
Questionsp. 129
William Blake, Londonp. 129
Cut through the anxiety, the unknown, the hassle àp. 130
Questionsp. 131
Linda Pastan, Ethicsp. 132
Questionsp. 133
John Donne, Death Be Not Proudp. 133
Questionsp. 134
Useful Terms for Deconstructionp. 134
Checklist for Deconstructionp. 136
Works Citedp. 136
Recommended Further Readingp. 136
Connecting the Text: Varieties of Historical Criticismp. 139
The Purposes of Biographical, Historical, Postcolonial, Ethnic, Marxist, and Cultural Studiesp. 139
Biographical and Historical Criticismp. 140
John Milton, When I Consider How My Light Is Spentp. 140
Cultural Studiesp. 144
New Historicismp. 147
History as Textp. 148
Marxist Criticismp. 150
Postcolonial and Ethnic Studiesp. 155
How to Do Historical Criticismp. 158
The Writing Process: Sample Essaysp. 160
John Cheever, Reunionp. 160
A Biographical Essayp. 163
Preparing to Writep. 163
Shapingp. 167
Draftingp. 170
A New Historical Essayp. 173
Preparing to Writep. 173
Shapingp. 174
Draftingp. 175
Practicing Historical Criticismp. 178
Useful Terms for Historical, Cultural, and Postcolonial Criticismp. 179
Checklist for Historical Criticismp. 185
Works Citedp. 185
Recommended Further Readingp. 186
Minding the Work: Psychological Criticismp. 191
The Purpose of Psychological Criticismp. 191
How to Do Psychological Criticismp. 196
William Wordsworth, A Slumber Did My Spirit Sealp. 197
The Writing Process: A Sample Essayp. 200
William Shakespeare, Hamlet 4.4.32-66p. 201
Preparing to Writep. 202
Shapingp. 205
Draftingp. 206
Practicing Psychological Criticismp. 211
Emily Dickinson, A Narrow Fellow in the Grassp. 211
Questionsp. 212
Marianne Moore, O to Be a Dragonp. 212
Questionsp. 213
Matthew Arnold, Dover Beachp. 213
Questionp. 214
Your Dream Herep. 214
Useful Terms for Psychological Criticismp. 214
Checklist for Psychological Criticismp. 215
Works Citedp. 215
Recommended Further Readingp. 216
Gendering the Text: Feminist Criticism, Postfeminism, and Queer Theoryp. 219
How to Do Feminist Criticism, Postfeminism, and Queer Theoryp. 226
Mary Astell, from A Serious Proposalp. 229
The Writing Process: A Sample Essayp. 234
Samuel Johnson, To Miss _____ On Her Playing upon the Harpsichord àp. 235
Preparing to Respondp. 236
Shapingp. 237
Draftingp. 239
Revision: Gay and Lesbian Criticismp. 241
Practicing Feminist, Postfeminist, and Queer Theory Criticismp. 243
William Shakespeare, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?p. 243
Questionsp. 244
Emily Dickinson, My Life had stood-a Loaded Gunp. 244
Questionsp. 245
Tobias Wolff, Say Yesp. 245
Questionsp. 249
Gender in the Moviesp. 249
Useful Terms for Political Criticismp. 250
Checklist for Political Criticismp. 251
Works Citedp. 252
Recommended Further Readingp. 253
Appendix 1p. 254
The Canonizationp. 254
Appendix 2p. 256
A Note on How Theories Relatep. 256
Creditsp. 260
Indexp. 262
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Practices Questions 1. Read closely. You can assume that everything 1. What formal elements does this work is carefully calculated to contribute to the have? (Structure, imagery, diction, etc.) work¿s unity¿figures of speech, point of view, 2. How can these formal elements be diction, recurrent ideas or events, etc. arranged in opposing pairs or groups? 2. Find oppositions, tensions, ambiguities, and 3. What unifying idea holds these ironies in the work. opposing elements together? 3. Indicate how all these various elements are (Think in terms of an ¿Although X, Y¿ unified¿what idea holds them together? thesis sentence.) 1. Move through the text in slow motion, 1. What is your response to the text? describing the responses of an ideal reader¿ 2. If the text were changed in some specific what is anticipated, what is experienced. way (a word, a phrase, a sentence, etc.), 2. Or, move through the text describing your how would your response change? own personal response. 3. Is your response personal and 3. Focus on how particular details shape idiosyncratic, or is it shaped by the text readers¿ expectations and responses. and shared norms of interpretation? 1. Identify the oppositions in the text, and 1. What does the text most obviously determine which items are favored. seem to say? 2. Identify what appears to be central to the text, 2. How can the text be turned against and what appears to be marginal and excluded. itself, making it say also the opposite of 3. Reverse the text¿s hierarchy (the system of what it most obviously seems to say? favoring), opening up another (or an other) 3. How can something apparently reading; and/or argue that what appears to be marginal or trivial in the text be marginal is actually central. brought to the center of attention? 1. Research the author¿s life and relate that infor- 1. How can you connect the author¿s life to mation, cautiously, to the work. his or her writing? Are there common 2. Research the author¿s time (the political issues, events, concerns? history, economic history, intellectual history, 2. How can you connect the literary work etc.) and relate that information, to its historical context, including its cautiously, to the work. literary context? 3. Research how people reasoned during the 3. Is the author part of a dominant culture, author¿s lifetime, the patterns and limits in- or a colonial culture, or a postcolonial volved in making sense. Relate those logical culture, and how does that status affect strategies to the work. the work? 1. Apply a developmental concept to the work¿ 1. What appears to be motivating the for example, the Oedipal complex, anal reten- author, or character, or even reader? tiveness, castration anxiety, gender confusion. 2. What other motivations, repressed or 2. Relate the work to psychologically significant disguised, might be at work? events in the author¿s life. 3. What developmental concepts might 3. Consider how repressed material may be help to explain this behavior? expressed in the work¿s pattern of imagery or symbols. 1. Identify the qualities of gender, class, race, 1. How does this work advance or question sexual preference, religion, etc. of the author a particular political agenda? and/or characters: that is, say how individ 2. How would readers of different political uals are portrayed as members of some group. stances read this work differently? 2. Consider whether the text promotes or 3. How are the individuals in this work undermines stereotypes. portrayed as part of a group or class? 3. Imagine how the text might be read by a cer- tain type of reader; or how a text might have been neglected by a certain type of reader. Texts and Contexts Writing About Literature with Critical Theory Sixth Edition Steven Lynn University of South Carolina New York San Francisco Boston London Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore Madrid Mexico City Munich Paris Capetown Hong Kong Montreal For Annette and Anna Vice President and Editor-in-Chief: J

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