English-discussion: interpreting works through a critical approach

1.   In a well-developed paragraph of 6-8 sentences, write a paragraph in which you answer one of the prompts below.  Please incorporate a quotation from both the play and the language from the critical methodology text 


Please see TOPIC OPTIONS below.

Please review the overview of critical methodologies (BELOW) For more information on Critical Methodologies, please read the introduction to the Critical Methodologies  

Overview of Critical Methodologies

Imagine 3 pairs of glasses, and each pair of glasses represents a different “lens” through which the wearer of the glasses can view the world.  Same world…different view based on the color of the lens.  

Critical methodologies (also known as critical approaches) function in the same way.  In a nutshell, critical methodologies are different LENSES through which a reader can examine a particular text (short story, poem, play, novel, etc.).  Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays, the editors of our textbook, classify critical approaches into four major categories:  

  1. Critical approaches that emphasize the text,
  2. Critical approaches that emphasize the source,
  3. Critical approaches that emphasize the receiver, and
  4. Critical approaches that highlight historical and ideological criticism.

Each major category houses a number of critical approaches.

  • Emphasis on the Text – This approach limits the consideration of outside elements- author background, social factors, etc.
  1. New Criticism – does not take into consideration source (author) or reader (you)
  2. Structuralism
  3. Poststructuralism
  4. Deconstruction
  5. Narrative Theory
  1. Emphasis on the Source – This approach takes into consideration the author and author’s intention in writing the work.
  1. Biographical Criticism
    1. Example: Lorraine Hansberry’s personally experience fighting restrictive covenants
    2. Example:  Toni Morrison’s own journey of racial self-discovery in the South
  1. Psychoanalytic Criticism (Freudian, Jungian and Myth, and Lacanian)
    1. Freudian – our human psyches share similar histories)
    2. Jungian –
  1. the concept of the universal conscious/collective unconscious
  2. universal patterns and forms of human experiences known as “archetypes.”
  3. examples:  rebirth story, hero’s quest, doubling, etc.
  4. Northrop Frye – archetypal criticism
  5. Big question:  Are there “shared, fundamental truths” that cross the boundaries of race, culture, nationality?  Examples – Flood myth
  1. Emphasis  on the Receiver -The emphasis of this approach is the way in which the reader “receives,” interprets, and appreciates the text.
    1. Reader-Response Criticism
  2. Historical and Ideological Criticism – This approach takes into consideration the historical and cultural context(s) of a work.
  1. Marxist Criticism
  2. Feminist Criticism
  3. Gender Studies and Queer Theory
  4. African American and Ethnic Literary Studies
  5. New Historicism
  6. Cultural Studies
  7. Postcolonial Criticism and Studies of World Literature

 Booth, Alison and Kelly J. Mays.  “Critical Approaches.”  The Norton Introduction to Literature, Portable 10th ed.  New York:  Norton, 2011.  1317-1347. 

*******TOPIC OPTIONS*******

  1. How does Raisin in the Sun, “Volar,” “Sonny’s Blues,” “We Real Cool,” “The Mask,” “A Dream Deferred,” or any other poem from our reading list attempt to ”[trace] the historical construction of a racial Other”? (1375)  For more info on African American and Ethnic Literary Studies.  
  2. According to the editors of the Norton Introduction of literature, “By the 1980s gender had come to be widely regarded as a discourse that imposed binary social norms on human beings’ diversity.  . . [Gender] theorists claimed that gender and sexuality are performative and malleable positions, enacted in many more than two varieties” (1340).  Please interpret A Doll’s House, Trifles, or “Boys and Girls” through this particular critical lens. 
  3. Choose one work (short story, poem, play, or our novel).  How does your knowledge of this author’s background help inform your understanding of the work?  How does biographical information on this author help you better understand the meaning of the work?  You may need to do some research online or using the databases (Literature Resource Center).  For more info on Biographical Criticism, please see “Critical Methodologies”.
  4. According to the editor Kelly J. Mays, “Reader-response critics ask not what a work means but what a work does to and through a reader” (1369).  Choose a work from this semester and answer the following question about it:  What, then, does this work make you do?  For more info on Reader-Response Criticism, please see “Critical Methodologies”.
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