Types of Criticism Formal Criticism



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Types of Criticism 

  1. Formal Criticism that analyzes a work of literature in terms of its genre or type. Every genre of literature follows specific patterns and includes specific elements.

  • For example, what makes the works of William Shakespeare an exemplary of the Elizabethan period?



  1. Historical Criticism that views the work of art as a product of the period in which it was produced.

  • An example would be an analysis of the influence the French and American Revolutions had on English Romanticism.

  • Poems are placed in their historical context — to explain not only their allusions and particular use of words, but the conventions and expectations of the times.

  • The approach may be evaluative (i.e. the critic may suggest ways of responding to the poem once the perspective is corrected), or may simply use it as historical data.



  1. Biographical Criticism that attempts to account for elements of literary works by relating them to events in the lives of their authors.

  • As with the historical approach, a poem may be used to illuminate the writer's psychology, or as biographic data. No less than the correspondence, remembered conversations, choice of reading matter, the poem is analyzed for relevance to its author.



  1. Jungian Criticism that explores the presence in works of art of archetypes—unconscious images, symbols, associations, or concepts presumed to be a common inheritance of all human beings. 

  • An analysis of symbol of rebirth would be an example of Jungian criticism. * Jungians search for recurring poetic images, symbols and situations in poems, but their aim is not to categorize poems but to relate them to larger patterns in society.



  1. Marxist Criticism that evaluates and interprets works of art with regard to the material, economic forces that shape them or with regard to their origins in or depictions of struggle between social classes. 

  • The poem may be assessed on its political correctness — on its support for workers against capitalist exploitation — but most Marxists praise work that analyses or describes the injustices that Marxist societies aim to overcome.

  1. Romantic/Expressivist Criticism that views a work of art as primarily an expression of the spirit, ideas, beliefs, values, or emotions of its creator.



  1. Pragmatic/Rhetorical Criticism that interprets or evaluates a work of art in terms of its effects on the audience. 



  • Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, and the rhetorical approach attempts to understand how the content of the poem, which is more than intellectual meaning, is put across.

  • How arguments are presented, attitudes struck, evidence marshaled, various appeals made to the reader — all are relevant.



  1. Freudian Criticism that generally views literary works or parts thereof as expressions of unconscious desires, as wish fulfillments, or as neurotic sublimations or unresolved conflicts from childhood.  *

  • Not only is the diction examined for sexual imagery, but also the whole work is seen through Freudian concepts: struggles of the superego, the Oedipus complex, with the repressed contents of consciousness, etc. The aim is illumination of psychic conflicts, not aesthetic ranking.



  1. Feminist Criticism that evaluates and interprets works of art with regard to their portrayal of or influence upon gender roles. This criticism can include giving women from the past recognition they deserve, pointing out gender bias by analyzing depictions of males and females, and by analyzing the effects of literary works, activities, and movements on cultural norms related to gender.



  1. Didactic Criticism that evaluates works of art in terms of moral, ethical, or political messages that they convey.



  1. Structuralism Criticism that analyzes works of literature and art in terms of binary, or two-part, relationships or structures.

  • Here the writing is related to underlying patterns of symmetry that are held to be common to all societies. Evidence is drawn from sociology and anthropology, and the approach attempts to place the work in larger context rather than assess its quality.



  1. Deconstructionist Criticism that calls into question the idea that there is one “meaning” behind a literary work by inviting the reader to reverse the binary, two-part, relations that structure meaning in a work. Thinking of contrasts is essential to this form of criticism.



  1. Mimetic Criticism that derives from the teaching of Aristotle, it views works of art as imitations of nature and the real world and evaluates them according to the accuracy of those portrayals.



  1. New Criticism that insists upon the interpretation and evaluation of literary works based on details found in the works themselves rather than on information gathered from outside the works.  It disregards such matters as the life of the author, the period in which the work was written, the literary movement that led to its production, and the emotional effect of the work upon the reader.



  • The New Critics insist on the importance of close analysis and the irreducibility of text to generalizations or paraphrases.

  • The poem (the approach works best for poetry, and especially the lyric) is detached from its biographical or historical context, and analyzed thoroughly: diction, imagery, and meanings, particularly complexities of meaning. Some explanation of unfamiliar words and/or uses may be allowed, but the poem is otherwise expected to stand on its own feet, as though it were a contemporary production.

  1. Author’s Intent-Criticism that insist upon the interpretation in terms of how the original author intended to present the topic. (often confused as biographical)

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