Some Theories So here we go… let’s take a look at sometheories that people use to find meaning in plays.
Liberal Humanism• Good art is always good and good for you!• Approach the text with no pre-knowledge of the artist or the time period.• Universal themes, moral of the story both important• “The Individual” can exist independently of culture, society, class, etc.• Subtlety is better than being overt/explicit. Understated feeling, emotions arising from composition, and ideas/themes emerging through symbolism are all highly valued.• Asks “What are the moral and artistic merits of this pieces of theatre?”
Red Riding Hood - Liberal Humanism• Good moral message• Virtue triumphs• Fairly explicit, clearly children’s literature, so not worthy of serious study
Freud/Psychoanalysis• Tries to take psycho-analytic structure and apply to characters and situations in art.• Terms – ID: base, animal desires – Superego : Hyper-rational/moral thought, keeps things in control – Ego: The conscious self – Conscious/Unconscious mind - Division between what we are aware of, and the influences of repressed or transferred memories, emotions, experiences. – Oedipus Complex - The desire on the part of children to supplant their parents.• Asks “Why do characters do what they do, and do they know why they act the way they do?”
Hamlet - Freud Style• Why does it take so long for Hamlet to kill his uncle?• Does Hamlet understand his own hesitations and emotions?• What might be the symbolic meaning of the second appearance of the ghost?
Marxist Critique• Class and economic condition the primary driver of all human activity/interactions• Struggle between classes drives human history• History is on a trajectory that leads to the “Proletarian Revolution” where the laboring class will also be the ruling class.• The ruling class will use its power and influence to maintain their power and authority.• Asks “How does economics impact character actions and events? How does class? How are economics reflected in the work of art?”
Moby Dick - A Marxist Take• Highlight the brutal economic system of whaling - the toll on laborers, their wives and families.• Ahab as the symbol for the voraciousness of capitalism, whose pursuits can only end in disaster.
Feminist Critique• Call attention to the role of women in existing works of art. Delve into works to find examples of both the historical oppression of women and times where women had more agency/power than might be assumed• Rethink the canon - Why are men so often privileged over women?• Asks: “How are female characters represented? Who is creating the representation? How does gender impact character actions and events?”
Feminist Critique - Red Riding Hood• Go back to the roots of the story – there are several versions – No woodsman – Red just gets eaten – Woodsman saves the two women after their bad decision – Red escapes on her own – Woodsman rescues them from one wolf, then a second wolf comes and Red and grandma drown him in a trough on their own• Each of those says something different about the role of women, doesn’t it?
Queer Theory• Exploring homosexual relationships and themes in a text and the author’s own life• Reexamines the assumption of a heterosexual norm• Asks “what is the role of gender and sexuality in the text and in society? How are homosexual characters represented? How are heterosexual characters represented? By whom?”
Hamlet – Queer Theory• Look at the heterosexual relationships – what are they like?• Look at Hamlet’s relationship with Horatio vs. his relationship with Ophelia