EWRT 1C Class 5
Online Email me if
• Text Oriented approaches
• Read “Formalism” and “New Criticism” (under
“course readings” and “theory texts.)
• Poetry Reading:
• “My Papa’s Waltz”
• Critical Essay Reading:
• “‘My Papa’s Waltz’: A New Critical Reading.”
of the New
• The school of New Criticism was made up of
an early 20th-century (predominantly
American) critics who were focused on form
(literary structures), especially in poetry.
These new critics (predominantly men)
determined that the best way to analyze
literature is to imagine that it exists in a
• Neither the reader's response or the author's
intentions matter to the new critic. Add to that a
purposeful disregard of the text's historical time
period and political context. For New Criticism, a
literary work is a timeless, self-sufficient verbal
object. Readers and readings may change, but
the literary text stays the same. The text is a self-
referential object that exists in its own sanitized
environment, waiting for us to analyze without
any of our own experiences, views, or prejudices
complicating the single best interpretation of a
Why Study New Criticism?
• While their view of literature
might have been a bit
limited, the New Critics
developed close reading, a
style of analysis that focuses
close attention to the form
and structure of texts. This
skill of close reading is
fundamental to every other
kind of theory.
essayist, publisher, play
wright, literary and
Figurative language is language that has more than, or other
than, a strictly literal meaning.
• Because of New Criticism’s belief that the literary
text can be understood primarily by understanding
its form (which is why you’ll sometimes hear it
referred to as a type of formalism), a clear
understanding of the definitions of specific formal
elements is important. In addition to some formal
elements that we will discuss on Monday, I would
like to remind you of some with which you are likely
images, symbols, metaphors, similes, alliteration, pe
rsonification, and hyperbole.
images, symbols, metaphors, a
• An image consists of a word or words that refer to an object
perceived by the senses or to sense perceptions themselves:
colors, shapes, lighting, sounds, tastes, smells, textures, temperature
s, and so on. Clouds can suggest both weather and a depressed
• A symbol is an image that has both literal and figurative meaning, a
concrete universal, such as the swamp in Ernest Hemingway’s
“Big, Two-Hearted River.” The swamp is a literal swamp, but it also
“stands for,” or “figures,” something else: the emotional problems of
• A metaphor is a comparison of two dissimilar objects in which the
properties of one are ascribed to the other. For example, the phrase
“my brother is a gem” is a metaphor. Obviously, it has no literal
• To get from metaphor to simile requires one small step: add like or
as: “my brother is like a gem.”
Alliteration, Hyperbole, and Personification
The repetition of initial stressed, consonant sounds in a series of words
within a phrase or verse line. Alliteration need not reuse all initial
consonants; “pizza” and “place” alliterate. Example: “We saw the sea sound
sing, we heard the salt sheet tell,” from Dylan Thomas’s “Lie Still, Sleep
Becalmed.” Browse poems with alliteration.
A figure of speech composed of a striking exaggeration. For example, see
James Tate’s lines “She scorched you with her radiance” or “He was more
wronged than Job.” Hyperbole usually carries the force of strong
emotion, as in Andrew Marvell’s description of a forlorn lover:
A figure of speech in which the poet describes an abstraction, a thing, or a
nonhuman form as if it were a person. William Blake’s “O Rose, thou art
sick!” is one example; Donne’s “Death, be not proud” is another. Gregory
Corso quarrels with a series of personified abstractions in his poem “The
Whole Mess . . . Almost.” Personification is often used in symbolic or
allegorical poetry; for instance, the virtue of Justice takes the form of the
knight Artegal in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.
• “My Papa’s Waltz” (link)
• Then look for
images, symbols, metaphors, similes, alliteration,
hyperbole, and personification.
• If you are familiar with other conventions, feel
free to note those as well.
• What do these figures of speech bring to mind?
• What do they say about the poem?
• Read “My Papa’s Waltz: A New Critical Approach.
(course readings; theory texts; new criticism)
• Note the images the writer uses to make his points.
• Look at your own list of figures of speech. Did you
see these? What other conventions did you see
that might reinforce or disrupt this author’s
reading of this poem?
• Do you agree with the assertion the writer makes
about the meaning of the poem? (Look at the last
line of the poem).
Post #4: Choose one
• What made New Criticism new? What is the critical focus of New
Criticism? Of Formalism?
• Or QHQ
• Bring copies of “My Papa’s Waltz” and “My Papa’s Waltz: A
New Critical Approach” to class.