Overview• Literary criticism provides the poet with the tools for self-evaluation and self- improvement. It introduces work of periods and cultures different in theme and treatment.• Literary criticism is a view or opinion on what a particular written work means. It is about the meanings that a reader finds in an authors literature.
IntroductionLiterary critics have many skills:Those which the practicing poet needs to acquire are close reading, explication and evaluation.The criticism that continues to be written naturally concentrates on established figures.
IntroductionLiterary critics have many skills:Even the aims of criticism seem somewhat doubtful.No single critical approach seems invariably successful.And insights from differing approaches do not necessarily cohere.
IntroductionLiterary critics have many skills:Purposes of Theory - What does literary criticism hope to achieve?But all take as their starting point the analysis of the readers or listeners response.
IntroductionLiterary critics have many skills:Miltons "select audience though few"? Poets may not make money but they still have markets to consider.The difficulties afflict more than the professional translator or literary scholar, as modern poetry very much uses recherché imagery and far-flung allusion.
IntroductionLiterary critics have many skills:Poems that work well on the page will not necessarily rise to a public performance.But is commonly overlooked by the beginning poet.Is objectivity possible?
IntroductionLiterary critics have many skills:Not a demarcation dispute, they say, but simple experience and logic.Or academic critics from the learning the difficult art of writing poetry.The experience may well be enriching for both. But the question is more insidious.
IntroductionLiterary critics have many skills:Sought to make poems out of their responses.But that does not invalidate the question.More than that, criticism became an end in itself.
IntroductionLiterary critics have many skills:The intellectual gymnastics currently performed by the great names of American criticism are not grounded in the poem being analyzed, but in the tenets of radical theory.But the criticism has detached itself and become somewhat like a Modernist poem.
Schools of CriticismTraditional- Though perhaps Edwardian in style, this approach — essentially one of trying to broaden understanding and appreciation — is still used in general surveys of English literature.
Schools of CriticismNew Criticism- The poem (the approach works best forpoetry, and especially the lyric) is detachedfrom its biographical or historical context,and analyzed thoroughly: diction, imagery,meanings, particularly complexities ofmeaning.
Schools of CriticismRhetorical- Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, and therhetorical approach attempts to understandhow the content of the poem, which is morethan intellectual meaning, is put across.
Schools of CriticismStylistic- Style is the manner in which something ispresented, and this approach concentrateson the peculiarities of diction and imageryemployed, sometimes relating them toliterary and social theory.
Schools of CriticismMetaphorical- Metaphor enters into consideration in mostapproaches, but here the emphasis isdeeper and more exclusive, attentionfocusing on the ways that metaphorsactually work: metaphors are not regardedas supporting or decorative devices, butactually constituting the meaning.
Schools of CriticismStructuralist- Here the writing is related to underlyingpatterns of symmetry which are held to becommon to all societies. Evidence is drawnfrom sociology and anthropology, and theapproach attempts to place the work inlarger context rather than assess its quality.
Schools of CriticismPost-structuralist- In contrast to the New Critics approach,which stresses interdependence and organicunity, the Poststructuralist will point to thedissonances and the non sequiturs, andsuggest how the poem works by evading orconfronting traditional expectations.
Schools of CriticismMyth Theory- The approach derives from Northrop Fryeand attempts to place poems into categoriesor subcategories into which all literature isdivide by archetypal themes — e.g. the mythof the hero, his subjugation of enemies, hisfall.
Schools of CriticismFreudian- Not only is the diction examined for sexualimagery, but the whole work is seen throughFreudian concepts: struggles of thesuperego, the Oedipus complex, with therepressed contents of consciousness, etc.
Schools of CriticismJungian- Jungians search for recurring poeticimages, symbols and situations in poems,but their aim is not to categorize poems asNorthrop Frye does but to relate them tolarger patterns in society, whether nativepeoples or high civilizations.
Schools of CriticismHistorical- Poems are placed in their historical context— to explain not only their allusions andparticular use of words, but the conventionsand expectations of the times.
Schools of CriticismBiographical- As with the historical approach, a poemmay be used to illuminate the writerspsychology, or as biographic data.
Schools of CriticismSociological- Here the focus is on society as a whole,and critics assess the social factors at workin a poem, which may be everything fromthe attitudes a writer inherits from his socialbackground to the markets which supportedhis literary efforts.
Schools of CriticismPolitical- It may be the political movements the poetsupported which interest the critic, but morecommonly the poem is assessed on politicallines: how fairly or effectively it promotespolitical action or attitudes.
Schools of CriticismMarxist- The poem may be assessed on its politicalcorrectness — on its support for workersagainst capitalist exploitation — but mostMarxists praise work that analyses ordescribes the injustices which Marxistsocieties aim to overcome.
Schools of CriticismMoralist- Many poets have strong ethical or religiousconvictions, but the moralist critic usuallyhas a broader interest.
Schools of CriticismCognitive Scientific- In contrast to others, which generallypossess an humanities orientation, that ofcognitive science attempts to relate poemsto patterns of brain functioning.
Testing the Approaches Which approach is best? Which proves the most illuminating is the usual answer. The various approaches are not entirely distinct, and one can aim for a wise eclecticism
Is Criticism a Sham?o But does criticism really work?o Do we analyze carefully and consult our books on theory before responding to a work? o Not usually. Impressions come first. But we then have to think why and how we are responding in a certain way.
Is Criticism a Sham?o Is the poem strained, hackneyed, overworked, etc.?o And if so, by what criteria? o In setting out thoughts on paper, and then attempting to substantiate them, we are honing essential skills.
Practical CritiquingCritiquing tool has been developed withthe purpose to guide through a reflectionand evaluation process of their units of work.
Suggestions• Start with the literary criticism of poems you know and love.• Read literary criticism of contemporary work and, if at all possible, of poems similar to your own, which will at least help you anticipate the reception likely from editors and workshop presentations.
Suggestions• Research has moved from literary criticism to literary theory, which is not written for ready comprehension.• Dont despise the elementary grounding provided by schoolbooks.• Be severe but not over-severe with your creations.
Suggestions• Use a checklist. For example:o title — appropriate to subject, tone and genre? Does it generate interest, and hint at what your poems about?o subject — whats the basic situation? Who is talking, and under what circumstances? Try writing a paraphrase to identify any gaps or confusions.
Suggestions• Use a checklist. For example:o shape — what are you appealing to: intellect or emotions of the reader? What structure(s) have you used — progressions, comparisons, analogies, bal d assertions, etc.? Are these aspects satisfyingly integrated? Does structure support content?
Suggestions• Use a checklist. For example:o tone — whats your attitude to the subject? Is it appropriate to content and audience: assured, flexible, sensitive, etc.?
Suggestions• Use a checklist. For example:o word choice — appropriate and uncontrived, economical, varied and energizing? Do you understand each word properly, its common uses and associations? See if listing the verbs truly pushes the poem along. Are words repeated? Do they set mood, emotional rapport, distance?
Suggestions• Use a checklist. For example:o personification — striking but persuasive, adds to unity and power?o metaphor and simile — fresh and convincing, combining on many levels?o rhythm and metre — natural, inevitable, integrate poems structure?
Suggestions• Use a checklist. For example:o rhyme (if employed) — fresh, pleasurable, unassuming but supportive?o overall impression — original, honest, coherent, expressive, significant?
Conclusions• Why practice criticism at all? Because its interesting, and opens the door to a wider appreciation of poetry, particularly that in other languages. • Its also unavoidable. Good writing needs continual appraisal and improvement, and both are better done by the author, before the work is set in print.
Conclusions• Most academics write articles rather than poems, but there seems no reason why their skills should not deployed in creating things which by their own submission are among the most demanding and worthwhile of human creations. Nor should poets despise professional literary criticism. In short, the approaches of this section should give poets some of the tools needed to assess their work, and to learn from the successful creations of others.