Literary Criticism: Map
prepared by Skylar Hamilton Burris
This map shows loosely where the critical approaches fall. An explanation of the map follows.
I have placed the work itself in the center of my map because all approaches must deal, to some extent or another, with the text itself. Formalism and deconstruction are placed here also because they deal primarily with the text and not with any of the outside considerations such as author, the real world, audience, or other literature. Meaning, formalists argue, is inherent in the text. Because meaning is determinant, all other considerations are irrelevant. Deconstructionists also subject texts to careful, formal analysis; however, they reach an opposite conclusion: there is no meaning in language.
A historical approach relies heavily on the author and his world. In the historical view, it is important to understand the author and his world in order to understand his intent and to make sense of his work. In this view, the work is informed by the author's beliefs, prejudices, time, and history, and to fully understand the work, we must understand the author and his age.
An intertextual approach is concerned with comparing the work in question to other literature, to get a broader picture.
Reader-Response is concerned with how the work is viewed by the audience. In this approach, the reader creates meaning, not the author or the work.
Mimetic criticism seeks to see how well a work accords with the real world.
Then, beyond the real world are approaches dealing with the spiritual and the symbolic--the images connecting people throughout time and cultures (archetypes). This is mimetic in a sense too, but the congruency looked for is not so much with the real world as with something beyond the real world--something tying in all the worlds/times/cultures inhabited by man.
The Psychological approach is placed outside these poles because it can fit in many places, depending how it is applied:
(1) Historical if diagnosing the author himself
(2) Mimetic if considering if characters are acting by "real world" standards and with recognizable psychological motivations
(3) Archetypal when the idea of the Jungian collective unconscious is included
(4) Reader-Response when the psychology of the reader--why he sees what he sees in the text--is examined.
Likewise, Feminist, Minority, Marxist, and other such approaches may fit in:
(1) Historical if the author's attitudes are being examined in relation to his times
(i.e. was Shakespeare a feminist for his times, though he might not be considered so
(2) Mimetic--when asking how well characters accord with the real world. Does a black character act like a black person would, or is he a stereotype? Are women being portrayed accurately? Does the work show a realistic economic picture of the world?
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