Modern Western Literary Theory and Criticism
Part 1 Introduction
The reasoned discussion of literary works,an activity which may include some or all of the following procedures,in varying proportions:the defence of literature against moralists and censors,classification of a work according to its genre,interpretation of its meaning,analysis of its structure and style, judgment of its worth by comparison with other works,estimation of its likely effect on readers,and the establishment of general principles by which literary works can be evaluated and understood.(Oxford concise Dictionary of Literary Terms)
literary theory is “speculative discourse on literature and on practice of literature.”It may include reflections on or analysis of general principles and categories of literature,such as its nature and function;its relation to other aspects of culture;the purpose,procedures and validity of literary criticism;relation of literary text to their authors and historical contexts;or the production of literary meaning.(Zhu Gang )
historical period from Renaissance to 20th century
Geographical meaning:Europe and America
Cultural meaning:Cultural community of develop capitalism countries,especially based on Christian tradition.
Modern western literary theory and criticism are reasoned activities of discussion about literature in Western world in 20th century.
Approaches,schools and groups
Anglo-American New Criticism
Theorized:almost all of the schools of criticism have their particular theory.
Adapting theories or principles from their disciplines.
Understanding literature in terms of its relations to history,politics gender,social class,race,mythology or psychology.
Critical tendency:many schools of criticism seek to influence on the social reality with in their historical context.
References and Further reading:
Handbook of critical Approaches to Literature(Third Edition),Wilfred.L.Guerin(ed).
Literary Theory from Plato to Barthes:An Introductory History ,Richard.Harland,外语教学与研究出版社。
Twentieth Century Western Critical Theories, Zhu Gang,上海外语教育出版社。
Selective Readings in 20th Century Western Critical Theory,张中载，王逢振、赵国新编，外语教学与研究出版社。
Literary theory,Jonathan Culler,Oxford University Press,1997.
A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory,Roman Selden,Harvester Wheatsheaf,1989.
Part 2 The New Criticism
There are four periods:the initiative(1910-1930),the formative(1930-1945), the dominant(1945-1957), and normalization(1960s to the present). If we take T.E. Hume, a British aesthetician, or American poet Ezra Pound as the initiator of the New Criticism, then this school started in the 1910s.But the New Criticism rose formally in the 1930s when some critics established their theory in America, and it became dominant criticism system in college and university English departments in the 1950s.
John Crowe Ransom(1888--1974)
Robert Penn Warren(1905--)
Principles of Literary Criticism(1924)
Practical Criticism:A sturdy of Literary Judgment.(1929)
Tradition and the Individual Talent.(1917)
Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930)
John Crowe Ransom:
Poetry:A Note in Ontology.(1934)
The New Criticism(1941)
Tension in Poetry(1938)
The Language of Paradox(1942)
The Well-wrought Urn.(1947)
Understanding Poetry.(1938,with Robert Penn Warren)
Understanding fiction.(1943,with Robert Penn Warren)
Understanding Drama(1945,with Robert B.Heilman)
The Verbal Icon(1954)
The Intentional Fallacy(1946,with M.C. Beardsley)
The Affective fallacy(1949,with M.C. Beardsley)
Theory of Literature(1949,with Austin Warren)
History of Modern Criticism 1750-1950(1986)
The New Critics read the individual work of literary art as an organic form.They articulated the concept that in an organic form there is a consistency and an internal vitality that we should look for and appreciate.
One of the most salient considerations of the New Critics was emphasis on form,on the work of art as an object.
The New Critics sought precision and structural tightness in the literary work;they favored a style and tone that tended toward irony;they insisted on the presence within the work of everything necessary for its analysis;and they called for an end to a concern by critics with matters outside the work itself--the life of the author,the history of his times,or the social and economic implications of the literary work.
A reading method that is the mark of the New Criticism, which takes work as a piece of textured literary art, and only read the work itself. Close reading begins with sensitivity to the words of the text and all their denotative and connotative values and implications, then looks for structures, patterns and interrelationships in the text.
A reading strategy offered by Allen Tate in 1938, that means a combination of extension and intension. It is also a New Critical standard for evaluating poetry and poets.
Irony involves a discrepancy between what is said and what is meant. To I. A. Richards irony is bringing opposites to form a balance, while C. Brooks suggested irony is the stability of a context in which the internal pressures balance and mutually support each other.
The intentional fallacy:
A particular term proposed by Wimsatt and Beardsley who argued that the design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art, and that a literary work,once published,belongs in the public realm of language,which gives it an objective existence distinct from the author’s original idea of it.
The affective fallacy:
The affective fallacy is proposed by Wimsatt and Beardsley that means a confusion between the poem and its results(what it is and what it does), It begins by trying to drive the standard of criticism from the psychological effects of the poem and ends in impressionism and relativism.The outcome of either fallacy,the intentional or the affective,is that the poem itself,as an object of specifically critical judgment,tends to disappear.
Part 3 The Psychoanalytical Criticism
Started from 1900 when S.Freud published his The Interpretation of Dreams, then extended to present.There are two important stages in the course of psychoanalytical criticism development. First is the phase of Freud. Second is the phase of Jacque Lacan.
Norman Holland(1927- )
The interpretation of Dreams (1900)
Creative writers and Daydreaming
The four Fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis (1977)
Ecrits:A Selection (1966)
Hamlet and Oedipus(1910)
The Dynamics of Literary Response (1968)
Five Readers Reading (1975)
Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms(1946)
Some theoretical conclusion regarding the Emotional Life of the infant
Freud emphasized the unconscious aspects of the human psyche and provided convincing evidence that most of our actions are motivated by psychological forces over which we have very limited control.
He demonstrated that,like the iceberg,the human mind is structured so that its great weight and density lie beneath the surface.
All human behavior is motivated ultimately by what we would call sexuality.Freud designates the prime psychic force as libido,or sexual energy.
His another major premise is that because of the powerful social taboos attached to certain sexual impulses,many of our desires and memories are repressed.
Freud borrowed this term from Greece classic Sophoclean tragedy in which the hero Oedipus unknowingly slew his father and married his mother.In psychoanalytical theory Oedipus complex derives from the boy’s unconscious rivalry with his father for the love of his mother.
A mental process that is structured beneath the surface consciousness,and has no easy access to consciousness,but must be inferred,discovered,and translated into conscious form in some special manners.
Freud called by this name (Libido)the energy of those instincts which have to do with all that may be comprised under the word “love”.To Freud, “love”consists in sexual love with sexual union as its aim,but he did not separate from this either the self-love or love for parents and children, friendship and love for humanity in general, and also devotion to concrete objects and to abstract ideas.
Part 4 Western Marxist Criticism
Marxist Literary criticism can be divided into three periods:Classical Marxism,early Western Marxism ,Late Marxism.Early Western Marxism began with Georg Lukacs,then developed by “Institute of Social Research”in university of Frankfurt, Germany,Late Marxism started from 1960s and extended in the last years of the 20th century.
Georg Lukacs (1885-1971)
Max Horkheimer (1895-1973)
Thoedor W Adorno (1903-1969)
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
Louis Althusser (1918-1980)
Raymond Williams (1921-1988)
Terry Eagleton (1943-)
Fredric Jameson (1934-)
History and Class Consciousness (1923)
The Theory of Novel (1920)
The Historical Novel (1962)
The Meaning of Contemporary Realism (1963)
Prison Notebooks (1977)
T. W Adrono:
Aesthetic Theory (1970)
Charles Baudelaire :A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism (1973)
Marxism and Literature (1977)
Culture and Society (1958)
Criticism and Ideology (1976)
Marxism and Literary Criticism (1976)
The Political Unconsciousness (1979)
Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (1971)
On Sociology of Literature (1932)
Western Marxism turned Marxist criticism into a cultural critique from the philosophical perspective.
Interdisciplinarity is another feature of the Western Marxism.
Researching many new fields which Marx and Engels had never studied through associated with other new theories in 20th century.
Critical attitude towards new social problems emerged in the West world in 20th century.
Ideology is idea or belief come from social classes in their relations with each other.It is seen be rooted in the material conditions of the everyday life of classes,because classes are not equal,ideology is thought as a distorted representation of the truth,or “false consciousness”.
The concept of hegemony was proposed by Italian Marxist theorist and activist Antonio Gramsci to understand how social groups organize their rule.He suggested that rule involves both domination and hegemony that is the organization of consent based on establishing the legitimacy of leadership and developing shared ideas,values, beliefs and meanings.
Part 5 Feminism Criticism
There are three phase in feminism:first-wave (late 19th and early 20th century ),second-wave and post-modern feminism . Second-wave Feminist criticism developed since the women’s movement beginning in the early 1960s,and with women’s studies programs growing in American higher education,Feminism criticism divided into many types in 1970s and 1980s.E.Showalter identified four models of them:The biological, linguistic,psychoanalytic and cultural.
Simone de Beauvoir(1908-1986)
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman(1791)
A Room of One’s Own(1929)
Simon de Beauvoir:
The Second Sex(1949)
A Literature of Their Own(1977)
The Laugh of the Medusa(1975)
Feminist Literary Criticism(1991)
Sandra M.Gilbert and Susan Gubar
The Madwomen in the Attic(1979)
The Revolution of Poetic Language(1984)
This Sex Which Is Not One(1985)
Sexes and Genealogies(1993)
Gender Trouble:Feminism and the Subversion of Identity(1990)
Feminist Theory:From Margin to Center(1984)
Feminist literary criticism is a political attack upon other modes of criticism and theory,and because of its social orientation it moves beyond traditional literary criticism.
Feminists believe that our culture is a patriarchal culture,that is,one organized in favor of the interests of men.
Feminist literary critics try to explain how what they term engendered power imbalances in a given culture are reflected,supported,or challenged by literary texts.
Feminist critics focus on absence of women from discourse as well as meaningful spaces opened by women’s discourse.
Feminist critics largely agree on a threefold purpose:to expose patriarchal premises and resulting prejudices,to promote discovery and reevaluation of literature by women,and to examine social,cultural,and psychosexual contexts of literature and criticism.
Feminist critics wish to make us act as feminist readers;that is,to create”new communities of writers and readers supported by a language spoken for and by women.”
There is an important distinction between sex and gender where sex describes biological or natural differences,while gender describes the social roles of masculinity and femininity,so gender is socially constructed.
This was originally an anthropological term which describes a social system in which older men are entitled to exercise socially sanctioned authority over other members of the household or kinship group,both women and younger men.
Part 6 Cultural Studies
Cultural studies formally began with the establishing of “Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies” in Birmingham University in 1964, then this method spread all over the world ,and is also active today.
Edward Palmer Thompson (1924-1993)
The Long Revolution(1965)
Technology and Cultural Form(1974)
The Country and the City(1973)
The Uses of Literacy(1958)
Edward Palmer Thompson:
The Making of the English Working Class(1968)
The Popular Arts(1964,with Paddy Whamel)
Resistance Through Rituals(1976,ed with T.Jefferson)
Understanding Popular Culture(1989)
In cultural studies the concept of culture has a range of meanings which includes both high art and everyday life.
Cultural studies advocates an interdisciplinary approach to the study of culture.
While cultural studies is eclectic in its use of theory,using both structuralism and more flexible approaches,it advocates those that stress the overlapping,hybrid nature of cultures,seeing cultures as networks rather than patchworks.
The term ‘culture’is chiefly used in three relatively distinct senses to refer to :the arts and artistic activity;the learned,primarily symbolic features of a particular way of life;and a process of development.In cultural studies this term specially refers to a particular way of life whether of a people,a period or humanity in general.
Popular culture is type of writing or other cultural product,which come into fashion in the mass and usually is seen as worthless and harmful.But in cultural studies the boundaries between popular culture and high culture are in the process of dissolving,because they think the forms of culture are constructed in social and historical context.Popular culture and high culture often share similar themes,and a particular text can be seen as high culture at one point in time and popular culture at another,more importantly,popular culture is a representation of a way of life within the period it emerges.