From Self to Subjectivity
Kate Liu, first draft 1999/9/20
What is Literary Criticism?
Texts: A. Animation "When
the Day Breaks"; Poem: "This is Just to Say"; "Shall I Compare Thee
to a Summer's Day."
B. Animation "Mindscape"; "The Bulge"; Poem: "Metaphor";
[In class, we start with the texts and then use our activities to
understand the general definitions.]
I. First we need to know the distinction between
literary literary appreciation, interpretation and literary criticism.
2. As we will discuss in the section of Reader Response,
every act of interpretation is a "hermeneutic circle" (to be brief, an
interaction between the part you understand and your sense of its wholenss)
and literary criticism actually involves all the three steps discussed
- literary appreciation: The dictionary definition
of "appreciate" is "to evaluate the quality or value of a certain thing."
Literary appreciation as I define it involves not only evaluation but also
personal, impressionistic, or emotional apprehension of the work we read.
This emotional/personal aspect of reading is very important for us; it usually
decides whether we want to go on studying a work and how we are going
to do it. However, personal appreciation can lead to subjective and vague
judgment, which is the kind of literary appreciation we want to avoid--what
we call "ah-ha" school.
- Interpretation -- In a broad sense, interpretation
can mean all the action involved in our reading from apprehension, appreciation
to analysis. Here I will define it more in terms of "text analysis": that
is, to interpret is to "explain and clarify the meaning of" a text so that
its rich meanings can be understood.
- literary criticism -- Far from being "negative
evaluation" as the word "criticism" sometimes suggests, literary criticism
develops from the first two steps of reading into a more systematic analysis
of a work.
- "Systematic" mean two things here:
- 1. literary criticism has to be developed and presented
with sufficient evidence from the text and they have to be logically presented;
- 2. literary criticism involves a theoretic framework,
which usually the critic is aware of.
First reading questions: To make yourself
active in your reading and be prepared for the more systematic literary
criticism we will do in our class, here are some questions you can ask
of yourself in the first reading:
Re-reading: Try to answer the question
of "what is it about" even if you do not quite understand the text yet.
Then start to re-read it to see if you are right about its meanings.
Also, as you do the re-reading, keep this question in mind:
Circle the parts you like or don't understand
What's it about?
Do you like it? Any Questions?
例子： １﹚"Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" webpage,
How does it convey the meaning?--lit. techniques? Pattern? 圖解
criticism -- different kinds
dish—sexually attractive person
the unknown? What will Bredgit give birth to?
Question: praise? Fear?
guesses, metaphor; contraries; persons in her—her body as
psychoanalysis—no sexual symbols, the author's hidden intention
Feminism—does the writer's gender matter? Why cannot the fetus be just
reader's response- gaps? What is your horizon?
the material, the abstract: loaf, money -- a means,
a cow in calf
the unknown—a riddle
Question: joy or
contrary sizes and values: elephant, a house, a melon ---ivory,
fine timber, red fruit
III. different criticism --
psychoanalysis -- Plath's sudden suicide,
Feminism—Is she confirming motherhood?
differences between Literary Criticism, Literary Theory and 'theory itself'.
By John Lyl