Literary Criticism:

From Self to Subjectivity

General Introduction

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 above.

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:
  1. Circle the parts you like or don't understand
  2. What's it about?
  3. Do you like it? Any Questions?
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:
  1. How does it convey the meaning?--lit. techniques? Pattern?  圖解 "Spleen"
例子: 1﹚"Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" webpage, poem, reading
The Bulge
  1. dish—sexually attractive person
  2. the unknown? What will Bredgit give birth to?
  3. Question: praise? Fear?
  4. guesses, metaphor; contraries; persons in her—her body as bountiful food--persons
criticism -- different kinds

psychoanalysis—no sexual symbols, the author's hidden intention

Feminism—does the writer's gender matter? Why cannot the fetus be just B's?

reader's response- gaps? What is your horizon?


  1. a cow in calf
  2. the unknown—a riddle
  3. Question: joy or
  4. contrary sizes and values: elephant, a house, a melon ---ivory, fine timber, red fruit
the material, the abstract: loaf, money -- a means, a stage

green apples--train

III. different criticism --

psychoanalysis -- Plath's sudden suicide,

Feminism—Is she confirming motherhood?

reader's response

Further Readings

The differences between Literary Criticism, Literary Theory and 'theory itself'.  By John Lyl