Critical Lenses - Ms. Alburger's Class

Critical Lenses - Ms. Alburger's Class

CRITICAL LENSES OF LITERATURE Adapted from Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents By Deborah Appleman What is a Critical Lens? Literary criticism is an attempt to evaluate and understand the creative writing, the literature of an author. Literary criticism is a description, analysis, evaluation, or interpretation of a particular literary work or an author's writings as a whole in an attempt to expose the hidden ideologies embedded in those texts. Critical Lenses are different perspectives through which the reader can view a text.

Multiple Perspectives A necessary first step in understanding Literary Criticism is the acceptance of multiple perspectives in literature as valid interpretations of text. This means there is no single theory, perspective, or truth about literature we read together and how we teach it. (Applebaum 10). In other words, there are multiple correct answers so what matters in determining the validity of an interpretation is how you support your answer. Multiple Perspectives: Remember This?

Do you see the rabbit or the duck? Do you see the old woman or the young woman? Two Sides to Every Story The True Story of the Big Bad Wolf The Different Lenses

Gender Social Power/ Marxist Criticism Biographical Archetypical Reader Response Formalist Historical Postcolonial Structuralist Deconstructionist Psychological

Some lenses lend themselves to certain texts better, but there is no right lens to read with each text. Feminist/Gender Criticism 1) 2) 3) Examines the gender roles and power structures at play in the literature Are there female or homosexual characters present in the work? What might the absence/ or limited appearance of these characters imply? (Why do no girl hobbits go on Frodos adventure?) Are the female or homosexual characters

characterized in largely positive or largely negative ways? Is it stereotypical? Are they given characterization at all? What might this imply? Do the female or homosexual characters play an active role in determining their fate? Or are they largely objects that require action from male characters? Marxist Criticism 1) 2) Examines the portrayals of social class and power structures within the text Which characters in the work are from higher social class? Which are from lower? Who has the money, power, or advantage in the story? Who does not?

What are the results of this? How do the different class portrayals work to reproduce or maintain certain social beliefs and practices? Archetypical Criticism The word archetype means a recognizable pattern or model in storytelling from around the world. This is thought to reflect universal, even primitive, ways of seeing the world (Applebaum 142). We can recognize archetypes in the kinds of stories told, the themes or situations apparent in them, and the kinds of characters that appear in them. Some of the best stories play against the archetype to

create surprises for the reader. How is the hero similar to heroes from other stories? How is the villain? Sidekicks? What common themes or situations can we see between this story and other stories weve read? What common symbolism is apparent in this work? Reader Response Criticism Assumes that the reader is responsible for

making meaning from a story, and downplays the authors role in the process. The readers relationship to events within the text or ability to relate to experiences within the text is an important part of the reading experience. How did this text make you feel? What parts were you able to identify with? What did it remind you of? Each of these questions is a valuable part of the reading process. Historical Criticism Assumes that readers should know the historical context (circumstances) of the time during with the author wrote or the setting of the story.

How does the historical setting of the story influence the events of the story or the themes that are present? How does the context of the times during which the author wrote influence these factors? Postcolonial Criticism Assumes the literature written by colonizing forces (I.E. Western Literature) downplays or minimizes the effect of colonization, or somehow justifies the colonization of that population. How are colonized people portrayed if referenced in

text? What cultural conflicts exist? How are they resolved? How are the colonized portrayed as Others within the text Postcolonialists will look at the Others perspective in the story, and try to find the counter-narrative embedded in every story. The Big Bad Wolfs version of events, for example. Critical Lenses of The Lion King Feminist/Gender: Can be viewed as the helpless role females have in society. The female lions are used to provide food and care for the young yet it is the males that have all the power. When Mufasa dies his power transfers to either his son or his brother. His wife is never even considered.

Nala is also clearly stronger than Simba yet she is considered inferior. Marxist: Can be viewed as the upper class (lions) trying to maintain power over an unhappy lower class (hyenas). The lower class resents the privileges of better food and hunting grounds that the upper class maintains. This conflict causes a rebellion, which disrupts the normal social order causing chaos and destruction. Psychoanalytic: Can be viewed as a classic case of sibling rivalryScar is savagely jealous of his much stronger and might I say better looking older brother. Can also be viewed as the classic struggle to overcome feelings of guilt or inadequacyboth of which Simba has after the death of his father.

Narratology: Simba represents the classic hero quest. Simba suffers from a loss of a father figure and must go off on a journey to grow into his destiny. During his journey he meets tricksters (Timon/Pumba) who also act as his helpers and finds a mentor (crazy monkey with a stick). Nala also acts as the herald as she upsets the sleepy equilibrium in which the Simba has lived and starts his growth. He then has enough strength (mental and physical) to overcome the villain and restore everything to order.

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