Words vs. Criticism


"What semiotics represents, in fact, is literary criticism transfigured by structural linguistics, rendered a more disciplined and less impressionistic enterprise which, as Lotman's work testifies, is more rather than less alive to the wealth of form and language than most traditional criticism" (Eagleton 90).

The "linguistics" of literature is more important to the "language" than traditional criticism.

So by studying the language which represents a variety of symbols and interpretations a reader is better off than using traditional criticism.

Moreover, I believe that the structure of the text gives us insight into the semiotics which then allows us to analyze the language which provides us with symbols and then the end result is a critical review of a text based on semiotics rather than traditional criticism.

This has been an interesting chapter by Eagleton, but makes me question myself because where do you start first when reading literature.

Do you start with the structure, semiotics, language, word choice, symbols, or traditional criticism?

Click here for the web page devoted to Eagleton.


I would assume that it does not matter where the critic starts. A starting point is a starting point. Just because you notice the structure first does not make it the best thing to analyze. Pay close attention while reading to all of the different devices. Once you have finished, then go back and see what each devices does specifically to the work as a whole.
I personally start with what I see. I then try to look closer at what I found to see if I can find anything that this device may reveal about the work as a whole. If I can't figure anything out, I move on to the next thing I notice. I tend to notice word choice, symbolism, and structure the most because I'm always on the prowl for them. I also keep my eyes peeled for images of baptism and seasonal symbolism (Thank you How to Read Literature Like a Professon!).

I think that using different types of criticism is important to use. I usually pick up on religious symbolism or nature. I think it is important to have a prepared mental list while reading in order to find connections.

Do you think that we should have these so called prepared mental lists or should we enter a text with an open mind?

I was having this problem too. I would over analyze where to start and then get too hung up on whether I was looking for the correct things in the text, but there is no correct thing to look for. I agree with Angela start where you know to start. I don't think there has to be a specific starting point. And I don't think going into it with a prepared mental list is not open-minded, its just a way to get you started. Once in then you can begin to look outside your comfort zone, but you have to get in first. Does that make sense, or have I babbled on too much?

Derek, you picked an interesting quote. Eagleton’s chapter made me wish I would have take Linguistics already, because I found his chapter kind of overwhelming with all the new ideas he presented. He throws so much information at the reader in every chapter it’s hard to absorb it all. But as for your question, I agree with Angela, I don’t think it really matter where the critic starts. Whatever works best for the critic is where they should start. As to your second question, I think that having an idea of what some common themes, symbols, etc. are is extremely helpful; it helps the reader keep their eyes out for certain things. However, I also know from personal experience that I do not want to have read literary articles about a text before I read it or all I will be able to see is what they saw. So I think it’s important to find a balance between have a fresh perspective and having some idea what to look for.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on February 14, 2009 7:13 PM.

Will the Poem have to Pay Taxes? was the previous entry in this blog.

Blog Portfolio 1 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en