As I read the first part of Reading and Writing about Literature on “Literary Criticism and Literary Theory,” the literary theory I was most familiar with was Formalism and New Criticism. This theory gives attention to “the formal elements of a literary text – things like structure, tone, characters, setting, symbols, and linguistic features” (Gardner & Diaz 171). The elements of this theory are what I learned to analyze in my high school English classes, and we also learned about close-reading for these elements in Introduction to Literary Study last semester. Taking a look at what we’ve read this semester, in many of my blog posts about John Henry Days, I tried to analyze the symbolism of the mountain and the machine. When I look at my recent posts about poetry, I see a lot of this theory being applied in my analysis. I specifically talked about the implications of the repetition in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
The theory I was least familiar with in this section was Marxist Criticism. This theory was described by the authors as the application of Karl Marx’s ideas to literature, including that “the basic model of human progress is based on a struggle for power between different social classes” (173). I have brought attention to issues of social class and inequality in certain literary texts, but I have never really analyzed literature specifically through a Marxist lens where I’m only focusing on those inequalities. Marxist criticism is similar to some of the other theories the text discussed in the way that you have to specifically look at a text in one way. If you analyzed 1984 through Marxist criticism, you could probably find a lot to discuss about class inequality becuase of the system with the Inner Party, Outer Party, and Proles. However, you might miss some of the other themes present in 1984, such as the control of history and information and the physical and mental manipulation of human beings. At the same time, using a particular criticism like Marxist criticism might allow you to see a text in a new way and brainstorm new ideas.
Source: RWAL 9 (1 of 2)