RWAL 9 (1 of 2)

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)

4 thoughts on “RWAL 9 (1 of 2)

  1. Paige I am the same way in the fact that I have never looked at Marxist Criticism before either. I have had similar experiences looking at literature in the past and seeing the class struggles and making some correlation to society but I haven’t spend a whole lot of time on it nor have I primarily focused on this theory.

  2. I agree with your point on how the Formalism and New Criticism theory is used most commonly in high school and college. Many of the theories I read about were very new to me including the Marxist theory. I really appreciate how in-depth you go into explaining the different theories within this post.

  3. Paige,
    I talked about the same two theories in my blog post as well. I mentioned many of the same ideas, especially about Formalism and New Criticism. I agree that the Introduction to Literary Studies class last semester focused on many of these elements within literature and learning how to use them. I have also never really looked at the Marxist Criticism before until reading this chapter. I have also looked into social class for some of the works we have read, but I have never gone in depth with it or specifically looked at it in the way as described in the book.

  4. I think Marxist criticism would be a great way to look at 1984, if only I fully grasped it. I agree with you that it may lead to new ways to look at a text, but I am less concerned that I’ll leave something out if I specifically look at something through a certain lens. That’s part of the analysis! If I wanted to look at 1984 using Marxism, I really wouldn’t use gender or sexuality theory and evidence for those theories because… those have no real bearing to the point I’m trying to make. I can be aware of certain issues and not include them in my paper. The analysis comes after a point of rereading a work, and I think we all know not to read a work one time over with a specific theory in mind and only look at that one theory while digesting a work for the first time.

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