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February 25, 2007

Let's Work Together

Paris, ''The Uses of Psychology'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"Psychology helps us to talk about what the novelist knows; fiction helps us to know what the psychologist is talking about" (222).

I used to hate the idea of psychological approaches to literature, just because I had to read too many essays on whether or not Hamlet is mad or sane and whether or not he wanted to sleep with his mother my senior year in high school. But, with the way Paris explained the use of it in terms of understanding the human psyche made me want to give it another chance, especially since Paris emphasizes that the psychology and literature are meant to work together to enlighten the reader. He also recognized that a psychological approach to the characters and the implied author are not going to be useful in every piece of literature. Clearly Hamlet is a good subject for such a study, as would be "The Yellow Wallpaper." But, in terms of poetry it seems like in most cases this type of mimetic approach wouldn't be as useful as another type of criticism.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at February 25, 2007 1:48 AM


Have you read Sylvia Plath's poem Daddy? That's good for a psychological reading. (Also author intent & biography, since the apparent author intent doesn't match with the facts of Plath's father's life, even if the images Plath use help us to understand her emotions about her father.

I say this because, if your students read "Daddy," they will very likely jump to some conclusions about Plath's real father.


Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 25, 2007 10:13 AM

I have to agree that I didn't see need for psychology for everything at first, but I realize that in mimicry, our reality is part of our psyche.

Posted by: Erin at February 28, 2007 1:44 PM

I truly agree with you that we could have made a mimetic criticism on The Yellow Wallpaper, especially in relation to human nature and how they could have acted with the rest treatment. Human nature is fascinating to me because we can find patterns not only from a specific character, but we can find patterns in a specific writer and their genre through human behavior. Looking at realism in a piece of literature is important for to the reader, and the key component behind realism is the character. The character must be a real figure that is relatable to a specific group or individual. I think Erin brings up a valid point in the relationship between human nature and reality.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at February 28, 2007 10:41 PM

Dr. Jerz,
Thanks for the link! I think it will be incredibly useful, especially so many students leave high school with the idea that author biography is crucial to the understanding of an author's works and that everything should be analyzed on those terms - especially poetry. Even getting some of the freshmen in EL150 to understand that a poem's speaker is separate from the author has been frustrating. It is hard to get people past the assumption that every poem is (as you said in class) a pouring out of emotions from the author, so the poem must be about the author.

Jay, I like your point about the relate-ability of a character to the audience that is certainly important. I think that there are other elements than just character personality though. We often identify with characters simply because they are going through the same things that we have been through.

Posted by: Lorin at March 1, 2007 7:17 AM

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