Critical Approaches to the Study of Literature Discussion Topic / Further Critical Thinking Discussion Topic
Remember our class discussion about movies from the first week? Personal preferences greatly influence what we enjoy, and therefore, whenever we talk about a work of literature or a movie, we do so from a limited perspective. We tend to gravitate towards what we think we will like and avoid what we think we will not like. We might pay particular attention to a story’s realism, its morality, its believability, its humor, or its level of action, and evaluate the story based on how much we value that aspect. Whatever is important to you influences your evaluation.
However, this can limit our perspectives and therefore our evaluations. There is much, much more to the study of literature. When we study literature, we study anthropology, psychology, economics, sexuality, history, language, and more. In addition, when we study and analyze literature, we increase our critical thinking ability and gain empathy and insights into life. However, in our initial responses to literature, we may not consider these very influential underlying principles; thus, our understanding of the literature is limited.
Read about theories of literary criticism in your textbook in Part V “Special Writing Topics About Literature” pages 1347-1370.
As you can see, literary theory has evolved a great deal over the years; the Feminist critical approach is probably one of the most recent, for fairly obvious reasons. It would not be appropriate to try to apply every theory to each story, poem, or book you read (or movie you watch or song you like), but by forcing yourself to look consider the different angles these approaches present, you deepen your understanding. And, in the process, you learn to think critically and thoughtfully analyze, skills that you will use for every aspect of your life, well beyond the scope of this class.
The second component of this week’s assignment involves applying one of the critical approaches to literature to one of the three stories we’ve read so far this semester. Rather than relying simply on a personal response, how does formally analyzing a story change your perspective of it?
Choose one of the stories we’ve read so far this semester, and one of the critical perspectives (except for Reader Response, because we have already used that approach), and write a paragraph that describes what might be important in the story to a critic writing from particular approach and what might be that critic’s possible comment on the story. But do NOT name the theory you’re using! We will guess the theory that matches your paragraph. Title your post with the short story you chose. Be creative and thoughtful; in a way, this is also a prewriting activity since you may end up choosing the same story and perspective for your Unit Two essay.
Once all the paragraphs are posted, read them and see if you can figure out the matching theory for each paragraph. For each paragraph, post the name of the approach that you believe matches it.
After your classmates have posted their “guesses” to your paragraph, see how well they did trying to match the right critical approach to your paragraph. Then post the name of the approach you were using so they can check on their accuracy. Did you give good “clues” to your critical approach? What could have improved your paragraph?
This week, you’re preparing to write your essay, by considering all that we’ve covered so far.
First, spend some time reviewing the stories and poems and choose one for your essay. You should review your assignments and any discussion posts that deal with the story or poem. Then, re-read the story or poem. How has your perspective changed? Did you gain new insights or understandings? Spend some time reflecting on this experience.
Then, choose ONE of the following four assignments.
A. Write a haiku about a character. A haiku is a poem of 17 syllables, arranged in three lines of 5/7/5 syllables. It gives a sharp, objective description and a strong sense of where, what and when. Examples are given on page 648 of your text.
B. Write a 5W poem about a character. A 5W poem has five lines, each addressing one of these W’s: who, what, when, where and why. The lines do not need to rhyme, but they should use specific words.
C. Write a descriptive paragraph about a character. Make sure your paragraph has a topic sentence that states the point of your paragraph.
D. Write a dialogue that a character might have had at some time with another character. Make sure you indicate who is speaking for each line of dialogue.
“We Real Cool” https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/we-real-cool
“My Papa’s Waltz” https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/my-papas-waltz-audio-only