English Literature. Revision (Approaches)

Introduction to English Literature II (Universität Bremen)

Exam Revision, 2014

8 Pages


Key Topics for Revision

1. Approaches and Methodologies in Literary Studies

Key questions asked in Literary Theory:

What is literature?

What constitutes a (literary/non-literary) text?

Are there different types of literature?

What’s the relationship between literature and its environment?

What’s the relationship between literature and other media?

What’s the role of authors, text, readers?

How does form and content influence each other?

How is literature concerned with gender, politics, ethnicity etc?

Texts as products: In what kind of version has this text existed? (print, video etc)

Reproduction & reception: Who has been involved in making & responding?

Relations to the rest of the world: What are the various frames of reference & context

within which the text was realized? What world-view does it represent?

Typology of main theoretical approaches

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

2. Words on the Page – Practical Criticism and (old) New Criticism

Objectives and how to practice Practical Criticism and New Criticism:

- requires close reading à text-centered

Practical Criticism: I.A. Richards
- no knowledge of the author (close-reading)
- ask people to comment freely on text à pick out intense/clichéd responses

New Criticism: John Crowe Ransom
- focus on text itself & rule out life of author and his intentions
- Intentional Fallacy: intention of author is not desirable/available
for judging a work Wimsatt &
- Affective Fallacy: confusion between poem Beardsley
and its results (what it is/what it does)
- imagery, tension, contrast and balance are important in a good work
- aim of a poem: establish variety within unity
- look out for main tensions/contrasts, structuring of plot/argument, imagery…
- emphasise paradox, irony, unity àHow are the parts related to the whole?

Main difference between the PC and NC:
- Practical criticism: commenting on a text freely
- New Criticism: commenting on a text with regard to certain aspects

Character and Characterisation:

3 meanings for character:

- distinctive nature & traits of a real person
- particular role played by a fictional figure
- a letter of the alphabet
- character can be a personal identity and a textual entity

characters can be described as

- rounded or flat
- individuals or types
- character-narrators or character-actors

characterisation: literary, linguistic & cultural means whereby a figure is constructed

3. Devices and Effects – Formalism into Functionalism

Major figures and objectives:

(Formalism turned into Functionalism)

Formalist Approach:
- text-centred, focus on features that make literature literary & poetry poetic
- devices that draw attention to language areforegrounded
- background is made up out of routine & ordinary language
- a work demonstrates its literariness when it:
- defamiliarises habitual perceptions
- foregrounds certain aspects & backgrounds others (with imagery etc.)
- plays around with dimensions of time, space, narration

Functionalist Approach:
- socialised the abstract Formalist notions of defamiliarisation & foregrounding
- poetry disturbs & reforms routine language
- poetics is not restricted to poetry
- investigate:
- aesthetic and social norms the text challenged/confirmed at the time
- functions the text served & effects it had

Defamiliarisation and foregrounding:


- narrator overtly interrupts etc.
- catch attention of the reader
- unfamiliar things are interesting/striking
- realised through foregrounding

Foregrounding: Mukarovsky & Havranek

- 2 stages of foreground and background:
- foreground and background within the text
- foregrounding the text against the background outside the text
- what is familiar in one place/period might not be in another
- deviation: is a similar term but presupposes that ppl have same norms & values

Key terms: Heteroglossia:

heteroglossia: linguistic variety in literary work: another’s speech in

another’s language

chronotope: expresses inseparability of space and time, Mikhail

defines genre & generic distinctions Bakhtin

carnival: one set of cultural & aesthetic norms is overthrown by another

4. Mind and Person – Psychological Approaches

Major figures and models:

- we distinguish various selves from various others with words (I, you, my..)
- literature tells us about others inner lives & helps to explore own identities
- civilisation as result of human struggles to control animal drives & desires
- unconscious: we are not directly aware of it; includes our drives, forgotten & repressed childhood etc.
- consciousness: we are aware of it; includes perceptions, personal memories
- relation between the two is dynamic
- dreams are the “road to the unconscious”
- latent content: 3 ways in which meaning tends to be hidden:
- condensation: metaphors etc. à 2 or more meanings
- displacement: one item stands for another (ring for a special person)
- symbolism: one thing is identified with a certain function/meaning (ex: ring for wedding; heart for love etc.)
- psychic instances: Sigmund Freud
- ego: “I”, part of self most concerned to gratify instinctual drives
- id: “other”, the unconscious from which drives derive
- super-ego: “above-I”, censor and judge, regulates the ego
- people’s identities are never wholly their conscious view
- Transactional analysis: Norman Holland: transitional objects operate as potential space in which hopes & fears may be safely realised (ex: in a text)
- Psychopolitics: Michel Foucault: the personal is political, libido is subject to various economies (not as Freud implies only instinctual drive)

How to practise Psychological Approaches:


- What the text suggests about thewriter’s emotional, mental processes
- how you as areader relate to & identify with the events, characters presented
- what thelanguage of the text suggests about expression & repression
- auto/biography of the author: what are we not being told and why?
- aspects of the text that are under-represented

5. Reader-response theories and criticism / Hermeneutics

Word Play:

- play within and around language
- poetry: most complex form of word play
- advertising: word play is designed to make people pay
- Levels of wordplay:
- sound play: sounds of a language become source of pleasure
- visual play: uses letters, shapes, colors, fonts...
- lexical play: single words are swapped around
- structural play: (syntax) pleasurable tension

Writing & Reading, Response & Rewriting:

- writing: activity of making verbal marks on paper or other things
- more permanent & finished than speech (uninterrupted)
- detachable from place
- reliant on punctuation & visual presentation
- reading: activity of engaging with those verbal marks
- response: forms of reaction & interaction
- rewriting: is writing & reading in some sense
- re-creation: all of these combined
- writing & reading as...
- processes, products, attributes, verbs
- occurs in print, handwriting, electronic modes
- activities similar to but different from speaking & listening
- Reception Theorists: texts as part of a shifting relation with readers over time (Hans Robert Jauss)
- implied reader: intended by the author
- blanks & vacancies: filled by the actual readers Wolfgang Iser
- affirmative negation: through reading, the readers
make sense of themselves not simply of the text
- Reader-response Critics: text analyses the reader and is seen as a site for projection of anxieties and hopes (Norman Holland)
- readerly texts: offer pleasure with a closed fictional world
- writerly texts: offer joy/ecstasy of participation in construction
of a fictional world Roland Barthes
- the readers also control how far a text is readerly/writerly
- kinds of response:
- passive or submissive reading: reading “with the grain”, accepting perceived versions of reality
- oppositional or counter-reading: reading “against the grain”, oppose the text’s meanings
- alternative or negotiated reading: neither “with” nor “against the grain”

6. Class and Community – Marxism, Cultural Materialism and New Histoicism

Major figures and concepts:

- concerned with social/political aspects of interpretation & understanding texts in social & historical context
- language is grasped for what it does, not what it is
- attention to:
- modes of production (technologies & social relations)
- relations between economic base & ideological superstructure
- power-relations

Key concepts of New Historicism (Stephen Greenblatt & Louis Montrose)
- a Marxist approach
- American counterpart ofCultural Materialism
- socially sensitive but less politically than Cultural Materialism
- recognise power relations in a text’s moment of production & reproduction

Dynamic model of ideology: (Raymond Williams)
- culture as the whole way of living of a people
- dominant: aspects of the text that represent central ways of seeing à present
- residual: once central but now superseded ways of seeing à past
- emergent: maybe new ways of seeing, still in progress à future
- every text can be grasped as a site where discourses of past, present & future meet; refracting ideologies as part of a continuing process & site of stuggle


Excerpt out of 8 pages


English Literature. Revision (Approaches)
Introduction to English Literature II (Universität Bremen)
University of Bremen  (FB 10 - English-Speaking Cultures)
Introduction to English Literatures II
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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english, literature, revision, approaches, introduction, universität, bremen
Quote paper
Sarah Fuhrken (Author), 2014, English Literature. Revision (Approaches), Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/279668


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