Friday, August 22, 2014

LITERARY THEORIES: How do YOU read?

Hello, Scholars!

This past week, we examined two very different theories on how to evaluate literature:  New Criticism (Formalism) and Reader's Response.  We also began our discussion of Structuralism.  As you probably surmised, most professors of literature use a combined approach of theory.  Elementary/high school English teachers in America tend to use a combined New Critic/Reader's Response approach, but then at the university level, they move to Post-Structuralism, which we will explore next week.

I am including links to three articles below, one for each of the theories we touched upon this past week. Choose ONE of the theories to read, and then respond to it in a post.  How does this theory sit with you?  Do you agree or disagree?  Why do you think there are such a wide array of approaches to literature?  Why do you think writers so often prefer New Criticism and Reader's Response?

I look forward to your posts!



New Criticism

http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/new.crit.html


Reader Response

http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/readercrit.html
Structuralism

http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/structuralism.html

34 comments:

  1. I read the Reader's Response article. This theory sits with me in an odd way. I agree but I also disagree with the article. I agree because I think it's important for each person to interpret the text in their own way. However, I disagree because I think that some texts are meant to be taken one way. I think there is such a wide array of literature because each person thinks differently. If each person thought the same way, there would be no point to reading because it would be easy to identify the point of the text since there would be one meaning. I think writers use New Criticism and Reader's Response because New Criticism tells the reader exactly what the writer is trying to convey. I also think that writers use Reader's Response because the writer wants the reader to interpret the text in their own way.

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    1. I agree with regard to writers; it is definitely most important to most writers that the reader just get lost in the story the same way that they would get lost in a work of art; they hope that the reader will just absorb the story and appreciate the beauty of it. The writer also hopes that the reader will personalize the story--connect with it in some deep way. Ultimately that is true power, to be able to connect with or impact the life of a reader. As a reader, however, and as an instructor in English literature, I would also say that context can be VERY important in determining meaning in a work of literature. That includes knowing the author's background, what was happening in his/her life when he/she wrote the work, and what was going on in the world. It can help you see the story in its true, authentic light. Many things to consider. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective!

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  2. I read the article on New Criticism. This theory has never sat with me well. I don't like the idea of putting aside your emotions when you read a book, because in most cases, it's impossible. Granted, there are some exceptions (such as when you are reading a textbook). Yet, with that, there is nothing to relate to. We read to feel something and to make some sort of connection. As a writer, I know that having a relationship with the different characters and relating to them is half of the fun. The New Criticism theory completely disregards all emotional attachment to texts, but there are some things about it I like. It forces you to put all opinions aside and look at the big picture. It's very important to see things as they are and not just how you want to see them. I believe this is what New Criticism wishes to accomplish. To me, the reason to read a book will always be to immerse yourself in another world that can only be accessed through someone else's thoughts. It's just something that New Criticism will never understand.

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    1. I appreciate your ability here to see some of the benefits of new criticism or formalism, even though it is not "your cup of tea." ;) Certainly, there may be value in all viewpoints, but as you pointed out, it may very well depend on the text being viewed or read. Thank you for your response!

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  3. I read the New Criticism article. I honestly found it a bit confusing at times but I understood the point. I find the idea of close reading boring most times. Trying to find out "how a piece works" and analyzing it to bits isn't my idea of fun. I believe that immersing yourself in a story or any piece of work is the best way to read. It makes your imagination come alive and connects you not only to the characters but also to the author. With New Criticism the author doesn't matter, "The work is not the author's; it was detached at birth". I personally disagree. I once watched an Ed Sheeran interview where he said he didn't write music for his fans, but selfishly, because it had meaning to him. I love reading, knowing that the text is something they connected to, their own emotions drove the writing. Sometimes, yes, New Criticism reading can accomplish a deeper understanding, but it shouldn't always be just about what the text means, but also what it provides for you. Just as authors write selfishly, the audience should read selfishly. My opinion is that people should read just as they like though, and if that means putting aside emotion for deeper meaning, then by all means go for it. It's just not for me.

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    1. I love your points! The Sheeran quote is very apropos, and you connected it very well to the case with reading. I like that idea: Reading selfishly. I know I LOVE to read selfishly in the summer--I look forward to that time. I do like that you pointed out how New Criticism does have its place in an academic setting.

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  4. I read about Reader Response.
    Learning about this one, I liked it the most. (out of the general ones) I love when I get to talk about me. Honestly. And most other people do. As humans, we enjoy telling other people how we feel, what we think, and everything in between. And with Reader Response, you are basically doing what feels entirely natural to you, which is good. And I believe it helps with the understanding of the book as a whole. Reader response, on the surface, is the best one. You would generally identify with it most, and be able to identify *why* you do.
    However,
    I believe it does focus a bit too much on your personal feelings.Just like when you talk to people, if you talk about yourself incessantly, it begins to mean less, and frankly, gets annoying. I think that strict R.R. becomes annoying. And at times, I think you begin digging deeper for meaning, then what is really there. And I think there are times, where the text itself, in context becomes much more valuable, then strictly your feelings.

    Overall, its good. But Reader Response, is just a bit too into itself for my absolute love.
    (Also, I hope this didn't post twice, because it was being dumb.)

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    1. Great points. Yes, it is definitely human nature to want to talk about ourselves and our feelings! I do like that you pointed out this gets old, and frankly, irrelevant at times. I do have some New Criticism leanings (as a writer, especially, but that could be me just being selfish and a bit on the private side) but at the same time, I want a reader to have a visceral response (every writer does) because that means they connect to your characters.

      You didn't post twice. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  5. I chose to read the article on New Criticism, somewhat hoping it would persuade me into liking New Criticism a little bit more. It didn't really work. I suppose the reason I find this method of reading to be distasteful is because I, personally, have difficulties retracting my feelings from what I read. I'm generally more engaged with the text if I can make some sort of personal connection with it, which is why I lean more towards the Reader Response side of the spectrum. I also like knowing about the author, and what hardships they have undergone. I feel that this not only helps me connect myself with the book, but the author and their text.
    Now, even though I am prone to agree more with the Reader Review side of the argument, I do believe a healthy balance of the two is necessary to get the most out of a book. I believe there are certain things in a text that the author only intended to have one meaning. There are also certain instances when you may not want to relate. If you're good lot of the teenage population (including myself), then that would include any sort of informative text! But anyways, that's just me.

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    1. You analyzed this article very well! May I say I love that you chose to read a viewpoint hoping to find something worthwhile in the argument, even though initially, you didn't think you would agree. That shows you are very open-minded when reading. I like that you, as a reader, look to connect with your literature and the author. That lends to a more enjoyable reading experience, I think. Thanks for your post!

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  6. Out of all three articles I choose to read about New Criticism. In all honesty I am not a fan of “New Criticism”. If you sit down to read a book and only look at “the work itself” it takes away from the emotion put into the text by the author. Connecting with the emotions in a text can make you fall in love with what the author has written. Being able to see yourself in a book is more entertaining then just looking at words on the page. Sometimes authors have deeper meaning behind what they write, but if you only analyze the thoughts they wrote down you may never fully understand what they were trying to say to the audience. I understand why there are so many ways to interpreted literature. People that have gone through different experiences in life may read a text completely different, so taking away the emotion can let you see the story thought a different perspective. Although I could never put my emotions and life experiences aside while reading I can understand why others may want to.

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    1. I really like your last sentence here....it shows you know yourself well, but you are open and understanding to other viewpoints on literature. That is a quality of a true IB scholar. I like also that you look to connect with books and stories. I think that can make the reading experience more powerful and perhaps even life changing. Thanks for your post!

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  7. I chose to take a different route and read the article about Structuralism. To me this theory is very basic and dry. It doesn't necessarily require the thought or deep analyzation that might come with other theories. I don't see anything that needs or doesn't need to be agreed with, because to me this theory looks at things for the basis of what they are and what they represent in their surroundings. I believe that there is such a wide range of approaches to literature to fit with different people their perspectives and the way they think and process information, for instance not everyone is going to enjoy the thought and time it takes develop their own meaning through reader response. In retrospect I believe that many writers prefer Reader Response or New Criticism because of deep involvement and understand the reader and even the writer may gather from these theories.

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    1. I agree with your assessment of structuralism as looking at things for what they are and what they represent in their surroundings, but for that reason, I have to disagree with the notion that they don't necessarily require thought or deep analysis. Structuralism does require deep thought because often you have to look into intention and individual word connotations rather than just denotations. You have to look at the broad cultural implications, as well. In some ways, it combines reader's response and new criticism, but then goes a bit further. The article itself was a bit dry...I agree with you on that! But I promise that structuralism doesn't have to be. :) Thanks so much for your post! Glad someone chose this article!

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  8. The article I chose to read was New Criticism. I kind of don't like New Criticism because you have no idea who the author is. In this method you just read what the author wrote. You don't know the authors background. People like reading and connecting their emotions with what the author is going through or what the author has been through. They want to feel part of the storyline. Readers have more of a personal connection if they know what the author has gone through. They will be able to have an idea and put themselves in the author's shoes and see what point of view the author might have written it in. If we just read with not knowing who the author is, then we might interpret some of the things wrong. Maybe the author meant to put something one way and when you read it, you interpret that meaning completely different, because you don't know what the author might be referring to. You have no idea where the author grew up and lived. But if you knew the author's background you will be more open-minded of what they author was trying to imply.

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    1. I like your assessment of New Criticism here because you chose to focus on the importance of the author. As a reader, you clearly have great respect for the work, and are wanting to understand it as the author intended it to be. That is courteous, and reflective. As a writer, I truly appreciate a reader like you, because you obviously care about preserving the intentions of the work. I think that this quality will make you a very good post-structuralist, as well, because you will be able to and probably want to focus on the agenda of the author and his/her leanings. Thank you for your post!

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  9. I read about Reader Response. I personally agree with reader response. I like the idea of gathering background on the author and relating to literature with personal experience. This is generally how I respond to literature. I think there is such a wide array of ways to approach literature because everyone takes it differently. To each their own as they say. Some people might get more of an appreciation for a piece of literature by approaching it using New Criticism over Reader Response. I think that authors prefer New Criticism and Reader Response because they are both ways that people generally respond to literature with. With literature you generally either gather background on the author and connect on a personal level or leave all your background and the author's background out of it. Side note: I had a much better comment before this one but apparently the website decided it was better to delete it instead of post it. This is a shortened version of what I had previously typed.

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    1. Totally understand....the same thing happened to me when I posted a reply. Frustrating! To your post points, I like that you acknowledged the fact that readers will take the same piece of literature very differently--and that's a good thing. It displays our diversity, and it is a part of our checklist assumptions in DP. I do wonder, however, if that diversity might move us further away from the author's own intentions at times, which is the opposite of Reader's Response intentions. Would be an interesting discussion! Thanks for your post and for the one that was lost, too!

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  10. I chose to read the New Criticism article. I found it very interesting and to be honest I do not know how it sits with because I do use a mix of styles between New Criticism and Reader Response. I think I am mixed because though I do believe we need to be able to look at a piece of literature and understand what it means and be able to find meaning from the piece without an extremely detailed background first and knowing the authors whole life story. However I do believe that the reader also needs to interact with the text and use their emotion and their background to make their text their own. I also believe and would like to note that some literature because of the setting or plot, makes us need to have background information on the author, setting, or culture, in order to get a true understanding of what the author is trying to portray. So I feel like we should be able to find the true meaning of the text, but also be able to create our own understanding from the piece as well.
    I think there is such an array of approaches to literature because of how diverse each individual human is in general. Not every one thinks, talks, acts the same, and some cultures aren’t the same, so why would every piece of literature be the same. Therefore creating a wide spectrum of creative literary pieces. I think writers use New Criticism so that they can separate themselves from their text so that others may just see what the text is saying without the influence of the author. I think authors use Reader Response to connect themselves to the text and to make the reader know about possibly something the author has experienced.

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    1. Sam, I really enjoyed reading your response because I think it really shows you know yourself well as a reader. Your points on both views of literary criticism are valid and poignant. I would venture to say that there are probably very view scholars, professors or even critics who subscribe exclusively to one critical viewpoint. I wonder, perhaps, if our viewpoint changes depending on the work of literature we are reading? Maybe if we have difficulty connecting to a text, we naturally assume a formalist or new criticism approach, whereas if something is extremely moving, we subscribe more to a reader's response. Thanks for your insights.

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  11. “Humans see what they want to see.”
    ― Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

    “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”
    ― Wayne W. Dyer

    Both of the quotes above simply illustrate the meaning of Readers Response. Readers Response Criticism is a theory in which the primary focus falls on the reader; rather than on the author or the text. I agree with this theory because in my opinion there is not one "correct" meaning to any piece of literature. For example all humans have their own point of views. Personally, if a text does not relate to my own experiences I am not engaged to the text. For example, I had trouble reading Great Expectations because it didn't relate to my life, although I had no problems reading The Book Thief because I love reading novels about Germany during WWII. After reading all three criticism articles I definitely believe in Readers Response the most.

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    1. I love your use of quotes here! Wayne Dyer's quote can also be used with New Criticism. Can you see how?

      I like that you summarized the theory and then discussed your view as a reader. That is a nice way of responding to a blog query. It brings me up to speed as to what you read personally in the article and what you got out of it in terms of meaning. I, too love reading novels about WW2. Although I promise, Dickens gets better as you get older. ;) Thanks for your post!

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  12. (I lost my first entry after I copy and pasted over it. I apologize this may not be as well said as the first.) I chose to read all three articles. I wanted to gain a better knowledge of each one and understand the differences of each.
    I have to say the Readers Response sits the best with me. I use Reader Response and find it the most meaningful. New Criticism has a very black and white view. This seems more appropriate for science and math. I believe that when reading literature and searching for the meaning we should consider background knowledge otherwise what would we really be able to say we know?
    I think there is a wide array of approaches to literature because there is a wide array of people who have different backgrounds. We use each approach based on what we know and believe.
    Reader Response and New Criticism are probably the most common because they focus more on what the words mean together where as Structuralism looks at how the words are, as titled, structured.

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  13. I choose to read about Readers Response and I personally agree with this theory. It states that the primary focus falls on the reader and the process of reading rather than on the author or the text. When I read a book I tend to focus only on my life experiences compared to those in the book. It's really hard for me to learn about an author and why they wrote that piece of literature. I'm not interested in the author I'm interested in the story. I never choose something to read based off of the authors name because I don't care, I just want to read something I will connect with. If I can't connect with the literature I won't truly read it, even if it is some highly acclaimed author.
    (Mine wouldn't post either and I lost it like three times)

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  14. I chose to read about New Criticism theory. I'm not sure how I feel about this theory yet. I understand that an author might want to remove any personal connection with the story and have readers get soaked into the story compared to analyzing between the lines. I also understand that sometimes when you remove the author from the text you can't quite get a grasp of the story which is where a theory like Readers Response comes into play.
    (I've tried posting this everyday since Tuesday)

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  15. I read about Reader Response. I'm not sure how I feel about any of these theories. I agree with reader response in that I enjoy reading books, and becoming enveloped into the story without having to think about the author or why they did this, or what happened in their past that effects this story. At the same time though, sometimes I do want to know what made them write the book, or why they wrote in the style that they did. There is a wide array of literature and styles of dissecting literature because when reading (I know I do this) certain books you enjoy searching for different things. Some books I use a reader response, some I use new criticism, and some I simply enjoy taking the book apart and look for things that you wouldn't normally notice the first time reading a book. Writers so often prefer reader response and new criticism because they are easier. You just read the book and enjoy it, feel it, live in it (reader response), or you can even add in aspects of the author and ask yourself why they did things (new criticism).

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  16. I read New Criticism and Reader-Response Criticism. I think there is a time and place for each theory. Let me elaborate.
    New Criticism is personally harder for me. I read books I am emotional attached to. Wait, so you're telling me to just read. Is that really possible? "The work is not the author's; it was detached at birth." This sentence leapt out at me. I sat there and reread it probably at least five times. I honestly loved it because I have a strong passion for reading and just thinking about the birth of a book and all its characters, it is quite amazing. I can't say I agree or disagree with that statement though. I can see how people think that but a book (or any text) is just so much more to me than just words, lines, or "ABABCD".
    Immediately reading Reader-Response Criticism I was excited. In the first sentence it states "reading is a performance". I completely agree with this, not only do I agree, but thats how I read. I care what the Author was trying to say, I care what I think it's trying to say, and I care about what a friend has to say. "Meaning is an event".
    I can't say I practice New Criticism all the time, but they're certain aspects of the theory from time to time I do use. The probably is, if I love the text I can't stop from self from finding different meanings then whats just on the page. Can I be both?

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    1. I love what you said here. I have to agree and just thought I would let you know(;

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    2. I really like how you pulled examples from the article here, Candra. That is effective in getting your point of view across. :)

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  17. i read reader response, i believe that with this theory i myself find it easier to connect or more so understand the book i would be reading. i agree because i feel as if i have a very open mind so i can see it all from different points of views. For example, Hitler must have been doing something right if he gained all that power, and yeah most of the things he did were wrong but to him it was the right ting to do. People only see the point of view of the people who were in the camps and didnt see the point of view of Hitler. He may have been abused as a child or brainwashed of some sort. There's a wide approach to literature because, everyone thinks differently. Everyone is gonna feel or react a different way. Writers often prefer new criticism and reader response because i think as far as now those 2 are the most common.

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  18. Amanda, I agree with your assertion that there is a wide approach and everyone thinks differently. I probably should have stated this from the start, but in the blog, please use a formal/academic register in future blogs. Thank you!

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  19. I chose to read about the Reader-Response Criticism article. I agree completely to what it is saying about how the reading falls on the reader not the author. Personally, when I read a book I understand it when it connects to my life. I could care less about what the author feels about the book. I don't want to know about the author, I want to read and understand the story. I feel each reader should be able to interpret the story in their way, no matter how odd it might seem. The book should connect to them and no one else, it doesn't matter what other people think about the book, because when you read a book it is you reading it with different background, and culture then anyone else. I agree with this article, and I feel Reader-Response is the best criticism.

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  20. You are most certainly the perfect example of a Reader Response theorist/advocate! I would only caution that in some cases, knowing about the author may help in understanding any agenda in the story. Sometimes, it can actually make the story richer, too, if you know the author took pieces of his/her own life experience and put it in the story. It gives fiction authenticity.

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  21. Reader response makes the most sense for me, because what is a story with out the reader who reads it? The author writes a book FOR an audience response. The text the author makes is so you can read and understand it the author is COMPLETELY irrelevant. The story is the most important thing to me.

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