The Garden of Love: Critical Viewpoints


New Criticism

- Objective view of the text 

- Treats text as a self-contained unit

- Ignores historical context or even the author's stated intentions

- New Critics reading the text closely, looking for patterns and conflicts within

- Believe the structure and meaning of a text are inseparable

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Reader- Response Criticism

- Places the reader at the centre

- Text needs a reader to give it meaning

- Act of reading itself is important and will affect the meaning constructed by the reader

- The reader's interpretation will change as they progress through the text

- Any predictions and mistakes are part of the process and have value

- A text is an experience and lives in the reader's imagination

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Structuralist Criticism

- Readings concentrate on how the text is constructed - form, overall structure and patterns within it

- Views these as more important than when it was written or what it is about

- Believe our world to be contructed by the language that we use

- Not only texts but whole societies and belief systems can be analysed in this way

- An important and useful offshoot of structuralist theory is BINARY OPPOSITION

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Psychoanalytic Criticism

- Focuses on what is repressed and looks for meanings hidden because of the psychological condition of the writer (or character) 

- Texts viewed as a revelation of the writer's personality and state of mind. 

- Rose out of the works of Sigmund Freud 

- Considers the emotional conflicts in a text rather than its wider context

- Critics are particularly interested in the concept of identity

- They look closely at how literature can convey the contradictions and suppressions of self. 

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New Historicist Criticism

- Looks at a literary context in its historical context 

- Does this through studying contemporary and non-literary documents alonside it, in order to understand the cultural and social values which were dominating at the time of the text's production

- Literary texts are valuable historical documents as well as being literary

- Considers how older texts are accessed by the modern reader

- Suggests that culture is part of a wider economic and political structure

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Feminist/Gender-Based Criticism

- Looks at the presentation of the female experience by both male and female writers

- Focuses on roles and influences of the female characters in a text

- Standpoints the ideas that 'femininity' and 'masculinity' are concepts constructed by our society and culture

- For most of the time in which literature has been produced, it has been by male writers with a male leadership in mind

- Power relations between the sexes are of great interest to feminist critics.

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Marxist Criticism

- involves relating a text to the historical contexts in which it was written

- focuses more on social contexts: such as the 'class' or the writer and his or her depiction of class struggles between the priviledged and the working classes

- Critics are interested in the way people become separated and/or alienated by having different amounts of power or money or status

- interested in exploring the depiction of exploitation by one group or another. 

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