Literary Criticism

This site contains my work during the course of English 300 at Montana State University-Bozeman in the Autumn of 2004.


I am a senior at Montana State University working for a degree in history with a teaching option and also a minor in English. Currently I am working with the students at Bridger Alternative here in town and I am loving every minute of it. I can't wait to get out into the field and teach.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Jacques Derrida

Derrida believed there is no reading outside the text, this became a radical, new definition of how to study a text. Yet people as texts are also to be read, as are cultural phenomena.
I do not agree with Derrida on this because as a history major, events are analyazed by events that occur around them, including people, time, religion, culture, etc. By splitting texts, people etc. into different types to be analyzed is foolish, because how can one fully understand one without the other?
  • Literary Criticism 40 years ago was easier because it was only the analysis of the text, and not of gender, race, class psychoanalysis, etc.
  • Realists-real, substantial link between word and word represented
  • Nominalists-words don't mean anything, they're just names, an arbitrary collection of words

p. 1817-1818 "There is nothing outside the text." Everything is textual, everything can be read and interpreted, therefore there is no outside to the text, writing is superior to speech for Deconstructionists.

  • New Criticism: everything is language, everything is text
  • Logocentrism: reason-a western privilege, truth, reality, facts
  • Phonocentrism: Spoken word is better than the written word, from Plato
  • Transcendental Signify: abiding nostalgia for the perfect world that we need to reclaim, but Derrida says there is none, there is nothing that determines us, world is very much random and absurd
  • Writing is fundamental, especially in the western world, even Plato who wrote speech was better than writing had to write it down.
  • King of Egypt named writing pharmakon (drug) which means "remedy" as well as "poison"
  • Deconstructionists had to turn argument over to prove the opposite was true. Is this what Zak is attempting at his website with the abortion issue? Check it out at

Shrek, the archetype of a guy bidded to get another guy's woman.

The Third Seven Days of Class plus Notes on our Review for the Test!

October 19, 2004
Migraine strikes again, sorry guys.
October 21,2004

  • Deconstructionists understand the text to be unstable-when one finds the right words they are still not the right words.
  • Forever-you don't know forever-it's an illusion
  • it's also not how you feel

Northrop Frye should be considered a structuralist-deep structures of narratives and literature.

  • The miracle is that we understand each other as well as we do-with the wrong language that we use.

The Archetypes of Literature

  • Frye needed to see it in its largest possible picture p. 1450
  • a universal model that we follow
  • repitition is important, as well as genre
  • can't just enjoy the story-must pay attention to the genre (e.g. detective story)
  • we can apply the same stuff we know about psychology and apply it to literature

New (Formal, Technical) Criticism: got away from analyzing poets and characters in poems-history, psychology, and sociology not important-the text is important

  • The reader should work through all the pieces then figure out the archetype-such as "Falling Angels" based on the Oedipus archetype
  • One can find the crudest archetypes in fairy tales-look at the Grimms Brothers-they are not welll written at all
  • The reader enjoys the story because they know the archetypal structure on a very deep level
  • Descent and uprising is a repetitive old symbol such as death and rebirth
  • Shrek is an archetype-one guy bidded to get another guy's woman
  • Look at Antigone, Agamemnon, Odyssius-the Greeks and Shakespeare are all archetypes
  • p. 1456-seasonal changes, affect the moods, part of the archetypes

October 26, 2004 We met in our groups today.

October 28, 2004 THROUGH November 18, 2004 These are run together because of all our presentations. Under each author I will have the notes I took during the presentation, and the 'pigeon hole' and quote we gave each one during our review session in class. I hope this will be helpful not only for you to read but for me to review. ;o) I apologize for misspellings of names, I only have my notes handy.

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson: Transcendalist. "Hyperbolic estimation of the power of the poet," "inspired poet" poets must bring out true beauty, importance is writing and not reading, man is half self and half expression
  • Paul Du Mann: Deconstructionist. "Language is rhetorical interpretation," grammar and logic support each other, rhetoric, persuade audience with style, invention, direction, metaphors, allegory, symbolism, getting inside a text, poetry-most advanced deconstructive texts
  • Friedrich Von Schiller: Romanticist. "Spiritual and physical freedom," "In error only is there truth," "the muses drained me dry," Ode to Joy German language not known to literature until Schiller wrote about freedom against dictatorship p. 571
  • Tsvetan Todorob: Structural Analyst. "The important part of the text is simple clauses to form a plot," narratology: Structural Analogy of Narrative, sequence of clauses makes a finished story p. 2100
  • Mary Wollstonecraft: First Feminist. "Educate Women like Men," rebelled against Victorian man, mother of feminism, rose against philosophers like Rousseau who stated that women should be educated so they would be pleasing, more education would mean less power over them
  • Jung: Depth Psychology. "Archetypes of the collective unconscious," STAR WARS
  • William Wordsworth: Romanticist. "poetry-powerful feelings" claimed to not be a critic, acknowledged literary history, man should show his tender side-personal experience and self exploration, nature important, poetry on the level that we speak everyday, poets obliged to defend work against scientists p. 665 and 661
  • Edgar Allen Poe: Classicist. "Literature should have a single effect," "Great literature should be short," wrote backwards-begin with the outcome you want to achieve, the ideal length would be one sitting, beauty will create a person succumbing to tears-melancholy is the most legitimate mood for poets, poems need complexity, a locale and a symbol
  • Jane Thompkins: Feminist. "Writing should be personal, female inspired writing and not male objective writing," "Cut off your straight jacket" form of writing that comes from your gut, writers should cast their own shadow and not hide in an impersonal voice-a voice that no one listens to p. 2129
  • Laura Mulvey: Feminist. "First theorist to use Freud and to analyze the "male gaze" of women," film and movie critic, female body beautiful, the "male gaze" in a film needs to boost his own ego, oral connectedness with the mother: fetish with the breasts, men and women prefer to see women naked p. 2179
  • Julia Kristeva: Feminist. "Merged colleagues' disciplines," "Semanalyisis: linguistics disolve the sign," "Intertextuality," Semiotic: science of science, language as units, Symbolism creates repressed personality by conflicting natures of id, ego and superego which creates anxiety, Phenomenology: the study of development of the human consciousness p.2165 and 2169
  • Roland Bartes: Structuralist. "Language speaks and not the author," the author dies because the text lives (a lot like Hamlet), Neurosis: is why you gain pleasure from the text, blissful, seductive, suppress and remove the author p. 1461
  • Mikhail Bahktin: Structuralist. "Monologic is a single form of speech while Dialogic is a mobile dynamic language," more of a linguist, words are important since poetry is not spoken, it is inefficient, the written word is dead, the only attempt at dialogue should be in the novel, tension between words: "it was 'cool' but then it 'sucked'" when spoken there is tension between these two words, but when written there is not, Beavis and Butthead p. 1189
  • Jean Batisto Vico: Original. "Characterized writing into the AGES: Gods, Heroes, Men and Chaos," knowledge of good and evil-a science called a muse p. 399
  • Friedrich Nietzsche: Existentialist. "God is a fiction, existence is more important than essence," "Truth is a mobile army of metaphors," humans don't have truth, Sprachkrise: inadequacy of language, language is created by society and set standards, 1.) man of reason, 2.) man of intuition, 3.) stoic-these three are wrong, people should live by energy and search for this in literature
  • Terry Eagleton: Marxist. "Literature plays social and political roles in the cultural sphere," reproduction of literature influenced by society, modernity concentrates on sexual content and not on literary content p. 2240
  • Horace: No pigeon hole, no quote. Poet from first century B.C.E., Roman who didn't want to be influenced by the Greeks, poetry is a craft, decorum-unity of the piece, can't add one thing beautiful "The Purple Patch", everything must fit, characters must be cast in characters they are known for, poet cannot be afraid of criticism and must start with a base of wisdom p. 121
  • Simone de Beauvoir: Canonical Feminist, wrote 2nd Sex. "Women should be absolutely free to invent ourselves, but women through history have been identified by men," he is the subject and absolute and she is the 'other', one is not born but becomes a woman p. 1403
  • William Wimsatt: Formalist, New Critic. "Intentional fallacy: the meaning the author intended is wrong," "Affective Fallacy: relevant notions to you mean nothing," text is independent of all outside sources p. 1371
  • Sandra Gilbert and Suzie Gubar?: Feminists. "Females experience the anxiety of influence and males the anxiety of authorship," Snow White is dumb: angel of the house-she can stay in the house if she cooks and cleans, no room for women in the patriarchy system, women categorized as the inferior sex, The Mad Woman in the Attic p. 2021
  • Henry Lewis Gates: Deconstructionist. "Race is a text," concerned with the future of the Black race and its culture, created the Norton Anthology of African Immigrant Stories, preserve the race and see how people treat the race, Talking Black p. 2421
  • Michele Foucault: Post Structuralist. "History and power are 'discourse'," discourse is not simply talking or speech-"What is an author?", ecriture-writing has signifiers (words) and signified (objects or subject), writing about writing, author is dead, poet a way to categorize texts, author denoted by one set of ideas
  • Thomas Love Peacock: Romantic Satirist. "Critic of poetry," poetry is a waste of time, Coleridge and classical poetry are the only good poetry, 4 Ages of Poetry p. 682
  • Schliermacher: Romanticist. "Hermoneutics-a way of interpreting, author and relation to the Bible," interpreting the text through analytical procedures, grammatical principle and the psychological principle SCIENCE OF INTERPRETATION p. 610
  • Hugh of St. Victor: Classic Theologian. "Function of literature is to teach, to be didactic," "Berry picker," Di dascalicon-new way of learning, everybody can find wisdom in the reading and the hiding place in their hearts, more knowledge creates radiance, understand the ultimate text to understand God p. 200
  • Homi Bhabha: Post Colonialist. "Break down the western binary opposition of 'haves' and 'have nots'," East Indian, resistance in a culture in inevitable, built upon deconstructive critics, nationalities are dialogic, narratives that don't fit into mainstream imperialistic west should have more attention paid to them p. 2377
  • Judith Butler: Feminist. "Gender and sexuality is a costume," male and female roles should be set up as a single idea, used Freud's ideas to understand gender ideas, gender ideas shouldn't be static, Gender Issues p. 2485
  • Cleanth Brooks: no pigeon hole, no quote. new criticism-the text itself and poems should be the object of study, The Well Wrought Urn p. 1350
  • Stanley Fish: Reader Response. "Poetry seeing eyes," "Meaning of text is whatever interpretive community thinks of it," poetry displays linguistic characteristics by act of response p. 2067
  • Stephen Greenblatt: New Historicist. "Cultural poets is a chronology," "History is a text and text is a history," prefers 'poetics of culture', cultural meaning deduced from a text, history mixed into an imaginary narrative, Learning to Curse p. 2250
  • John Dreyden: no pigeon hole, no quote. restoration dramatist, translation, Fables, Ancient and Modern p. 379

Derrida will be written of later.

Walter Benjamin, a Social Historian, a quote to remember him is: "Our perception of aesthetics and their 'aura' changes with social history."

Notes from my Walter Benjamin Presentation

On November 09, I gave this presentation to the class, but in case I was hard to follow, this is what Walter Benjamin is all about!
Quote: "One of the foremost tasks of art has always been the creation of a demand which could be fully satisfied only later." -W. Benjamin
  • Walter became a qualified cultural critic by the age of 28, he wrote on communism, industrial production and modern conceptions of aesthetics.
  • He visited Moscow between the years of 1926 and 1927 and decided that the Bolshevik revolution didn't go far enough.
  • He joined the German Communist Party during the 1920s and 30s.
  • He was exiled to Paris because of his beliefs, yet Germany invaded France in 1940.
  • He attempted to cross the border into Spain to take a flight to the U.S. but was turned away at the border.
  • Afraid of being caught and forced to a concentration camp, he committed suicide instead.
  • He had a concept of "AURA": the quality of artwork that would be equivalent to a sacred object in a religious ritual.
  • Yet the status of artwork is not timeless, it instead changes in its value according to capitalistic production
  • Technology and therefore time alter perceptions of what is aesthetically pleasing. Because of this film and photography have advantages over painting
  • Yet film abolishes its field of AURA and authenticity because it creates participation with the audience instead.
  • Reproduction of art is a forgery, which is not necessarily bad because it makes the piece available to everybody and therefore is a type of communism, or communal sharing.
  • Photography has reproduced prints, asking for the authentic would be unreasonable.
  • Overall, human sense perception changes with humanity's mode of existence, nature and historical circumstances.