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banny123 - 28/01/2010 10:11 AM
Literary Criticism Theory : An introduction (for you who read lots)
\) hi: I'm Banny \)

considering this is a room for literature, it should be okay for you all looking on some theories that are used by some people to criticize certain literary works. some of them below might be well known by some of you, especially for those who are in English Literature Major. by the way, I am majoring Literature, feel free to ask it here \) even when you feel you out of this thread. but surely, only ask me literature and its connection \)

theories below are explained briefly, a necessary reduction in their complexity and richness occurs. The information below is meant merely as a guide or introduction to modern literary theories and trends. you can see through websites or library to look for its further explanation. for books, you can browse them, mostly titled "An Introduction to Literature" by some writers. below, I also give you references addressing to the related topic \)

for your Majesty, Moderators, please notify me if there are some mistakes on me for making this thread \)

shall we begin? here we go D

Literary Trends and Influences

New Criticism

A literary movement that started in the late 1920s and 1930s and originated in reaction to traditional criticism that new critics saw as largely concerned with matters extraneous to the text, e.g., with the biography or psychology of the author or the work's relationship to literary history. New Criticism proposed that a work of literary art should be regarded as autonomous, and so should not be judged by reference to considerations beyond itself. A poem consists less of a series of referential and verifiable statements about the 'real' world beyond it, than of the presentation and sophisticated organization of a set of complex experiences in a verbal form (Hawkes, pp. 150-151). Major figures of New Criticism include I. A. Richards, T. S. Eliot, Cleanth Brooks, David Daiches, William Empson, Murray Krieger, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, F. R. Leavis, Robert Penn Warren, W. K. Wimsatt, R. P. Blackmur, Rene Wellek, Ausin Warren, and Ivor Winters.

Key Terms:

Intentional Fallacy - equating the meaning of a poem with the author's intentions.

Affective Fallacy - confusing the meaning of a text with how it makes the reader feel. A reader's emotional response to a text generally does not produce a reliable interpretation.

Heresy of Paraphrase - assuming that an interpretation of a literary work could consist of a detailed summary or paraphrase.

Close reading (from Bressler - see General Resources below) - "a close and detailed analysis of the text itself to arrive at an interpretation without referring to historical, authorial, or cultural concerns" (263).

Further references:

* Brooks, Cleanth. The Well-Wrought Urn. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947.
* Brooks, Cleanth and Robert Penn Warren, eds. Understanding Poetry. New York: Holt, 1938.
* Empson, William. Seven Types of Ambiguity. New York, 1955.
* Lentriccia, Frank. After the New Criticism. See chapter 6.
* Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. See chapter 1.
* Jefferson, Anne and David Robey. Modern Literary Theory: A
Comparative Introduction. See chapter 3.
* Ransom, John Crowe. The New Criticism. New York: New Directions, 1941.
* Richards, I. A. Practical Criticism. London: Routledge & Paul, 1964.
* Wimsatt, W. K., and Monroe C. Beardsley. The Verbal Icon. Lexington: U of Kentucky P, 1954.

Archetypal/Myth Criticism

A form of criticism based largely on the works of Carl Gustav Jung and Joseph Campbell (and myth itself). Some of the school's major figures include Robert Graves, Francis Fergusson, Philip Wheelwright, Leslie Fiedler, Northrop Frye, Maud Bodkin, and G. Wilson Knight. These critics view the genres and individual plot patterns of literature, including highly sophisticated and realistic works, as recurrences of certain archetypes and essential mythic formulae. Archetypes, according to Jung, are "primordial images"; the "psychic residue" of repeated types of experience in the lives of very ancient ancestors which are inherited in the "collective unconscious" of the human race and are expressed in myths, religion, dreams, and private fantasies, as well as in the works of literature (Abrams, p. 10, 112). Some common examples of archetypes include water, sun, moon, colors, circles, the Great Mother, Wise Old Man, etc. In terms of archetypal criticism, the color white might be associated with innocence or could signify death or the supernatural.

Key Terms:

Anima - feminine aspect - the inner feminine part of the male personality or a man's image of a woman.

Animus - male aspect - an inner masculine part of the female personality or a woman's image of a man.

Archetype - (from Makaryk - see General Resources below) - "a typical or recurring image, character, narrative design, theme, or other literary phenomenon that has been in literature from the beginning and regularly reappears" (508). Note - Frye sees archetypes as recurring patterns in literature; in contrast, Jung views archetypes as primal, ancient images/experience that we have inherited.

Collective Unconscious - "a set of primal memories common to the human race, existing below each person's conscious mind" (Jung)

Persona - the image we present to the world

Shadow - darker, sometimes hidden (deliberately or unconsciously), elements of a person's psyche

Further references:
o Bodkin, Maud. Archetypal Patterns in Poetry. London: OUP, 1934.
o Campbell, Joseph. Hero with a Thousand Faces. New York: Pantheon Boos, 1949.
o Frazer, J. G.The Golden Bough.
o Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism and Fables of Identity.
o Graves, Robert. Greek Myths and The White Goddess.
o Jung, Carl Gustav. Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature and various other works
o Knight, G. Wilson. The Wheel of Fire: Interpretations of Shakespearean Tragedy.
o Lentriccia, Frank. After the New Criticism. See chapter 1.
o Pratt, Anais. Archetypal Patterns in Women's Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1982.
o Seboek, Thomas A., ed. Myth: A Symposium. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1955.

Psychoanalytic Criticism

The application of specific psychological principles (particularly those of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan [zhawk lawk-KAWN]) to the study of literature. Psychoanalytic criticism may focus on the writer's psyche, the study of the creative process, the study of psychological types and principles present within works of literature, or the effects of literature upon its readers (Wellek and Warren, p. 81). In addition to Freud and Lacan, major figures include Shoshona Felman, Jane Gallop, Norman Holland, George Klein, Elizabeth Wright, Frederick Hoffman, and, Simon Lesser.

Key Terms:

Unconscious - the irrational part of the psyche unavailable to a person's consciousness except through dissociated acts or dreams.

Freud's model of the psyche:

* Id - completely unconscious part of the psyche that serves as a storehouse of our desires, wishes, and fears. The id houses the libido, the source of psychosexual energy.
* Ego - mostly to partially (
banny123 - 28/01/2010 10:12 AM


A sociological approach to literature that viewed works of literature or art as the products of historical forces that can be analyzed by looking at the material conditions in which they were formed. In Marxist ideology, what we often classify as a world view (such as the Victorian age) is actually the articulations of the dominant class. Marxism generally focuses on the clash between the dominant and repressed classes in any given age and also may encourage art to imitate what is often termed an "objective" reality. Contemporary Marxism is much broader in its focus, and views art as simultaneously reflective and autonomous to the age in which it was produced. The Frankfurt School is also associated with Marxism (Abrams, p. 178, Childers and Hentzi, pp. 175-179). Major figures include Karl Marx, Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson, Raymond Williams, Louis Althusser (ALT-whos-sair), Walter Benjamin (ben-yeh-MEEN), Antonio Gramsci (GRAWM-shee), Georg Lukacs (lou-KOTCH), and Friedrich Engels, Theordor Adorno (a-DOR-no), Edward Ahern, Gilles Deleuze (DAY-looz) and Felix Guattari (GUAT-eh-ree).

Key Terms (note: definitions below taken from Ann B. Dobie's text, Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism - see General Resources below):

Commodificaion - "the attitude of valuing things not for their utility but for their power to impress others or for their resale possibilities" (92).

Conspicuous consumption - "the obvious acquisition of things only for their sign value and/or exchange value" (92).

Dialectical materialism - "the theory that history develops neither in a random fashion nor in a linear one but instead as struggle between contradictions that ultimately find resolution in a synthesis of the two sides. For example, class conflicts lead to new social systems" (92).

Material circumstances - "the economic conditions underlying the society. To understand social events, one must have a grasp of the material circumstances and the historical situation in which they occur" (92).

Reflectionism - associated with Vulgar Marxism - "a theory that the superstructure of a society mirrors its economic base and, by extension, that a text reflects the society that produced it" (92).

Superstructure - "The social, political, and ideological systems and institutions--for example, the values, art, and legal processes of a society--that are generated by the base" (92).

Further references:

* Cathouse, Louis. Lenin and Ideology. New York: Monthly Review P, 1971.
* Cary, Nelson, and Lawrence Gross berg, eds. Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. London: Macmillan, 1988.
* Bullock, Chris and David Peck. Guide to Marxist Criticism.
* Eagleton, Terry. Criticism and Ideology. New York: Schocken, 1978.
* See also the works of Walter Benjamin, Tony Bennett, Terry Eagleton, John Frow, Georg Lukacs, Pierre Macherey, Michael Ryan, and Ronald Taylor.


Literally, postcolonialism refers to the period following the decline of colonialism, e.g., the end or lessening of domination by European empires. Although the term postcolonialism generally refers to the period after colonialism, the distinction is not always made. In its use as a critical approach, postcolonialism refers to "a collection of theoretical and critical strategies used to examine the culture (literature, politics, history, and so forth) of former colonies of the European empires, and their relation to the rest of the world" (Makaryk 155 - see General Resources below). Among the many challenges facing postcolonial writers are the attempt both to resurrect their culture and to combat preconceptions about their culture. Edward Said, for example, uses the word Orientalism to describe the discourse about the East constructed by the West. Major figures include Edward Said (sah-EED), Homi Bhabha (bah-bah), Frantz Fanon (fah-NAWN), Gayatri Spivak, Chinua Achebe (ah-CHAY-bay) , Wole Soyinka, Salman Rushdie, Jamaica Kincaid, and Buchi Emecheta.

Key Terms:

Alterity - "lack of identification with some part of one's personality or one's community, differentness, otherness"

Diaspora (dI-ASP-er-ah- "is used (without capitalization) to refer to any people or ethnic population forced or induced to leave their traditional ethnic homelands, being dispersed throughout other parts of the world, and the ensuing developments in their dispersal and culture" (Wikipedia).

Eurocentrism - "the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing emphasis on European (and, generally, Western) concerns, culture and values at the expense of those of other cultures. It is an instance of ethnocentrism, perhaps especially relevant because of its alignment with current and past real power structures in the world" (Dictionary.LaborLawTalk.com)

Hybridity - "an important concept in post-colonial theory, referring to the integration (or, mingling) of cultural signs and practices from the colonizing and the colonized cultures ("integration" may be too orderly a word to represent the variety of stratagems, desperate or cunning or good-willed, by which people adapt themselves to the necessities and the opportunities of more or less oppressive or invasive cultural impositions, live into alien cultural patterns through their own structures of understanding, thus producing something familiar but new). The assimilation and adaptation of cultural practices, the cross-fertilization of cultures, can be seen as positive, enriching, and dynamic, as well as as oppressive" (from Dr. John Lye - see General Literary Theory Websites below).

Imperialism - "the policy of extending the control or authority over foreign entities as a means of acquisition and/or maintenance of empires, either through direct territorial control or through indirect methods of exerting control on the politics and/or economy of other countries. The term is used by some to describe the policy of a country in maintaining colonies and dominance over distant lands, regardless of whether the country calls itself an empire" (Dictionary.LaborLawTalk.com).

Further references:

* Ashcroft, Bill. Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, eds. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader.
* Guneratne, Anthony R. The Virtual Spaces of Postcoloniality: Rushdie, Ondaatje, Naipaul, Bakhtin and the Others.
* Harding, Sandra and Uma Narayan, ed. Border Crossings: Multicultural and Postcolonial Feminist Challenges to Philosophy 2. Indiana University Press, 1998.
* Fanon, Frantz, Black Skin. White Masks. Trans. by Charles Lam Markmann. London: Pluto, 1986.
* Said, Edward. Orientalism.
* Soyinka, Wole. Myth, Literature, and the African World.
* Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics. London: Routledge, 1988.
* Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. The Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues. Ed. Sarah Harasym. London: Routledge, 1990.


Existentialism is a philosophy (promoted especially by Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus) that views each person as an isolated being who is cast into an alien universe, and conceives the world as possessing no inherent human truth, value, or meaning. A person's life, then, as it moves from the nothingness from which it came toward the nothingness where it must end, defines an existence which is both anguished and absurd (Guerin). In a world without sense, all choices are possible, a situation which Sartre viewed as human beings central dilemma: "Man [woman] is condemned to be free." In contrast to atheist existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard theorized that belief in God (given that we are provided with no proof or assurance) required a conscious choice or "leap of faith." The major figures include Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre (sart or SAR-treh), Albert Camus (kah-MUE or ka-MOO) , Simone de Beauvoir (bohv-WAHR) , Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers (YASS-pers), and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (mer-LOH pawn-TEE).

Key Terms:

Absurd - a term used to describe existence--a world without inherent meaning or truth.

Authenticity - to make choices based on an individual code of ethics (commitment) rather than because of societal pressures. A choice made just because "it's what people do" would be considered inauthentic.

"Leap of faith" - although Kierkegaard acknowledged that religion was inherently unknowable and filled with risks, faith required an act of commitment (the "leap of faith"); the commitment to Christianity would also lessen the despair of an absurd world.

Further references:

* Barrett, William. Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy.
* Camus, Albert. The Stranger.
* Cooper, D. Existentialism, Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.
* Hannay, A. Kierkegaard, London: Routledge, 1982.
* Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Tr. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper and Row, 1962.
* Kierkegaard, Søren. Fear and Trembling.
* Lentricchia, Frank. After the New Criticism. See chapter 3.
* Moran, R. Authority and Estrangement: An Essay on Self Knowledge, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.
* Nietzsche, Fredrich. Beyond Good and Evil.
* Ricoeur, P. Oneself as Another. Tr. Kathleen Blamey. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
* Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism and Humanism and Being and Nothingness.
* Taylor, C. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.
Agrolinna - 28/01/2010 11:21 AM
WEw, great post
I think this is a great forum to join. I graduated from univ. last year and haven't read a lot of books after it yet. I missed to talk about such thing so much, but feel hard due to the absence of people who can discuss with me... It can refresh my mind. Thanks a lot...

Anyway, the Bachelor degree in Literature does not mean a good understanding. Me myself still confuse about Archetypal Criticism.... malu
banny123 - 28/01/2010 12:41 PM

Original Posted By Agrolinna
I think this is a great forum to join. I graduated from univ. last year and haven't read a lot of books after it yet. I missed to talk about such thing so much, but feel hard due to the absence of people who can discuss with me... It can refresh my mind. Thanks a lot...

Anyway, the Bachelor degree in Literature does not mean a good understanding. Me myself still confuse about Archetypal Criticism.... malu

wooow we got a BA here D well, just read it. I have some more theories coming \) just wait for a right timing \)
banny123 - 28/01/2010 12:47 PM

Phenomenology and Hermeneutics

Phenomenology is a philosophical method, first developed by Edmund Husserl (HUHSS-erel), that proposed "phenomenological reduction" so that everything not "immanent" to consciousness must be excluded; all realities must be treated as pure "phenomena" and this is the only absolute data from which we can begin. Husserl viewed consciousness always as intentional and that the act of consciousness, the thinking subject and the object it "intends," are inseparable. Art is not a means of securing pleasure, but a revelation of being. The work is the phenomenon by which we come to know the world (Eagleton, p. 54; Abrams, p. 133, Guerin, p. 263).

Hermeneutics sees interpretation as a circular process whereby valid interpretation can be achieved by a sustained, mutually qualifying interplay between our progressive sense of the whole and our retrospective understanding of its component parts. Two dominant theories that emerged from Wilhelm Dilthey's original premise were that of E. D. Hirsch who, in accord with Dilthey, felt a valid interpretation was possible by uncovering the work's authorial intent (though informed by historical and cultural determinants), and in contrast, that of Martin Heidegger (HIGH-deg-er) who argued that a reader must experience the "inner life" of a text in order to understand it at all. The reader's "being-in-the-world" or dasein is fraught with difficulties since both the reader and the text exist in a temporal and fluid state. For Heidegger or Hans Georg Gadamer (GAH-de-mer), then, a valid interpretation may become irrecoverable and will always be relative.

Key Terms:

Dasein - simply, "being there," or "being-in-the world" - Heidegger argued that "what is distinctive about human existence is its Dasein ('givenness'): our consciousness both projects the things of the world and at the same time is subjected to the world by the very nature of existence in the world" (Selden and Widdowson 52 - see General Resources below).

Intentionality - "is at the heart of knowing. We live in meaning, and we live 'towards,' oriented to experience. Consequently there is an intentional structure in textuality and expression, in self-knowledge and in knowledge of others. This intentionality is also a distance: consciousness is not identical with its objects, but is intended consciousness" (quoted from Dr. John Lye's website - see suggested resources below).

Phenomenological Reduction - a concept most frequently associated with Edmund Husserl; as explained by Terry Eagleton (see General Resources below) "To establish certainty, then, we must first of all ignore, or 'put in brackets,' anything which is beyond our immediate experience: we must reduce the external world to the contents of our consciousness alone....Everything not 'immanent' to consciousness must be rigorously excluded: all realities must be treated as pure 'phenomena,' in terms of their appearances in our mind, and this is the only absolute data from which we can begin" (55).

Further references:

* Blanchot, Maurice. The Space of Literature.
* Derrida, Jacques. Speech and Phenomena, and Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of Signs.
* Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method. New York: Crossroad, 1982.
* Habermas, Jürgen (JUR-gen HAH-bur-mahs). Communication and the Evolution of Society.
* Halliburton, David. Poetic Thinking: An Approach to Heidegger.
* Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
* Hirsch, E.D. The Aims of Interpretation.
* Husserl, Edmund. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Trans. David Carr. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1970.
* Magliola, Robert R. Phenomenology and Literature: An Introduction.
* Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. Trans. Colin Smith. London: Routledge, 1962.
* Palmer, Richard. Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schliermacher.
* Ricouer, Paul. The Conflict of Interpretation: Essays in Hermeneutics.

Russian Formalism/Prague Linguistic Circle/Linguistic Criticism/Dialogic Theory

These linguistic movements began in the 1920s, were suppressed by the Soviets in the 1930s, moved to Czechoslovakia and were continued by members of the Prague Linguistic Circle (including Roman Jakobson (YAH-keb-sen), Jan Mukarovsky, and René Wellek). The Prague Linguistic Circle viewed literature as a special class of language, and rested on the assumption that there is a fundamental opposition between literary (or poetical) language and ordinary language. Formalism views the primary function of ordinary language as communicating a message, or information, by references to the world existing outside of language. In contrast, it views literary language as self-focused: its function is not to make extrinsic references, but to draw attention to its own "formal" features--that is, to interrelationships among the linguistic signs themselves. Literature is held to be subject to critical analysis by the sciences of linguistics but also by a type of linguistics different from that adapted to ordinary discourse, because its laws produce the distinctive features of literariness (Abrams, pp. 165-166). An important contribution made by Victor Schklovsky (of the Leningrad group) was to explain how language--through a period of time--tends to become "smooth, unconscious or transparent." In contrast, the work of literature is to defamiliarize language by a process of "making strange." Dialogism refers to a theory, initiated by Mikhail Bakhtin (bahk-TEEN), arguing that in a dialogic work of literature--such as in the writings of Dostoevsky--there is a "polyphonic interplay of various characters' voices ... where no worldview is given superiority over others; neither is that voice which may be identified with the author's necessarily the most engaging or persuasive of all those in the text" (Childers & Hentzi, p. 81).

Key Terms:

Carnival - "For Bakhtin, carnival reflected the 'lived life' of medieval and early modern peoples. In carnival, official authority and high culture were jostled 'from below' by elements of satire, parody, irony, mimicry, bodily humor, and grotesque display. This jostling from below served to keep society open, to liberate it from deadening..." (Bressler 276 - see General Resources below).

Heteroglossia - "refers, first, to the way in which every instance of language use - every utterance - is embedded in a specific set of social circumstances, and second, to the way the meaning of each particular utterance is shaped and influenced by the many-layered context in which it occurs" (Sarah Willen, "Dialogism and Heteroglossia")

Monologism - "having one single voice, or representing one single ideological stance or perspective, often used in opposition to the Bakhtinian dialogical. In a monological form, all the characters' voices are subordinated to the voice of the author" (Malcolm Hayward).

Polyphony - "a term used by Mikhail Bakhtin to describe a dialogical text which, unlike a monological text, does not depend on the centrality of a single authoritative voice. Such a text incorporates a rich plurality and multiplicity of voices, styles, and points of view. It comprises, in Bakhtin's phrase, "a plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses, a genuine polyphony of fully valid voices" (Henderson and Brown - Glossary of Literary Theory).

Further references:

* Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays and Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics.
* Bennett, Tony. Formalism and Marxism. London, 1979.
* Ehrlich, Victor. Russian Formalism: History, Doctrine.
* Garvin, Paul L. (trans.) A Prague School Reader. Washington DC: Georgetown Academic P, 1973.
* Holquist, Michael. Dialogism: Bakhtin and His World. London: Routledge, 1990.
* Jakobson, Roman. "Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics." Ed. Sebeok, Thomas. Style in Language, pp. 350-377.
* Jefferson, Anne and David Robey. Modern Literary Theory: A Comparative Introduction. See chapters 1 and 2.
* Lemon, Lee T. and Marion J. Reese. Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays.
* Lodge, David. After Bakhtin: Essays on Fiction and Criticism. London: Routledge, 1990.
* Medvedev, P.N. and Mikhail Bakhtin. The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics.
* Mukarovsky, Jan. Aesthetic Function, Norm and Value as Social Facts. Trans. M. E. Suino. Ann Arbor: Michigan State UP, 1979.
* Thompson, E.M. Russian Formalism and Anglo-American New Criticism.
* Wellek, René. The Literary Theory and Aesthetics of the Prague School.
banny123 - 28/01/2010 12:51 PM


Avant-Garde literally meant the "most forwardly placed troops." The movement sought to eliminate or at least blur the distinction between art and life often by introducing elements of mass culture. These artists aimed to "make it new" and often represented themselves as alienated from the established order. Avant-garde literature and art challenged societal norms to "shock" the sensibilities of its audience (Childers & Hentzi, p.26 and Abrams, p.110).

Surrealism (also associated with the avant-garde and dadaism) was initiated in particular by André Breton, whose 1924 "Manifesto of Surrealism" defined the movement's "adherence to the imagination, dreams, the fantastic, and the irrational." Dada is a nonsense word and the movement, in many ways similar to the trends of avant-garde and surrealism, "emphasized absurdity, reflected a spirit of nihilism, and celebrated the function of chance" (Childers & Hentzi, p. 69). Major figures include André Breton (breh-TAWN), Georges Bataille (beh-TYE), Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp (dew-SHAHN), Man Ray, Raoul Hausmann, Max Ernst and Kurt Schwitters.

Further references:

* Bataille, Georges. The Absence of Myth: Writings on Surrealism. Edited, translated, and introduced by Michael Richardson. London, New York: Verso, c1994
* Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde.
* Butler, Christopher. After the Wake: An Essay on the Contemporary Avant-Garde.
* Calinescu, Matei. Faces of Modernity: Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch.
* Carrouges, Michel. Andre Breton and the Basic Concepts of Surrealism. Trans. Maura Prendergast. University of Alabama Press, 1974.
* Matthews, J. H. Toward the Poetics of Surrealism.
* Short, Robert. Dada and Surrealism.


Structuralism is a way of thinking about the world which is predominantly concerned with the perceptions and description of structures. At its simplest, structuralism claims that the nature of every element in any given situation has no significance by itself, and in fact is determined by all the other elements involved in that situation. The full significance of any entity cannot be perceived unless and until it is integrated into the structure of which it forms a part (Hawkes, p. 11). Structuralists believe that all human activity is constructed, not natural or "essential." Consequently, it is the systems of organization that are important (what we do is always a matter of selection within a given construct). By this formulation, "any activity, from the actions of a narrative to not eating one's peas with a knife, takes place within a system of differences and has meaning only in its relation to other possible activities within that system, not to some meaning that emanates from nature or the divine" (Childers & Hentzi, p. 286.). Major figures include Claude Lévi-Strauss (LAY-vee-strows), A. J. Greimas (GREE-mahs), Jonathan Culler, Roland Barthes (bart), Ferdinand de Saussure (soh-SURR or soh-ZHOR), Roman Jakobson (YAH-keb-sen), Vladimir Propp, and Terence Hawkes.


Semiotics, simply put, is the science of signs. Semiology proposes that a great diversity of our human action and productions--our bodily postures and gestures, the the social rituals we perform, the clothes we wear, the meals we serve, the buildings we inhabit--all convey "shared" meanings to members of a particular culture, and so can be analyzed as signs which function in diverse kinds of signifying systems. Linguistics (the study of verbal signs and structures) is only one branch of semiotics but supplies the basic methods and terms which are used in the study of all other social sign systems (Abrams, p. 170). Major figures include Charles Peirce, Ferdinand de Saussure, Michel Foucault (fou-KOH), Umberto Eco, Gérard Genette, and Roland Barthes (bart).

Key Terms (much of this is adapted from Charles Bressler's Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice - see General Resources below):

Binary Opposition - "pairs of mutually-exclusive signifiers in a paradigm set representing categories which are logically opposed and which together define a complete universe of discourse (relevant ontological domain), e.g. alive/not-alive. In such oppositions each term necessarily implies its opposite and there is no middle term" (Daniel Chandler).

Mythemes - a term developed by Claude Lévi-Strauss--mythemes are the smallest component parts of a myth. By breaking up myths into mythemes, those structures (mythemes) may be studied chronologically (~ diacrhonically) or synchronically/relationally.

Sign vs. Symbol - According to Saussure, "words are not symbols which correspond to referents, but rather are 'signs' which are made up of two parts (like two sides of a sheet of paper): a mark,either written or spoken, called a 'signifier,' and a concept (what is 'thought' when the mark is made), called a 'signified'" (Selden and Widdowson 104 - see General Resources below). The distinction is important because Saussure contended that the relationship between signifier and signified is arbitrary; the only way we can distinguish meaning is by difference (one sign or word differs from another).

Literary Criticism Theory : An introduction (for you who read lots)

The relational nature of language implied by Saussure's system rejects the concept that a word/symbol corresponds to an outside object/referent. Instead, meaning--the interpretation of a sign--can exist only in relationship with other signs. Selden and Widdowson use the sign system of traffic lights as an example. The color red, in that system, signifies "stop," even though "there is no natural bond between red and stop" (105). Meaning is derived entirely through difference, "a system of opposites and contrasts," e.g., referring back to the traffic lights' example, red's meaning depends on the fact that it is not green and not amber (105).

Structuralist narratology - "a form of structuralism espoused by Vladimir Propp, Tzvetan Todorov, Roland Barthes, and Gerard Genette that illustrates how a story's meaning develops from its overall structure (its langue) rather than from each individual story's isolated theme. To ascertain a text's meaning, narratologists emphasize grammatical elements such as verb tenses and the relationships and configurations of figures of speech within the story"
xiaope - 28/01/2010 02:20 PM

WOW... my thesis theory is here D
Vote Peircean theory of sign than Saussurean though..
banny123 - 28/01/2010 06:09 PM

what was your thesis? and how was it? was it hard enough to do?
xiaope - 28/01/2010 08:41 PM

Original Posted By banny123
what was your thesis? and how was it? did it hard enough to do?

talking about the advertisement which considered as a SIGN, right.
blue17 - 28/01/2010 10:22 PM

wow this thing are god damn good subjects..i like Criticism
banny123 - 29/01/2010 12:11 AM

Original Posted By blue17
wow this thing are god damn good subjects..i like Criticism

aww watch your word, kid. as people perceive those expression differently, some words sometimes altered into different meaning too..
blue17 - 29/01/2010 08:24 PM

Original Posted By banny123
aww watch your word, kid. as people perceive those expression differently, some words sometimes altered into different meaning too..

sorry i'm at u.s. now..to much used this word..but it nice to have some indonesian people enjoying this theory..

banny123 - 30/01/2010 01:13 AM

Original Posted By blue17
sorry i'm at u.s. now..to much used this word..but it nice to have some indonesian people enjoying this theory..


yeah I know, such words often used in colloquial language. but I guess you put it on the wrong place, boy. well, it might be because of my quick sight on your words. but... nevermind \)

being critical is not only for certain groups or country. you can see it anywhere, even in Indonesia. you, yourself is Indonesian, eh? don't you feel you are critical? D good luck there in the U.S. \) it's tough living there.
Van Vendetta - 30/01/2010 01:58 AM

Hmm...I've once learned some of the theory above when I was in collegemalu:

As far as I know, those theories are used in qualitative research fieldo
banny123 - 30/01/2010 02:11 AM

yep you're right \), where did u take your study then?
Arachnist - 30/01/2010 05:38 AM

nice to read your pos.. bunny... I'm waitin ur next sensational post....shakehand2
Arachnist - 30/01/2010 05:54 AM


banny123 - 30/01/2010 10:44 AM

weew you got that space to reserve questions! haha cool. I am not that sensational, actually malu: you have that questions to be asked, but some questions may be not easy to be easy to be asked, so if you don't get what you need, don't be disappointed, ok?

some points that I hadn't mentioned before are, that I am here, giving theories, is just how to see such subjects interest some people and start sharing on it. above subjects are some points that I obtain from the internet.

so, I expect you guys to be active. you got questions, but you are also giving us useful material. hence, this forum is not only stands for translating and chit-chat, but also build our knowledge. I also expect sharing about books, shorts stories and their author.

so, well, can I say this thread "An Academic Literature thread" ? malu:

banny123 - 30/01/2010 11:01 AM

ready for the next? here we go D

Post-Structuralism and Deconstruction

Post-Structuralism (which is often used synonymously with Deconstruction or Postmodernism) is a reaction to structuralism and works against seeing language as a stable, closed system. "It is a shift from seeing the poem or novel as a closed entity, equipped with definite meanings which it is the critic's task to decipher, to seeing literature as irreducibly plural, an endless play of signifiers which can never be finally nailed down to a single center, essence, or meaning" (Eagleton 120 - see reference below under "General References"). Jacques Derrida's (dair-ree-DAH) paper on "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" (delivered in 1966) proved particularly influential in the creation of post-structuralism. Derrida argued against, in essence, the notion of a knowable center (the Western ideal of logocentrism), a structure that could organize the differential play of language or thought but somehow remain immune to the same "play" it depicts (Abrams, 258-9). Derrida's critique of structuralism also heralded the advent of deconstruction that--like post-structuralism--critiques the notion of "origin" built into structuralism. In negative terms, deconstruction--particularly as articulated by Derrida--has often come to be interpreted as "anything goes" since nothing has any real meaning or truth. More positively, it may posited that Derrida, like Paul de Man (de-MAHN) and other post-structuralists, really asks for rigor, that is, a type of interpretation that is constantly and ruthlessly self-conscious and on guard. Similarly, Christopher Norris (in "What's Wrong with Postmodernism?") launches a cogent argument against simplistic attacks of Derrida's theories:

On this question [the tendency of critics to read deconstruction "as a species of all-licensing sophistical 'freeplay'"), as on so many others, the issue has been obscured by a failure to grasp Derrida's point when he identifies those problematic factors in language (catachreses, slippages between 'literal' and 'figural' sense, subliminal metaphors mistaken for determinate concepts) whose effect--as in Husserl--is to complicate the passage from what the text manifestly means to say to what it actually says when read with an eye to its latent or covert signifying structures. This 'free-play' has nothing whatsoever to do with that notion of an out-and-out hermeneutic license which would finally come down to a series of slogans like "all reading is misreading," "all interpretation is misinterpretation," etc. If Derrida's texts have been read that way--most often by literary critics in quest of more adventurous hermeneutic models--this is just one sign of the widespread deformation professionelle that has attended the advent of deconstruction as a new arrival on the US academic scene. (151)

In addition to Jacques Derrida, key poststructuralist and deconstructive figures include Michel Foucault (fou-KOH), Roland Barthes (bart), Jean Baudrillard (zhon boh-dree-YAHR), Helene Cixous (seek-sou), Paul de Man (de-MAHN), J. Hillis Miller, Jacques Lacan (lawk-KAWN), and Barbara Johnson.

Key Terms :

Aporia (ah-por-EE-ah)- a moment of undecidability; the inherent contradictions found in any text. Derrida, for example, cites the inherent contradictions at work in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's use of the words culture and nature by demonstrating that Rousseau's sense of the self's innocence (in nature) is already corrupted by the concept of culture (and existence) and vice-versa.

Différance - a combination of the meanings in the word différance. The concept means 1) différer or to differ, 2) différance which means to delay or postpone (defer), and 3) the idea of difference itself. To oversimplify, words are always at a distance from what they signify and, to make matters worse, must be described by using other words.

Erasure (sous rature) - to highlight suspect ideologies, notions linked to the metaphysics of presence, Derrida put them under "erasure," metaphorically pointing out the absence of any definitive meaning. By using erasure, however, Derrida realized that a "trace" will always remain but that these traces do not indicate the marks themselves but rather the absence of the marks (which emphasize the absence of "univocal meaning, truth, or origin"). In contrast, when Heidegger similarly "crossed out" words, he assumed that meaning would be (eventually) recoverable.

Logocentrism - term associated with Derrida that "refers to the nature of western thought, language and culture since Plato's era. The Greek signifier for "word," "speech," and "reason," logos possesses connotations in western culture for law and truth. Hence, logocentrism refers to a culture that revolves around a central set of supposedly universal principles or beliefs" (Wolfreys 302 - see General Resources below).

Metaphysics of Presence - "beliefs including binary oppositions, logocentrism, and phonocentrism that have been the basis of Western philosophy since Plato" (Dobie 155, see General Resources below).

Supplement - "According to Derrida, Western thinking is characterized by the 'logic of supplementation', which is actually two apparently contradictory ideas. From one perspective, a supplement serves to enhance the presence of something which is already complete and self-sufficient. Thus, writing is the supplement of speech, Eve was the supplement of Adam, and masturbation is the supplement of 'natural sex'....But simultaneously, according to Derrida, the Western idea of the supplement has within it the idea that a thing that has a supplement cannot be truly 'complete in itself'. If it were complete without the supplement, it shouldn't need, or long-for, the supplement. The fact that a thing can be added-to to make it even more 'present' or 'whole' means that there is a hole (which Derrida called an originary lack) and the supplement can fill that hole. The metaphorical opening of this "hole" Derrida called invagination. From this perspective, the supplement does not enhance something's presence, but rather underscores its absence"

Trace - from Lois Tyson (see General Resources below): "Meaning seems to reside in words (or in things) only when we distinguish their difference from other words (or things). For example, if we believed that all objects were the same color, we wouldn't need the word red (or blue or green) at all. Red is red only because we believe it to be different from blue and green (and because we believe color to be different from shape). So the word red carries with it the trace of all the signifiers it is not (for it is in contrast to other signifiers that we define it)" (245). Tyson's explanation helps explain what Derrida means when he states "the trace itself does not exist."

Transcendental Signifier - from Charles Bressler (see General Resources below): a term introduced by Derrida who "asserts that from the time of Plato to the present, Western culture has been founded on a classic, fundamental error: the searching for a transcendental signified, an external point of reference on which one may build a concept or philosophy. Once found, this transcendental signified would provide ultimate meaning. It would guarantee a 'center' of meaning...." (287).
blue17 - 30/01/2010 01:10 PM

Original Posted By banny123
yeah I know, such words often used in colloquial language. but I guess you put it on the wrong place, boy. well, it might be because of my quick sight on your words. but... nevermind \)

being critical is not only for certain groups or country. you can see it anywhere, even in Indonesia. you, yourself is Indonesian, eh? don't you feel you are critical? D good luck there in the U.S. \) it's tough living there.

yup i'm indonesian..by understanding the theory such as; marxism, ferdinand de saussure, claude levi-strauss theory, you will open up your mind set very very..HUge dude..thanks for the support dude.GL for you too..
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