Monday, October 20, 2008

it's the economy stupid!

i am currently slaughtering the last century of literary criticism into horrendously overly-simplified quips and phrases in order to cram them into my brain for the gre. the princeton review told me to think of this test as a 'cocktail party' of name-dropping, inside joke telling and no real in-depth knowledge. in my efforts to train myself under their guidance, i have hereby renamed the major Modern schools of Literary Criticism as follows:

Marxist Criticism: 'it's the economy stupid!' or, 'existential criticism,' dealing with the individual in his historical context and not universal themes that are common to all mankind. funny how Marx wanted to apply his theories to everyone, though. 

New Historicism : ideology of class, 'let them eat cake' criticism. the ideologies of a class are encoded on all the rest. the 'struggling voice of the oppressed' is competing with the dominant class. 

Feminist, Black and Post-Colonial Criticism: these are all lumped together - to their chagrin- as responses to the new-historicist school. they are the voices of the 'marginalized others' who are trampled on or overlooked by the 'phallocratic hegemony' of the aforementioned white, wealthy, men. i just want to quote that scene of Ten Things I Hate About You where Kat is complaining that they never read sylvia plath... 'i know it must have been hard for you to overcome all those years of white, upper-middle class suburban oppression- must be tough!' 

Psychological Criticism. 'subconscious yearnings' theory. just look for the words ID, EGO, SUPEREGO, and you're set. anyone who has seen Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged will think of the audience participation part of Hamlet where ophelia goes insane. 

Freudian Criticism: Basically the above, with the additional interesting note that Harold Bloom is a Freudian Critic. that makes me want to reread all the parts of his shakespeare book i read just to find hints of this. basically, he thinks all poets/authors are reacting against earlier 'strong-poets' much as a rebellious teenager fights their parents and ends up becoming just like them. the horror! the horror!

Archetype or Myth Criticism: "I need a hero! I'm holding out for a hero til the end of the night!' 
basically, there are repeated themes and characters in all of literature which expresses humanity's needs in our 'collective subconscious' it can be superman comics, King Arthur, Beowulf, or T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. how'd you like to write a dissertation on a comic book?

Linguistic Criticism: "the grammar class of literary theory" takes these forms:

Formalist: think of dissecting a frog, but the frog is Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and you are a nerdy professor of linguistics who wears a toupee and sweater vest. deals with the 'underlying laws that "makes literature literature" 

New Criticism: think trendy. T.S.Eliot, among others, is part of this school. (isn't that like letting someone on American Idol be on the judge panel?) Very popular in U.S. and England in 20th century. I like it because its the 'don't look too deep into things' school, where if the meaning isn't right there in the words, then you are making it up. i wonder if Bonca knew that as we dissected the hell out of J. Alfred Prufrock and his identity crisis... 

Structuralist Criticism: aka Semiotic Criticism. "Meaning is in the eye of the beholder" Meaning is not intrinsic, it comes from Structure. likes to put things in reference to other things- periphery, axis, center, etc. 

Post-Structuralist: guess what this is reacting against? this is the most esoteric of all of them, basically the book says just look for lingo- dissemination, logocentrism, bracketing, alterity (i've never even heard of that word), slippage, mimesis, blah blah blah. its like that scene in Good Will Hunting where he makes a jackass out of the guy trying to hit on Minnie Driver and insults his entire education. 

Reader-Response Criticism: LAST ONE!  this is the paris hilton of literary theories- its all about the reader. forget what Shakespeare or Ibsen or Dostoevsky actually meant when they wrote their greatest works- no, its all about the reader's experience of the work. That reinforces my theory that The Scarlet Letter and Ethan Frome were indeed a complete waste of time then. i want those hours back, Mrs. Salazar. 

Can i skip grad school now molly? 

3 comments:

EnglishNerd said...

I love your breakdown of the various literary theories! It's so funny! And for not having spent much time dealing with them in the last few years, you've summed them up effectively. I'm excited for you to get to interact with them more!

Jess said...

hahaha love it! This reminds me so vividly of the worst class i had in college - Literary Criticism. It wasn't that bad but the teacher was AWFUL and the only person i actually hated lol
i'll quiz you sometime if you want :)

Molly B said...

yes, you can skip grad school. in fact, i would greatly appreciate it if you'd _teach_ it. had i read this in edinburgh, i would have had better marks.