Formalist/ New Criticism

Ben, Kate, and Kristan
Also known as New Criticism, Formalism involves a close reading of the
text in a piece of writing
Formalists believe that all information that is essential to the
interpretation of a work must be found within the piece itself
There is no need to bring in outside information about the author’s life
They are not interested in the work’s affect on the reader
Spend much time analyzing the irony, imagery, paradox, and metaphors
of the literary work
Interested in setting, symbols, characters, and point of view incorporated
in the piece
A formalist basically would focus on literary devices of a piece of writing,
especially irony
New Criticism arose in opposition to biographical
or vaguely impressionistic approaches
 It sought to establish literary studies as a main
 Its desire to reveal “organic unity in complex
texts” (or the use of literary devices in all works
of writing) may be historically determined,
reflective of early 20th century critics seeking a
lost order or in conflict with an increasingly
fragmented society
 This
approach can be performed without
much research
 It emphasizes the value of literature
apart from its context (in effect makes
literature timeless)
 Virtually all critical approaches must
begin here; it is the origin of criticism
 When
using formalism, the text is seen in
 Formalism ignores the context of the
work; it focuses only on literary devices
 It cannot account for allusions
 It tends to reduce literature to a science;
and the style and emotion is broken down
and ignored
 The
narrator is the son in the poem, and he
is telling a story of his father and his love of
 The fig tree in the story is a motif; it is a
reoccurring figure throughout the piece
 The father refers to the figs as a holy gift of
Allah; symbolism
 The story takes places at various homes, and
the fig tree is at every house, if not literally
it is metophorical

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