Chapter 2: Traditional Approaches

A Note on Traditional Approaches
--the “old” historicism
--New Criticism
--New historicism and related approaches
Textual Scholarship
 Textual critics research and edit a work in
order to establish an accurate, authentic text
for the reader: “what the writer intended”
 These critics prepare a reliable text for
multiple methods of literary dissection and
provide information about the genesis of a
 Question: What is a “text”?
 Example: Hamlet
 Example: “To His Coy Mistress”
Matters of Genre
 Aristotle’s Poetics
 Frye, Hirsch, Scholes
 Genre Characteristics in Practice
 Plot Elements:
Opening Situation
Generating Circumstance (e.g., something
Rising Action
Source Study
 How did earlier writings, other works of art influence
the text?
 The art of allusion
 Example: Influences on “To His Coy Mistress”
Historical-Biographical Approaches
 Focus is on the life, times, and
environment of the author and/or the
literary characters
 Nearly all literature is open to this
 Examines how these external factors
affect the literary 6work
Moral-Philosophical Approaches
 Examines the moral or philosophical
issues within the literary text
 Approach goes back to Plato, Horace,
Samuel Johnson, but has stayed relevant
to modern readers
 Focuses on what is7 being taught
Application of Traditional Approaches
Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”
 The Text of the Poem
The textual critic examines the meaning of the
words and their variations
 The Genre of the Poem
Critics determine the literary type or genre of a work
to define its technical features and characteristics
 Historical-Biographical Considerations
The historical-biographical critic examines the life
and times of Marvell in order to help understand the
context of the poem.
 Moral-Philosophical Considerations
The moral-philosophical critic explores what is being
taught in the poem. The theme of carpe diem (seize
the day) is prominent.

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