Introduction to Literary Criticism

Literary Criticism
ENG3UI – 2012/2013
Mrs. Crowell
(information adapted from Ms. Klassen)
Literary Criticism: An Introduction
• Literary Criticism is the study, analysis
and interpretation of a literary work.
• The process of analysis is to examine
literature through varied lenses to
comment and judge the content’s
qualities and techniques while
understanding how it comments on the
value of society.
Literary Criticism: An Introduction
• Literary critics wear
lenses when they read
• These lenses colour or
“filter” the way they
experience, perceive
and analyze a text.
Reader Response Criticism
“The systematic examination of the aspects of the
text that arouse, shape, and guide a reader's
response” (Henderson).
What is “Reader Response”?
• Focuses on the activity of
reading a work of literature.
• Puts forward the idea that a
reader’s perception becomes
more important than the plot,
narration, characters, style and
structure of the work.
What is “Reader Response”?
• Recognizes that there are limitations
on the number and kinds of
interpretations that are possible: the
text itself limits theses
• Proposes that a reader interacts with
two bodies of information that
influence an interpretation: personal
experiences and the text itself.
Three Schools of Thought
– Individualists – each reader has a unique set of
experiences and beliefs that shape his or her
interpretation of the text; therefore, each
interpretation will be different.
– Uniformists – there is one hypothetical reader –
an “implied reader” who the author imagines
when writing.
– Social Readers – “interpretive communities” that
have shared beliefs and values and therefore
common understandings of a text; the group
determines an acceptable interpretation of a text.
Questions for the
Reader Response Lens:
What personal qualities or events relevant to
this particular text might influence my
How does the interaction of text and reader
create meaning?
What does a phrase-by-phrase analysis of a
short literary text, or a key portion of a longer
text, tell us about the reading experience
prestructured by (built into) that text?
Do the sounds/shapes of the words as they
appear on the page or how they are spoken by
the reader enhance or change the meaning of
the word/work?
How might we interpret a literary text to show
that the reader's response is, or is analogous to,
the topic of the story?
What does the body of criticism published
about a literary text suggest about the critics
who interpreted that text and/or about the
reading experience produced by that text?
You will
find these
on your
(I just included them
here for future
Questions for the
Reader Response Lens
• With a partner, use the questions on the
worksheet provided to analyze and
examine the following two poems…
• “My Song” by Rabindranath Tagore (p.
239 Viewpoints 11)
• “You Walked Gently Towards Me” by Ben
Okri (p. 241 Viewpoints 11)
The Starry Night
Vincent van Gogh (1889)

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