BEING MORE CRITICAL: SOME KINDS OF CRITICAL APPROACHES OR HELPS

“Every effective…critic sees some facet of…art and develops our awareness with respect to it; but the total vision, or something approximating it, comes only to those who learn how to blend the insights yielded by many critical approaches.”  –David Daiches

What is New Criticism?  Deconstructionism?  Formalism?  Historicism?  Psychoanalytical?

Here is perhaps a simplified (not simple) help that a reader or viewer might use to bring to a work of art (mostly literature and film, that might use “standards”) to help with some understanding, beyond the first impression–which is normal: “I liked it!” or, “Thumbs up!” or, “Five stars!”  What to say next?

So begin (if you care to):

HISTORICAL (H): concerned with the text, language, biography, influences, historical “facts” (then); Is this the real accurate text?

FORMALISM (F): concerned with the text (alone): its form, style, structure, meaning, effect (from text), the “textual approach”

SOCIO-CULTURAL (S): concerned with the text as social commentary (needs to be a historical first); about morality, economics, and cultural beliefs (then, primarily).  Sees the text as a document of political influence.

PSYCHOLOGICAL (P): [FREUD]: studies author/artist, work/characters, reader/viewer.  The “on-the-couch-method” that is rich, looking for motivation, for answers to the whys of actions or of likes and dislikes.  (Does not always have to be about dreams and cigars.)

MYTHOPOEIC (M): [JUNG]: by using all four previous approaches, uncovers or tries to discover patterns of ritual or seasons, to present a work as the verbal aspect of ritual with archetypal patterns.  Within a work “myth” is the narrative”; archetype is the “significance.”  Hand washing in a film may not be simply hand washing….  What is the book Hansel and Gretel doing in the film I, Robot?  (The most complex but, perhaps, the richest approach to literature.)   

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3 comments
  1. Why IS Hansel and Gretel in the movie I, robot? I love the concepts of archetypes and I read my kids the book The DaVinci code and some of the parts they loved best was realizing why Walt Disney had placed certain things in his movie. When they’re old enough I can’t wait to watch The Shining with them and indulge in some old fashioned conspiracy theories 😉

  2. I’d long wondered about this. Thanks for the clarification.

  3. Terrific description of critical methodologies. It is so important for people to look at things from different influences!

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