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A. Introduction: The Study of Criticism at the Present Time1. Two contrary views of literary criticism: It is an art itself; It supplements art and is a parasite draining away its lifeblood. Contemporary criticism is stranded between these two views. 2. What is the relationship between literature and criticism: exegetical or a full interpretation of a text. Hermeneutic is the belief that a text has its own interior world that the critic can enter. Reader-Response is the attempt to describe how the text affects the reader. Semiotic and deconstructive approaches dissolves the barrier between criticism and literature and see “signifiers” moving through all types of text. 3. An interesting paradox is that in a time when we are shifting to attention to the reader, much of this book is “writerly” (as Barthes said) or very difficult to read. Four types of difficulty. Contingent or the use of terms that we have to look up (and still we might not understand). Modal is not an obscurity in the text but the readers dislike or misunderstanding of the text. Technical difficulty is created by the writer intentionally to inhibit a conventional response to a text. An ontological difficulty is the most difficult because the text posits a new paradigm of understanding. It becomes impossible to grasp the text unless you can become initiated into this new paradigm. V. Deconstruction and PoststructuralismA. Intro1. Structuralism and semiotics attempted to understand how things are. Deconstruction and poststructuralism attempts to describe the limits of understanding. Also it attempts to understand the axioms that something is built upon.2. Deconstruction. Derrida argued that there were certain absolutes that were supposed to be self-evident in the West. These included God, truth, goodness, etc. He argued that the structure of authority was thought to be an unmoved mover at the center of society. Through Deconstruction Derrida hopes to focus o the instability of meaning at the center. Deconstruction is also a strategy of reading. It starts from identifying binary oppositions in which the first case is privileged (man/woman, nature/culture). Deconstruction reverses these to make the inferior superior. The purpose of this is more than simply to invert value systems. Rather, it confronts one interpretation of interpretation which seeks a truth or an origin with another that seeks to turn toward the periphery with no truth and no origin.3. Deconstructive criticism. Three main issues for Derrida. Textuality meaning that everything can be described as a text. Undecideability means that because there is no absolute truth about a text its ultimate meaning is always undecidable. By strategy Derrida means two things; first is reversing the binary oppositions and second undermine authority. 4. Poststructuralism. The poststructuralist era that has followed from Derrida encompasses many fields. Poststructualist psychoanalysis decenters the subject. Feminist criticism displaces the central male. B. Jonathan Culler, “Convention and Meaning: Derrida and Austin”1. This essay provides an account of the debate between American philosopher and speech-act theorist John Searl and French philosopher Derrida concerning J.L. Austin’s How to do things with words. Culler takes Derrida’s part in the debate showing how Searl misses Derrida’s approach. 2. Culler begins by describing Austin describing a system for understanding utterances by the context in which they are given. Austin wants to argue a system where the utterance and meaning is independent of a speakers intention. In laying out his system, Austin introduces a distinction between serious and nonserious speech. Derrida argues that this distinction defeats Austin’s entire project because the speakers intention is reintroduced to meaning. Searl argues in Austin’s defense that Derrida misunderstands Austin’s use of the term serious. This article examines Searl’s failure to fully understand Derrida. C. Jacques Derrida, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”1. This essay is a critique of structuralism. He claims that structuralism is based on the assumption of an opposition between the structure and the center. This center organizes and limits the freeplay of the structure. D. Paul de Man, “Semiology and Rhetoric”1. This essay helps to define his distinctive brand of American deconstructive literary criticism. Here he argues that it is “undecidable” to understand language as either “grammer” (rule-oriented language) or “rhetoric” (which is a reading). E. Michel Foucault, “What is an author?”1. Structuralist period: Foucault’s relationship to literary theory is his study of a discourse (the relationship between language and social institutions). He examines institutional rules that make possible particular forms of knowledge. For example, how do institutional changes affect the definition of madness. 2. Poststructuralist period: This essay was the first work from Foucault’s poststructuralist period (1968). He shifted his concern to the exercise of power. He says there is a contradiction in modern culture: in many ways the author is considered unimportant (as in Formalist analysis), yet in our criticism we always use the names of authors. So in this essay he asks what is an author or what is the notion of an author. He says that the notion of an author is to authorize or privilege certain writings. VI. Psychology and psychoanalysisA. Intro1. Archetypal criticism. This helped bring an end to the active development of the New Criticism. It was associated with Carl Jung. Jung’s main point (and his central break with Freud) was in his belief in the collective unconscious. This unconscious contains archetypes or fundamental forms of human experience such as “mother,” “rebirth,” or “spirit.” Archetypal literary interpretation involves identifying the archetypes that show up in character and plot. (Much like the Morelli method). The definitive archetypal approach to literature is Northrup Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism. 2. Freudian criticism. Ego psychology engenders a literary criticism that is based on biographical sources and tends to see art as a “psychic bandage” that is made necessary by the “coincidence of artistic talent and neurotic disposition.” Literature becomes the expression of the psychic life of the author. 3. Semiotic Freud. This was elaborated by Lacan. B. Peter Brooks, “Freud’s Masterplot”1. This essay uses Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle as a model for reading and understanding narrative plot. He draws parallels between Freud’s discovery that a child will deliberately repeat an unpleasurable experience with repetition in narrative. Both of these repetitive acts (which Freud sees as mastery) allows the individual to assert control over his own fate by choosing it himself. An example of this repetition in narrative is the death instinct. C. Jaques Lacan, “Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter’”1. Lacan reinterprets Freud and particularly his concept of the unconscious. He feels that this should be the focus of psychoanalysis and not the ego. He grounded his work in structural linguistics and the functions of signs. The unconscious is “structured like a stage” and reveals meaning in connection with signifiers. 2. This essay of Poe’s Purloined Letter is both an interpretation of Lacan and a reading of Poe. The letter becomes the signifier and affects the story’s characters. The letter determines the subjects acts and their fate. Thus, Poe’s story becomes a parable of the signifier.D. Barbara Johnson, “The Frame of Reference: Poe, Lacan, Derrida”1. She argues that language subverts the intention of the speaker or writer to achieve a position of authority. She examines Derrida’s reading of Lacan’s reading of Poe’s Purloined Letter. She shows how reading is modified by each reader. E. Jerry Flieger, “The Purloined Punchline: Joke as Textual Paradigm”1. In this essay she uses Freud’s theory of jokes as a model for the literary text, particularly as it details the transmission of sexual desire. Her concern is how women find themselves in literature. VII. Marxism and New HistoricismA. Intro1. “Old” historicism. (History over literature). The traditional literary criticism holds that history determines the context for literature. This historical approach to literary criticism attempts to accomplish three goals: a) Cast light on the text itself by establishing the date it was written or identifying its references to history. This locates a text as a historical phenomena so that it becomes a source. b) Literary biography. This attempts to understand the author and his style. This is found in Freudian ego-psychology. c) Understand the historical forces that shaped a literary work. This projects the historical process itself as a kind of ultimate author.2. Marxist criticism. (History and literature are equal). The critic is conceived as a member of the proletariat who promotes cultural revolution through literary studies. For example Lukacs shows that James Joyce’s Ulysses demonstrates the dehumanizing and fragmenting effect of capitalist culture. a) Literature as social process. The central tenet of Marxist literary criticism is that literature and art are social practices that cannot be separated from other kinds of social practice. In other words, literature is not autonomous, it is the product of the same social processes as everything else. b) Criticism should become political. It should not merely interpret the world but to try to change it. All cultural work should become political.3. New historicism. (Literature over history). History itself is a product of language. For example, Hayden White sees history itself as a kind of narrative. History in this view is coming to understand the dominant episteme of a particular period (Foucault). These breaks or gaps in history should not be filled. Both the New Historicism and Marxist criticism recognize in literary texts not only knowledge but ideology.B. Raymond Williams, “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory”1. In this essay Williams grapples with one of the central issues of Marxist theory--the determination of culture. He refutes traditional Marxist economic determinism. In its place he uses Gramsci’s notion of “hegemony.” Residual and emergent forms. Residual experiences are those which are not expressed in terms of the dominant culture. Emergent means that new meanings and values are continually being created. Literature is usually in the residual sector and not in the emergent sector. C. Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse in life and discourse in art”1. Bakhtin’s work was devoted to developing a philosophy of language grounded in the interplay of communication. This interplay was called the dialogic process involving speaker or listener, or writer or reader. He defines language as a “sociological poetics” which views language as determining and determined by the historical context of a particular utterance. He takes the middle ground between Formalism (which treats the text as static) and traditional Marxism (which believes the text is determined entirely by its creator and reader). 2. This essay is his first attempt to define the theory of the utterance. Context is an integral component rather than external to utterance. Bakhtin uses Marxist terminology but proposes a more radical analysis of language as an “event” in which both linguistic and social elements predetermine one another in a struggle toward textual meaning.D. Terry Eagleton, “Brecht and Rhetoric”1. He is a Marxist literary critic. He is concerned with “ideology” which he defines as the link between discourse and power. 2. In this essay he established the relationship between modernist Marxism of Brecht and “left” deconstruction. In Brecht there is the prototype for deconstruction through theory of the illusions of individualism and selfhood. This brings him to a poststructuralist self-reflexive critique of the self. E. Fredric Jameson, “The politics of theory: Ideological positions in the postmodernism debate”1. All of his work centers around the base-superstructure debate. He wants to avoid “vulgar” Marxist strict economic determinism. He is increasingly pessimistic about the present age. The capitalist system has invaded all areas of reality including the unconscious with terrible results. Since he always views change as a dialectic he also insists on an optimism.2. The debate is whether or not there was some sort of break between high modernism and poststructuralism. This debate is argued from four ideological positions: antimodern/propostmodern, promodern/antipostmodern. He discusses all the heterogeneity in today’s culture and argues that a break did occur. F. Stephen Greenblatt, “Shakespeare and the Exorcists”1. He is associated with the New Historicism which was a term he introduced in 1982. This is characterized by not thinking of history as a determining background to literature, but to think of both as textual. This essay is an example of the New Historicism. 2. Shakespeare was reading an account of exorcisms while he was writing King Lear. Greenblatt compares these two works. He finds the relation between history (the exorcisms) and literature (King Lear).

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