Varying Approaches to Literary Analysis

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Formalist: The formalist strategy tends to focus on the formal aspects of a piece of work. A formalist critic views literature as a work of art rather than a reflection of the author. This strategy is helpful when analyzing drama and fiction because the words and images shape the work itself. When analyzing a more complex story, a formalist critic will raise questions about the complexities. Formalist strategies reveal meaning and reinforce the theme of a text.

Biographical: Biographical simply means of or pertaining to a person’s life. Various authors base their writings on the events that they have experienced in their own lives. Therefore, the use of biographical strategies, or knowledge of an author’s life, can result in a more suitable understanding of a piece of literature. While this particular strategy will not sharpen a particular piece of work, it has the potential to clarify the author’s beliefs to the reader. However, knowledge of the events in an author’s life can also raise challenging questions about their writings which would be left open to the interpretation of the reader.

Psychological: Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories have been used to investigate many elements of literature, such as: the motives of a character, the symbolic meaning of events in a piece of literature, the conscious or unconscious motives of an author, and the readers response to a text. For example, Freud's concept of the Oedipus complex led to an examination by Earnest Jones of Hamlet’s delay in the avenging of his father’s death. Jones thus determined that Hamlets unconscious motives led to his delay. Through psychological strategies, one can better explore both conscious and unconscious motives of the writer and the characters...

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...ritics believe that there are many ways of interpreting a text, they believe that a reader create meanings in literature. Reader-response critics are concerned with a readers experience with literature. This criticism does not aim to determine the meaning of a text, but to draw to our attention the ways in which we read and our influences on our reading.

Deconstructionist: Deconstructionist critics simply believe that there is no singular meaning to a text. They feel that language is not a precise tool, that it is open to endless interpretations. This particular strategy is not like any other form of criticism, for, it aims to disestablish meanings. Deconstructionists reveal instabilities, conflicts, and contradictions found within the language of a literature. A deconstructionist critic intensionally seeks ways to question the meanings of a piece of literature.
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