Types of Criticism and Literary Movements in Short Stories

Types of Criticism and Literary Movements in Short Stories

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Types of Criticism and Literary Movements in Short Stories


The short story dates back as early as the 14th Century. It offers what a novel or the equivalent would offer but it has a swiftness and completeness about it. According to Ruby Redinger, the short story is most powerful through graphic narration (752). The short story has captured a diverse group of things from the supernatural to an everyday occurrence. Nearly any situation can be worked into a short story if the right writer is managing the idea. The first masters of the short story in the eyes of Redinger were Boccaccio, Decameron, and Chaucer, Canterbury Tales (752). These stories were both written during the 14th Century. During the Renaissance period the short story lost its edge and writers’ attempts to do what Boccaccio and Chaucer had done failed. In the 19th Century America was the first to declare the short story as a literary form. During this time the authors Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving, and Nathaniel Hawthorn contributed to the survival of the short story. During this timeframe realism, romanticism, and impressionism were the more common literary movements. The short story can also use many other forms and types of criticism to describe it. A few different forms are surrealism, Dadaism, Imagism, Romanticism, and many others.

The satire is both a type of literature and a literary manner. It has an early history in poetry as a genre. C. Hugh Holman states that it originated in the 2nd Century B.C. by Roman satirist Lucilius and later practiced by Horace, Persius, Juvenal, and Quintilian (294). A satire is more frequently a literary manner in which the imperfections of a person, entire mankind, or an institution are ridiculed with the intention of correcting them. Satire is also applied to magic songs and ritualistic incentives in Greek, Old Irish, and Arabic literatures, where the ritual curse was believed to have powerful effects. The satire is often confused with the satyr play of Greek drama and coarse comic manner. This has influenced and confused the ideas about a satire in English literature. Although the satire is often comic, its primary object is not to provoke general laughter but to provoke laughter for corrective purposes. The satire always has a target, which is held up to mock upon the satirist’s unveiling. The satirist’s viewpoint is nearly that of the cold-eyed realist, that penetrates shame and pretense for a didactic reason.

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The simplest direct form of satire is criticism, an up-front attack of the subject causing a sudden, harsh exposure of the truth. Another form is exaggeration, in which only the negative aspects are emphasized. An indirect satire is usually a plot in which the characters portray themselves as ridiculous by their actions or speech. The indirect forms include irony, burlesque, travesty, and parody. The great modern age of the satire was the neoclassic period. As Holman states, “the satiric spirit was everywhere and a return was made to formal verse satire” (294). Later satirists include Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Sinclair Lewis, E.E. Cummings, and many others.

Realism is a literary movement in Europe and the United States in the last half of the 19th Century and the early years of the 20th. Its origins trace back to France, around the 1830’s. As Holman states, “the realists values the material universe, the events that occur in it, and the observable causes of those events, and feels profound obligation to report them accurately, fully, and above all, objectively” (294). Honore de Balzac was the first great realist writer, and was soon followed by Gustave Flaubert. The detailed description of life that was not sugar-coated was the masterpiece of the movement in France. There were realistic elements in the works of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, although the formal realistic movement did not come until around the 1880’s. This was the time of George Moore and George Gissing who were followed at the turn of the century by Arnold Bennett and John Galsworthy. “The greatest English realist and a very self-conscious one was the earlier George Eliot, who felt it a great obligation to report ‘men and the things as they are reflected in the mirror of my mind’” (Holman 294). In the United States, realism was a self-conscious movement that was borrowed from the French and the Russians. It was carefully expressed by William Dean Howells and Henry James. Holman claims that “In James’ case, the epistemological problem intruded to such an extent that that he finally became more interested in the process of perception of the actual than in its description, thus producing the psychological novel. James’ The Ambassadors is probably the American realistic masterpiece” (294).

Naturalism is often categorized and is similar to realism but should be clearly differentiated. Naturalism also originated in France about the same time Realism did.
Naturalism only had a very little affect in England, writers like Moore and Gissing were in this classification but it did not cause them to loose their realist orientation. Unlike realism, naturalism was used more frequently in German novels and drama. In the United States, naturalism was practiced by Stephen Crane. A distinct difference that Holman pointed out about realist is that the possibility of piling up accurate detail because it is there, tends to create dryness about the reading. This tendency that realist often employed is what naturalist rebelled against. On the other hand naturalists are often accused of oversimplifying and using non-representative characters (295). The realist used the scientific value of the material without putting it in a fully deterministic pattern while the naturalist was obsessed with evolutionary biology, depth psychology, and sought to understand the forces that control men and their actions.

Romanticism took place in most countries of the Western world in the late 18th and 19th Centuries. The exact meaning is a matter of debate. According to Holman, “in 1948, English writer F.L. Lucas found 11,396 different definitions for Romanticism” (680). There is a broad agreement that most Romanticisms are reactions against forms and rules, against classicism and neoclassicism, against rationalism and other fixed genres. They are new modes of imagination and vision, which value freedom of form, spontaneity, self-expression, and subjectivity. “Where the neoclassic writer had seen all art forms as mirrors held up to nature and had espoused a literature of consciously observed rules, its object being the rational portrayal of human beings in their public or social roles, the Romanticist saw all art as an illuminating flame fed from the inner self, a source of truth superior to logic and reason” (Holman 680). The imagination for a Romanticist was a way that the writer found a universal truth and then a source of knowledge within himself. The Romantic imagination found expression in works that created their own forms, that mixed different types, and that valued expression more than completeness and symmetry. The lack of consideration for rules and form of the great Romantic writers held the seeds of destruction for their followers, who too frequently practiced their extremes without their genius. This created unfortunate results among many later writers. Later in the 20th Century, Romanticism was wherever faith in the individual and his freedom from rules, restraints, systems, or even rationalism appear.

Transcendentalism was a form of American Romanticism. It took place from around 1835 until the Civil War. “These writers stressed the importance of intuition and subjective experience in scientific naturalism” (Gale). They rejected religious belief and texts in favor of mysticism and scientific naturalism. They pursued truths that lied beyond the colorless realms perceived by reason and the senses. These people were often the social reformers in public education, women’s rights, and the abolition of slavery.

Imagism was an American literary movement of the early 20th Century. The movement started in 1909 and thrived through 1918, representing a revolt against conventional ideas of the nature and function of poetry. “Imagists used precise, clearly presented images in their works. They also used common, everyday speech aimed for conciseness, concrete imagery, and the creation of new rhymes” (Gale). According to David Galloway, “Imagism was a symptom of change in modern art, and to a lesser degree a force for change. Its influence on such poets as T.S. Eliot and Carl Sandburg was significant” (799).

Futurism was a flamboyant literary movement that developed in France, Italy, and Russia from 1908 through the 1920’s. Its poetry abandoned traditional literary forms. “In their place, followers of the movement attempted to achieve total freedom of expression through bizarre imagery and deformed or newly invented words” (Gale). The Futurists were modern artists that attempted to integrate the appearances and sounds of modern life into their work. Their works glorified danger, war, and the machine age; it also attacked academies, museums, and other establishments. It also favored the growth of fascism, which is a form of extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates a nation or a race as an organic community surpassing all other loyalties.

Dadaism was the protest movement in the early 20th Century. It flourished during and after World War I. “The name “Dada” is a French word for hobbyhorse, it is said to have been chosen from a dictionary at random” (Arnason 416).Its followers expressed their fury at the destruction caused by the war by revolting against many forms of social gathering. They presented their works marked by calculated madness and flashy nonsense. “They stressed total freedom of expression, commonly through primitive displays of emotion and illogical, often senseless, poetry” (Gale). In about 1921 the movement transferred to France where it died. Some of Dada’s spirit was carried into the surrealist movement.

Surrealism was a major literary movement that began in France in the 1920’s. According to Galloway, it reacted against aesthetic tradition and against the sterility of Dada, the surrealist sought to create a super reality that would blend the perceptions of the unconscious mind with the external realities of the phenomenal world (69). Surrealists often used grotesque themes, dreams, hallucinations, and subconscious visions in their writing. One technique was to place ordinary objects in new or illogical situations to stress the superficiality of conventional visions of reality. Around 1940, surrealism ceased to enjoy the authority of an organized movement. Some writers that used surrealism were Nathanael West, Nathalie Sarraute, James Purdy, and Michel Butor.

There are several different types of criticism in literature. Criticism is the systematic study and evaluation of literary works, usually based on a specific set of principles. The practice of criticism has raised numerous theories and methods sometimes conflicting with other interpretations of literature. It has even raised basic issues such as what makes up a poem or a novel. A term used in criticism is classicism; classicism is used to describe critical principles that have their roots in ancient Greek and Roman literature. Literature associated with classicism usually displays restraint on the part of the author, unity of design and purpose, clarity, simplicity, logical organization, and respect for tradition. Neoclassicism refers to the revival of the attitudes and styles of expression in classical literature. It is normally used to describe a period of European history beginning in the late 17th Century and ending in about 1800. It marked a return to order, proportion, restraint, logic, accuracy, and decorum. Neoclassicism writers typically reacted against the intensity and enthusiasm of the Renaissance period. They wrote works that appealed to the intellect by using elevated language and classical literary forms such as satire. A movement in 20th Century criticism was structuralism; it examines how literary texts arrive at their meanings, rather than the meaning itself. “There are two major types of structuralism analysis: one examines the way patterns of linguistic structures unify a specific text and emphasize certain elements of that text, and the other interprets the way literary forms and conventions affect the meaning of language itself” (Gale). In the late 1920’s, the New Criticism movement came about. It stressed close textual analysis in the interpretation of works of literature. Its critics saw little value in historical and biographical analysis; instead they aimed to examine the text alone and not to be influenced by external events. “Platonic Criticism was a form that stressed an artistic work’s usefulness as an agent of social engineering rather than any quality or value of the work itself” (Franklin). Another method of criticism, developed by Jacques Derrida, characterized multiple conflicting interpretations of a given work; it was called Deconstruction. Deconstructionists consider the impact of the language of a work and suggest that the true meaning of the work is not necessarily the meaning that the author intended (Gale). Other methods of criticism include: psychoanalytic, poststructuralist, new historicist, and many more.

Literature has many different interpretations that may or may not be right. A different type of criticism and form could be made up to refer to a specific story. Each type caters more specifically to one story versus another. A story could be classified as one form and another story with similar events could be categorized as a completely different one. Of the many different types there already are many more will come and they will just be exactly what the previous types were. They will be a particular type broken down into two or three other types. Literature is kind of like cars, it started as GM, then Chevrolet, then a Camaro, and last a different model with different options.

Bibliography

Redinger, Ruby, Short Story, Encyclopedia Americana, 1985

Holman, C. Hugh, A Handbook to Literature, Odyssey Press, 1960

Gale, http://www.gale.com/free_resources

Arnason, H.H., Dadism, Encyclopedia Americana, 1985

Galloway, David D., Surrealism, Encyclopedia Americana, 1985

Franklin, John, A Reference Guide to Literature, Donald M. Grant/Scribner, 1989
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