“There is then creative reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is as broad as the world.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Literary criticisms combine reading and writing procedures where literary works of varied genre are subjected for evaluation, analysis, descriptions, and interpretations. These literary pieces may be a poem, an essay, a novel a short story, among others. Ogenlewe (2006) also adds that doing literary criticisms are scholarly exercises which weigh and consider the qualities or drawbacks of a certain work.
Literary criticisms come in varied approaches, and these are historical, mythological, biographical, formalistic, psychological, gender, sociological, reader-response, and deconstructionist. These are upshots of literary theories that I perceive as among the remarkable ways that can refurbish students’ academic writing skills. It is therefore proposed that literary works targeted for criticisms need to be matched with the types of approaches to be manipulated. Writers of these kinds should possess a purposeful decision which is based from the nature of a specific work, along with the fact that these approaches may overlap to cause deviation of focus in arriving at a well-written output. Incorporating several practically- formulated principles for an effective written article tend to be a major support. I recommend these criteria to basic learners.
Principle one (1) offers learners to obtain necessary background regarding introduction to literature subject. Background knowledge in literature is a basic criteria before you can employ these approaches. It includes learning individual’s knowledge regarding the genre and elements of literature that connects to literary devices and techniques, timeline of world literature that gives one broad perception on their connections to history, and literary theories which these approaches emanated. Satisfactory level of awareness regarding literary criticism is usually encouraged combined with advanced skill of the English language; writers’ creative and informative ideas in the literary world are manifested through appropriate grammatically-structured forms.
Principle two (2) allows learners to reflect the genre where the literary work belongs. Is it an essay, a novel, a poem, a short story, a biography, a memoir, an autobiography, fable, a play, or a drama, among other forms? What features are usually found in these categories? Knowing the genre of the piece to deal with will provide prospects for everyone to be acquainted with the dominant features found in the written art. A work’s dominant features are implied, or directly stated through the authors’ words which may lead to a suitable literary approach that you can operate. If there’s a need to research on its contexts, you’re encouraged to do so. The information you will gather helps in developing your opening paragraph. They may vary from structures and some other elements such as the theme, or characters will yield a general perception about the work attributing to the relevance of selecting the suitable approach for an effective paper.
Principle three (3) provides opportunities to observe the major distinctions of the literary approaches. Failure to infer distinctions of these approaches is commonly tantamount to inability to apply them. Determining the differences between the literary approaches takes you to a fitting writing style. Your formulated questions measure your capacity of comprehending the rationale behind every approach as a writer. It’s crucial and viable to understand each concept by creating questions out of it, instead of memorizing their definitions. Keep in mind that historical criticism’s purpose is based on the situations and events under particular time; tantamount to saying that it may be linked to the writer’s life, historical, and social background among places during his time. Mythological criticism emphasizes on primordial patterns which have occurred in different time and space known as archetypes. This is either a symbol, a character, a situation, or an image which connects to further understanding among readers. Archetypes are found from fiction or real-life events. Biographical criticism involves the writer’s life which delivers details in supporting analysis. Formalistic approach defines how the elements comprising literary devices and literary techniques are merged as a whole to influence the readers’ perceptions. Psychological criticism is used to analyze the artist’s behavior and how this can be useful or unsettling to sanctioned standards of human interactions. It can also be used to study the writer’s biography and how his life’s events affected his behavior. We can further utilize this by analyzing the writer’s personality through associating psychological facts to support underlying reasons for the emergence of such behavior. Gender criticism sensibly scrutinizes works that project discrimination or prejudices among men and women in achieving equality in the real world. Sociological criticism is employed when we involve the cultural, economic and political situations where this work has been based. Reader-response criticism is used to express varied insights or interpretations linked to readers’ religious, cultural, social belief upon reading the literary works, and then arriving at the real meaning based from the passage. Deconstructionist criticism is an approach employed to understand how a work is created. It’s a way of analyzing by reducing it into smaller parts to discover ideas. It’s a means of ascertaining how an author shows his ideas in words which doesn’t represent fully his intended thoughts by others since words are not exact. Readers have the tendency to make subjective interpretations. By breaking the text, readers will closely comprehend what the author means to arrive at an objective representations of the ideas.
Principle four (4) aids students to familiarize the purposes of each approach and initially examine an opted literary work through guide questions. Creating questions to match a suitable method of study will be beneficial. These questions should synchronize with the factual knowledge regarding these techniques. Does the piece relate to justifiable historical, and social events? Is the work related with the writer’s life when this was made? Does it have dominant allusions or recurring patterns to other works of literature or in real- life situations? Does it strongly relate to author’s biography? Does it comprise varied literary techniques and literary devices? Are there significant literary techniques and devices used as functional elements? Does it project prevailing distinctive behavior which can be investigated through psychological linkages? Does the work reveal points of discrimination or prejudice on men or women’s equal opportunities? How significant are these contradictory points towards specific or general society’ existing social norms? Does it contain cultural, economic and political backgrounds to be examined? Are there ideas that project cultural practices, economic issues, and political events? Does the piece provide varied insights or interpretations associated to man’s religious, cultural, social belief? Is it possible to break it down into smaller parts in order to find out how the language is used by the author in implying his or her specific ideas apart from personal interpretations? Should you decide for subjective over objective interpretations, will you be able to provide your ideas’ supporting details through the words that are extracted from the passages?
Principle five (5) stimulates the learners to decide a final approach. Do you have enough supporting details upon deciding the method to be explored in your writing criticism? For example, you opted historical approach from Leo Tolstoy’s, War and Peace. Are there numerous historical events that you can link in performing this task, or will it be apt if you utilize the formalistic style? Will the details suffice your chosen methodology? While examining the content and features of Edgar Allan Poe’s Cask of Amontillado, you noticed that there are several primordial patterns from other literary works. Would you choose biographical, or focus on mythological method for this matter?
Principle six (6) leads students to decide the intended writing process. Are you going to evaluate, analyze, describe or interpret a preferred work? Do you choose to undergo three or four processes? Will you just discuss on the piece’s qualities or drawbacks, or both? Initially deciding the process such as evaluation, analysis, description and interpretation will deliver you an opportunity for easy reflection of the details which are relevant in the activity.
Principle seven (7) brings beginning writers to limit focus to target a specific subject and organize researched details. To what extent will you write? Writing these types of exercises doesn’t rely more on your opinions. You need to perform some inquiries to sustain your claims. If you’re to write using mythological strategy, will the archetypes thoroughly allude to literature and history? Symbols might have occurred in some fictional works so it is relevant to rely on some sources. Moreover, these symbols might have resemblances in history which your inquiries may support. If you opted formalistic approach, you have to consider the work’s techniques and devices that necessitate some elaboration. There are several literary devices to be explored and that you have to elucidate each one of these in conjunction to what you’re expected to explore encompassing lengthy composition; it’s best to focus on one element. Perhaps, you can pick one to be expounded such as between the characters, theme/s, or the setting/s. Thus, you will arrive at a title, Character Analysis of Guy De Maupassant’s The Necklace, or Setting Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s, Cask of Amontillado. One alternative is to combine two elements together. As an example, connect the settings and themes of a literary masterpiece which may result to Thematic and Setting Analysis of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Execution of this principle provides specific concentration on desired topics. Since you have enough supporting details to back your chosen appropriate approach, you can start writing.
To further appreciate these suggested principles, here’s an example from Percy Beshy Shelly’s Ozymandias where its archetypes are used for mythological approach. Thus, the title is expressed as, Euphoric Supremacy In Shelly’s Ozymandias, A Mythological Approach
Euphoric Supremacy In Shelly’s Ozymandias,
A Mythological Approach
Ozymandias is a sonnet written in 1817 during the Romantic Age in England. The poem’s passage is closely perceived as a chronicle of the past and the present which are revealed and represented by the archetypes such as symbols, characters, and situations. The scattered fragments of a shattered statue once built and worshiped is a strong symbol of declined and obnoxious authority or power. The crushed statue also signifies abusively aggressive characters, and replicates situations in dark history of human control where the governed in a territory, in the long run, resist tremendous abuses. These archetypes allude to both literature and history.
In literature whatever period some works may fall, this poem displays the deadly influence of power. In Greek mythology, Icarus fully aware of his improvised wings, continued to fly as far as he could discontented of the pleasures he felt while hovering up high, unrelentingly soar despite his father’s warning. His behavior represents human being’s great tendencies to go beyond limits. Secondly, in Christopher Marlowe’s Faust, Dr. Faust as the main character isn’t satisfied of his acumen conveyed by his unjustifiable decision for making a pact with the devil in exchange of his soul for extraordinary powers, which finally led to his gruesome destruction. He had been lured by a devil-vested power to a euphoria that he never noticed the fast-moving time awaiting for his tragic end. These two characters in literature are symbolic of people who fatefully tailor their dooms out of discontentment, amplified by misused of power.
Historically, the sonnet provides recollections of other countries’ uprisings against dictatorial rule around the world. World leaders whose regimes were deposed have one thing in common- removal through rebellion. Some of them had smashed statues, figurative of their destinies. In reference to the poem, Ramesses’ once- idolized shattered statue in 1816 is a primordial or recurring patterns to modern history. Comparatively, in the mid 80’s, revolting Filipinos initially shattered a huge bust of the Philippines’ former president Ferdinand Marcos in the Northern highlands of the country that marked his dynastic regime’s downfall. In 2002, it was completely destroyed. In 1991, the statue of Russia’s Felix Dzerzhinsky was toppled. In 2003, Saddam Hussain’s enormous statue was crushed in Iraq. Also, in 2013, anti-government protests in Ukraine smashed asunder the statue of Russia’s Vladimir Lenin. This year, China’s former communist leader Mao Zedong’s gold-colored effigy was dismantled. All of these structures’ obliteration are indicators of citizens’ protests against abusive powers, surfacing the fact that no rough supremacy is permanent, and that it can be lethal to the beholders, if these cause the agony of the ruled majority.
“Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains.”
The poem embeds allusions of historical conflicts which to these days continue to recur reaching almost a quarter of the 21st century exposing similarities among other nations’ populace whose long- awaited common objective is to achieve change. Shelley expressed in his poem, that a king’s rule has finally ended and that the unified wrath of the public he once governed with autocracy led to the devastation of his once- adored effigy. The power to command has finally faded.
“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command..”
The poem’s archetypes recollect current symbolical scenarios of fallen leaders in world events. The ongoing sieges similar to the Syrian civil war, the former uprisings in Ukraine and its conflict with Russia, the clashes that took place in Venezuela, and the recently concluded Thai citizens’ uprising, downfalls of unwanted leaders as results of groundbreaking acts that marked primal patterns. Time has created a natural timeline of downfalls that drumbeat the archetypes found in Shelly’s sonnet. In 2000, Serbia protest erupted in Belgrade against Slobodan Milosevic. In 2003, Hussein was overthrown. Also at the same year, Georgia’s Edward Shevardnadze was forced to resign during the Rose Revolution. In 2005, Kyrgyzstan’s Azkar Akayev was dethroned during the Tulip Revolution. In 2011, Tunisia’s Zine El -Abidene Ben Ali sought exile in Saudi Arabia during the Arab Spring Revolution, and in the same year, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was murdered by protestors. Other leaders followed to fall. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, a longtime leader was sentenced to life, and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh vacated his administration by people power. All of these situations tend to be mirrored in Shelly’s poem.
These remarkable lines convey the end of puppetry. Gone were the moments when man’s rational capacities were replaced or barred by deceiving human sovereignty. The following combined metaphoric lines highlight the termination of a despotic rule:
“Vast and trunkless legs of stone, stand in the desert; sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown; and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command; these lifeless things; the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed; king of kings; mighty, and despair, and nothing beside remains.”
Time being the greatest element of change seemed to have offered lessons among humanity through indirect retributions. Through uncontrolled man-made phenomena such as tyrannical governance, the ruled endowed their reasons instead of sentiments by choosing commendable leaders if not to eradicate them through revolts. As a silent witness to gruesome human deeds, time must have been mourning to what it sees by offering the right moment of enlightenment for the beset innocent populace who hunger freedom and tranquility in order to once again fully embrace the splendid spirit of valuing human lives in a battered planet.
Kissinger says power is an aphrodisiac, but Shelly’s archetypes-full poem articulates it as a euphoric key to one’s catastrophic defeat and oblivion. Shelly’s piece aside from recounting historical events foreshadow similar occurrences. It brings us to a point that in as far as power is abused, time awaits its defeat in varied forms or symbols; the shattering of abusive leaders’ busts is one. The archetypes embedded in this poem are revelations of truth found in history which has several resemblances among literary works consciously or unconsciously projected.