This week, we’ll transition from our discussions of New Criticism and Formalism to an investigation of reader-response (or “reader-oriented”) criticism. Yet we can’t put New Criticism off to the side just yet without addressing the final stage of our three-part method of investigation–learn the literary theory: check. Apply the literary theory: check. Critique the literary theory: (see below).
Our main bloggers for this week are Josh Kim and Brian Finnerty. By Monday at midnight, Josh and Brian will compose and post responses that will then be commented on by the group. They’ll respond to the following:
Last week, for Thursday’s class, I asked you to read Cleanth Brooks’ short essay, “The Formalist Critics”, in which Brooks described, in 1951, what he perceived to be the merits of New Criticism/Formalism (of which he is a practitioner). After reading (or re-reading) this essay, write a letter of 500-550 words to Cleanth Brooks in you do the following
- Isolate at least two specific claims Brooks makes about New Criticism as an approach to literature and address them: do you agree? why? do you disagree? how so? (When you do this, please refer your imagined reader, Dr. Brooks, back to his own language in the essay. (i.e. “Towards the conclusion of your essay your propose that, “…_____…,” a point with which I agree/disagree” or something to that effect.)
- Consider your own encounter with New Criticism over the last week and a half and make an argument, based on your experiences analyzing the work of Wallace Stevens and Emily Dickinson, about what the most useful aspects of this method have been for you. Then, explain what you perceive to be one of its flaws as an overall approach to intepreting literature. (You may want to discuss, for instance, whether the technique lends itself more easily to poetry than prose.)
- Conclude with a closing adieu and your name (“Until we meet again…” or something more lively…go to town.)
Commentators on this post, who should submit their responses by midnight on Wednesday, should weigh in (in 150-200 words) on their own reactions to Brooks’ defense of the New Critical approach, as well as highlighting anything you think the main bloggers said particularly well, or something you wish they would have mentioned.
Reading for the week is on the “course readings” page of this blog. Just this once, I’ve attached the “reader-response” section for those last few people who may not yet have Charles Bressler’s Literary Criticism. Also, as we did not get to discuss Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” on Thursday, that will be on the table for discussion this week, too, along with our new story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”–one of my favorites.
Looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday at 1:40,