Prompt #3: Critiquing the New Critics

Posted in prompts at 5:01 pm by Dominique

Dear all,

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,


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  1.    brianfinnerty91 said,

    September 12, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Dear Cleanth Brooks,

    In your short essay, “The Formalist Critics”, you talk about the merits of New Criticism/Formalism. In this essay we as new critics learn that “literature has many uses” and we critics propose these new uses. You also state that “there is no ideal reader”. We as readers analyze a particular piece in different ways and therefore there is no one way to read or depict a particular poem or reading.
    Throughout your essay you bring up many strong claims about how New Criticism is used as an approach to analyze literature. From this essay I thought there were two claims that you stated that stood out from the rest. One claim stated was your argument that the primary concern of criticism is unity. “Form and content cannot be separated” and “form is meaning” you argue in your essay. I agree with your claim about this unity between form and content. I believe that in every literature piece there has to be structure and a meaning for writing the piece. I also believe that the poem/writing has to in some way relate to the reader so that the reader can enjoy reading the piece.
    Another claim that you bring up is your claim on how “literature is written to be read” and how a “poem’s historical context cannot be ignored”. From the essay we learn that poets write poems for many different reasons. They write “from all sorts of motives” and also on the feelings and emotions they have at that time. To read a poem and to understand a poem are two different things. To understand a poem one must see where the writer/poet is coming from and why he/she is writing that particular piece. I agree with this claim because I believe that in order to comprehend the writer the literatures historical context cannot be ignored.
    As new critics we are taught to read a particular type of literature piece more than once. From Charles Bressler’s “Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice”, we learn that to become a “good critic” we have to “examine a poem’s structure by scrutinizing its poetic elements, rooting out and showing its inner tensions, and demonstrating how the poem supports its overall meaning by reconciling these tensions into a unified whole”. We have to ask what words need to be defined and why these words have to be defined. From this past week I have learned that to be a good critic I have to pick out words in a poem/reading that I am not familiar with. By doing this it will help me find the main meaning of the poem much easier. We also have to realize what symbols and images are being used throughout the poem.
    By analyzing the work of poets like Wallace Stevens and Emily Dickinson we as new critics can see why poems are written out of different motives and emotions. Poets write based on feelings and emotions they feel at that particular time. By reading Dickinson’s poem, “I Like a Look of Agony”, we can see how much her feelings of agony played into the poem. There are many useful approaches to help us interpret literature but I feel some are not as good as others. The one technique that I feel is not as helpful as the other is how as a new critic you are taught to read the poem/writing more than once and at some times more than twice. I feel as a reader that this is too time consuming. If I interpret and understand the poem the first time I feel that there is no reason to read it again.
    Hopefully you will agree with my reasoning and points Mr. Brooks.

    Thank You,
    Brian Finnerty

  2.    joshuak314 said,

    September 12, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Dear Dr. Brooks

    When I first came upon New Criticism I immediately thought that it was useless. I believed the purpose of literature to be something which needed to be decided by each individual, since one work may be significant to one person and be completely useless to another. The idea that you could criticize a piece of work so generally that it could be useful to everyone, seemed to be ludicrous to me. Yes it definitely could be useful in an academic setting to help better understand a piece of work, but for the general public who are the main readers of literature, it seemed to me completely ineffective. When you referred to man’s experience being a seamless garment in saying “if we urge this fact of inseparability against the drawing of distinctions, then there is no point in talking about criticism at all” I instantly took to mind the thought that there was indeed no point in talking about criticism or even writing criticism. This was mostly due to my thought that it could not improve the reading experiences of the general reader. How could it? How could it contribute to the reading experience of everyone who ever reads it, when every individual who reads it is unique in their own way? That question to myself was what revealed to me, the error of my thoughts. I realized that was exactly what new criticism was trying not to do. The whole point was to not input personal experiences and emotion into the reading of literature, because that would only allow a person with the same personal experiences and at the same emotional state as the critic to be able to fully understand and benefit from the critique. This realization caused me to look through my past week and a half in which I played the role of a new critic to see if this way of looking through a piece of work actually helped me in my experiences with a piece of work. Almost immediately a quote came to mind, “knowledge enhances our experiences”. I believed this to be true when I first came upon this quote and believed it was the case with new criticism as well. I realized the purpose of new criticism was to enhance our reading of a piece of work and looking back at my attempt at formalism, it had. When reading a piece of work for the first time without much thought, I believe most people just view the work as a whole. New criticism allowed me to view the work in pieces as well. To see how the pieces add up to the whole and how each piece contributes to the whole. I also saw how that benefit could become detrimental to the new critic. I saw that one could easily become so focused on analyzing the parts that they lose focus of the whole. But this flaw could easily be overcome if one reminds oneself to not lose focus of the whole, which is actually one of the important aspects of New Criticism. So I guess it can’t be called a flaw of new criticism, but an error which new criticism might cause one to make. Back to your work, I would say I agree most with you on your view that there are certain circumstances where new criticism is useful and others where it takes away from a piece of work. I guess it’s true that even the best things should be taken in moderation.

    I hope to hear back from you on your latest arguments on the importance of ambiguity and paradox in understanding poetry.

    Joshua Kim

  3.    victoriane said,

    September 12, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Brook’s defense of the New Critical approach is clearly stated throughout the text. The new critical approach does not consist of a specific type of reader. In fact, “The Formalist Critics” states text are written “as expressions of particular personalities and are written from all types of motives.” This could also mean the text can be interpret how one may perceive it. I enjoyed reading this approach because I agreed with Brook’s defense especially when he mentions “literary work is a document…and can be analyzed in terms of the forces that have produced it.” I believe this is true in almost everything we read. When one writes a poem, novel, story etc. you write it according to ones feelings, beliefs, or character. Brook’s also mentions an authors personal life is important but should not interfere with the text itself.
    I agree with both commentators positions on the reading. I enjoyed reading Joshua’s change of interest during his reading. Joshua also points out an interesting part of the reading when Brook’s tells us to view the text as pieces rather than a whole. I was also taken back at first but understood how each part of a story may contribute to the whole text.

  4.    nadiab said,

    September 13, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    In the essay, “The Formalist Critics” by Cleanth Brooks, he discusses the uses of New Criticism in literature. Brooks first introduces us to articles about literary criticism that a reader may look into. He then writes about the misunderstandings that individuals have about New Criticism. The first misunderstanding is that in order to critique any type of text, the reader has to disregard the author and his background. The second misunderstanding is for the reader to detach himself from the audience that reads the text. Brooks goes on to resolve these misunderstandings and give details about New Criticisms. He explains to the reader the task of the formalist critics in literature. He gives us the assumptions of the formalist critic and the process of analyzing a text using New Criticism.

    At first, I was skeptical about New Criticism. Literature can be interpreted in many ways. Individuals vary in the way they analyze a text. However, while reading Brooks essay, I came to realize that New Criticism can be helpful. If a poem is difficult for me to understand and interpret, I find that the New Critic approach is useful in finding an interpretation.

    Both Brian and Joshua commented well on the essay “The Formalist Critics”. They both discussed about form and content in literature. Both form and content is important in New Criticism. However, Joshua found a mistake that a reader can make in this aspect of New Criticism. Sometimes a reader can be focused merely on each part of a text while forgetting about the entirety of it. But he does mention that a reader should stay focus and to keep in mind the whole of the text.

  5.    amark916 said,

    September 14, 2011 at 12:07 am

    In “The Formalist Critics”, Brooks emphasizes that the formalist critic identifies primarily with the work itself while overlooking the biography and psychology of the author. The formalist critic’s goal is to criticize the work itself therefore the critic assumes the authors intention and assumes an ideal reader, enabling the critic to find a central point of reference from which he can focus upon (252). The formalist critic does not take into account the author’s feelings about the literary work. Brooks says that the author’s feelings are irrelevant. Brooks believes that a person’s emotional state on a specific text should not interfere with what the work is, and how the parts of it are related (253). As I read Joshua’s letter, I completely agreed with him when he explained in the first paragraph that new criticism is just too general. We, the readers are human and almost always run off of emotion in many aspects of our lives. I also agree when he explained that new criticism may cause the critic to make an error while evaluating a specific text. He said that “one could easily become so focused on analyzing the parts that they lose focus of the whole”, but he emphasizes that the reader must remind themselves that they are looking at the text as a whole. Personally, I am not a fan of the new critical approach. With that being said, I am that person who interprets what I read from an emotional point of view and from life experiences. I also believe that an author’s biography and psychology plays a large part in the “why’ behind their writings, whether it is a poem or a novel.

  6.    awilliams108 said,

    September 14, 2011 at 12:53 am

    Dear Mr. Brooks,
    I am writing this letter base on your essay “The Formalist Critic”, were you made two points that you claim in your essay about the misunderstanding and objections that was made with dealing with literacy. One of the claims was in order to make novel and poem that main focus of criticism requires cutting it loose from it’s authors and from life as a man, where his own particular hopes, fears, interest, conflicts.(brooks, 246). The study of literature is still primarily a study of the ideas and personality of the authors as reveled in letters, diaries, and recorded conversation of friends. Ostensibly as literacy gossip columnist who purveys literacy. I have agree with the point where brian made, where we are reader look and text differently, we my then emphasize in writing different as well. The first claim, was shows us readers is reading authors personal life in just one book or text. You also perceive that when reading a poets poem, we break down the fundamentals, thats why we readers can either create a route where we choose to re-write it as new critics.
    Brooks second claims was emphasizes that all literature is meant to be read and that id we ignore the or neglect the audiences that that reads there poems an stories cause the literary history to be prompt to the point where it have its roots in history, past or present which cannot be ignored. Most of these poets poems are basically written by each poets life of being, it be a new critic or a formalist, its still written the same.
    Josh i also agree to your statement, why be a critic to someone hard working, the work that that person put in for so long. BUT when we critic a text, its how we all approach it. Should look at a poem as a negative stanza, cheerful, sad, sorrow. How we take it we write it.

  7.    marissae17 said,

    September 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    In the essay, “The Formalist Critics”, Brooks’ first main point was about cutting the poem or novel loose from its author and from the author’s life, implicating that the poem or text has nothing to do with the author’s personal experiences and their writing. This is one major point that I disagree with regarding New Critics. I feel that authors and poets are successful in their career because some personal experience, memory or inspiration had to have caused them to want to write about whatever they did, in the way they did it. Authors don’t put randomly assorted topics in a hat, pick one out and decide that that is what they are going to write about.

    However, I agree with Brian’s statement on Brooks’ claim that “form and content cannot be separated”. I feel that in order to get a complete understanding of a text or poem, you need to understand what the author is trying to say, piece by piece, but also as a whole.

  8.    GordonWTam said,

    September 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    “The Formalist Critics” was a great way to summarize our week as new critics. I enjoyed having to dissect a text without worrying about what mental state the author was in. A new critic is incredibly analytical, and I agreed with many of their approaches. One unified meaning of a text is very agreeable to me, since I have always felt that people get way too caught up in the belief that there hundreds of actual meanings to a text. Relativism is something I think I’ll always try to avoid, even when I’m not using a new critical approach. I don’t enjoy the idea that “any meaning you pull out is correct”. That being said, I can’t actually say that some texts ONLY have one meaning. I just think it’s nice that new critics are trying to narrow it down to one.

    I find myself swayed by Brian’s account on new criticism. He basically writes to Cleanth Brooks that while new criticism is useful in many ways, analyzing structures and looking at texts as a whole, he finds that particular authors such as Dickinson don’t write without injecting their feelings into the poem. If we don’t take into account those feelings also, some of the meaning is lost. And I agreed.

    I understand that there are many approaches to criticizing literature, and I now know why New Criticism, or “Formalist Critics” is such a popular one. They’ve set an incredibly hard task in front of them by trying to squash all of a text into one whole and pulling out one single unified meaning.

  9.    rasuli said,

    September 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    In Cleanth Brooks’ essay “The Formalist Critic,” he emphasizes on the importance of the audience’s involvement to define the work as a whole. Brooks states that “if we neglect the audience which reads the work, including that for which it was presumably written, the literary historian is prompt to point out that the kind of audience that the Pope had did condition the kind of poetry he wrote” (247). Furthermore, Brooks defines the Formalist critic as one who “knows as well as anyone that a poems and plays and novels are written by men—that they do not somehow happen—and that they are written as expressions of particular personalities and are written from all sorts of motives—for money, from a desire to express oneself, for the sake of a cause, etc” (247) A reader contributes an enormous amount of inferences to the understanding and interpretation of the work itself by re-creating it in their mind and asserting their own interests, ideas and prejudices.
    Last week in class we applied the New Critic approach to analyze Wallace Stevens “The Snow Man” and some poems by Emily Dickinson. Although this approach was tough to grasp at first, it helped the reader to process the work as an object, as a unified whole that had to be interpreted in parts and put together to uncover the central paradox, however as Joshua stated “one could easily become so focused on analyzing the parts that they lose focus of the whole”. By breaking up the poem into several parts and treating it as an object the reader loses the aesthetic sense of the text, without being able to experience the work, it is far less enjoyable. As one begins to read a text, they can not help but make inferences based on the historical roots of the work as well as apply a vast array of ideas along with their own life experiences in order to analyze the text. I feel that both approaches help to analyze the meaning of a text, but one is more uniform than the other, the Formalist Critic is more open to involving the reader, which is primarily the approach used more often than the latter.

  10.    acervinaro90 said,

    September 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    “The Formalist Critic” by Brooks was definitely right on target when it came to writing about new criticism. This essay helped me clear up my misunderstandings that I had about new criticism. When reading the poems by Emily Dickinson I was so challenged because I didn’t understand how to just use the text. Just like Brian stated knowing the type of poet that she was and knowing her background I wanted to include that in my interpretation. I thought with new criticism we couldn’t do that, but after reading the piece by Brooks he definitely helped me understand that we really can’t disregard all the history we might know about that specific writer, but that shouldn’t be our main source for interpreting a poem or a piece of literature. I agree with Joshua, at first I thought new criticism was useless, but in the course of the last two weeks I haven’t come to fully agree with it, but I partially do. One aspect of new criticism that I actually came to like is re-reading the poem. In the past I was just so use to giving my opinion that sometimes I didn’t really pay much attention to the actual words and to all the elements that were being used. My personal opinion is that new criticism can be useful with specific pieces. Sometimes you just have to input your opinion in order to figure out the meaning of the poem and other times using the actual words can be a great help.

    -Alessandra Cervinaro

  11.    jenn691 said,

    September 14, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Brook’s statement about New Criticism was right on target and referred to all the elements of New Criticism accurately, percisly, and effectively. In my regards to analyzing literature, especially poetry, I am on the fence with New Criticism, with some aspects of it I agree with and vise versa. I agree that “form and content” cannot be separated because if it is, the poem seems to go nowhere and to make sense of the reading would be close to impossible, which is why language is such a key element of literature as well. Language determines how much comprehension is absorbed through the reading, determining it’s effectivness and response of the reader. But the fact that New Criticism states, and Brook’s states that each poem only has one meaning and only whats literally written on the page is what matters, I feel is completely absurd. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but with EACH opinion of EACH individual, EACH response to a poem will indeed be different because no two people are the same and think alike. As much as we would like to try and not be biased, putting our personal experiences, feelings, emotions, and the authors’ background into perspective while analyzing a piece is purely inevitable. Poetry is a prime example for writers to express themselves and most often what they have seen, or feel at the exact moment or over time, so without knowing a little bit about the author, the meaning that we make of a poem soley through language can easily be way off. I agree with Brooks because he does state and acknowledge the difficulty of disregarding personal views, opinions, and author’s experiences, which that credit in most certainly deserved. I agree with the main bloggers and with Brian, I feel I analyze literature in a much similar perspective; which is more the “reader-response” method we are now covering in class. I agree poems are meant for different reasons, caused by different feelings and emotions, and there is not just one meaning to every poem, that up to perspective and what you make of it. Language, form, and general subject matter, and most often theme can be the only elements that remain constant and definite to all while interpreting literature. I do believe though, that you may have to rewad a poem more than once because more often than others, poems are very complex or at least they seem that way, and you do not always catch every important detail the first time around, usually a second reading would definitely enchance comprehension and more of a through analysis. Overall, I believe Brooks had a definite voice in mind and is very valid in regards to the New Critical Approach and the following elements, but that “reader-response’ method will seem more relatable and what we all are most comfortable and acquainted to in regards to analyzing poetry and the way we have, or at least I have in the past.

  12.    jruiz104 said,

    September 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Jose Ruiz
    English 170W

    “The Formalist Critics” by Cleanth Brooks, he talks about literature is written to be read. A critic knows literary work is just somewhat potential until, a reader is able to re-create in their minds, their ideas. Brooks also explain how the thinking process of an author takes away the critic away from the work into a biography or psychology. For instance, doing a background check on the author work before you stated your ideas; take away the meaning of being a Formalist Critic. He also discusses that there is no ideal reader because it put the reader into sheer arrogance and avoiding the “True” meaning of the poem. I agree on Brian Finnerty statement that “Form and Content cannot be separated” and “Form is meaning is unity” In my opinion, I think this quote means, understanding the True meaning of literature, so that all reader will read what is written. After reading The Formalist Critics I understand and like the approach of finding the meaning of a poem or novel in your opinion. I find this approach much easier than Emily Dickinson.

  13.    Christian Zapata said,

    September 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    New criticism has had varied opinions throughout the class from having a few believing that it is simpler to others who didn’t like it. After reading “The Formalist Critic” by Cleanth Brooks I went from being one of those who didn’t like it to being someone who understands it more and just neutral about it. I agree and like how Brooks believes that the audience should be more involved in the text. This is how it should be seeing how we the readers are the ones who would be reading the literature and forming our own opinions while analyzing the text. However one part of Brooks’s logic on new criticism and the formalist critic that I have trouble getting onboard with is the idea that there’s only one interpretation to a text. With all the possibilities and different mindsets out there, it’s difficult for me to believe there is only one real answer. Joshua’s opinions on new criticism where his views changed is similar to how I feel. He also explained how we new critic’s make mistakes in not viewing each part of the text as a whole, but we instead view each part separate.

  14.    khaff88 said,

    September 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Brooks’ argument for the new critic approach I can’t help but agree with. Now that I understand how this critiquing is used it is easier to comprehend why it is so popular. The new critics method for me was not one I liked in particular, but over the past weeks I have grown to accept this method for what it does; breaking down the poem to its core, what it is physically made of. I agree with Brian’s opinion that every literary work has structure and form.
    For me, I enjoy wondering about what the author is thinking and how many meanings can be brought out from a poem, the complete opposite of New Criticism; but after reading Josh’s letter to Brooks it was more clear to me why people favor this type of criticism. Josh writes about the lack of improvement in critiquing when you have numerous opinions, and I can agree with that. You can’t have different opinions on something when its right there in front of you, if you follow new criticism. If I was to look at a block of wood and say “It’s a block of wood…” and someone else say “No, it’s a block of clay…” there is no real argument because we have physical evidence that it is a block of wood. You cannot have an obscure opinion when it comes to new criticism because all your information is right there in front of you.

  15.    emina said,

    September 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Cleanth Brooks in his essay makes some very interesting points about the formalist critics. He starts off by calling it “bloodless and hollow” to limit criticism. He believes that people think that when you separate it from everything, the author and anything that has to do with the author, then you are removing all meaning from it. He describes that young poets and professors always believe that the poets life has something to do with there text. Which Brooks does not agree with, but is giving some examples of what people think about formalist critics.
    Brian in his response brings up the idea, as Brooks does, that to read and understand a poem are different things. Formalist critics believe that there should be only one real meaning. I disagree with this, I believe that many readings can be analyzed in more then one way. I agree that every analyzation of one text should have some similarity, but I believe this depends on the text that is being read.
    Joshua brings up a great point, when he says that at first he thought it was useless to use this formalist critic approach. I completely agree, I believe that an authors life has a lot to do with the text its self. When doing some research about an author, you can get a better insight to some of the aspects of there text. Even sometimes, some references made by the authors can become understood. Brooks in his essay, disagrees with me. He claims that if we cant separate an authors life from his or her text then why even bother in criticism. But, he does agree that sometimes the two are hard to separate and they become inevitable. “We have to focus on the poem”, Brooks makes this claim to show the reader that everything they need is in front of them while reading.

  16.    kocampo100 said,

    September 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I do agree with most of the comments in general about form and content going hand in hand with each other. I have a difficult time wrapping my brain on the idea that a person should judge a piece of work based solely on the text itself. I guess it depends with what kind of work it is. When it comes to poetry for example I think it’s hard not to comprehend the work based on our emotions. i don’t necessarily have to know the author’s feelings outside of writing but I do believe understanding the work taking into account how the author feels while writing is important. I do agree with the main bloggers that new criticism is not useless, I can see how reading a text over and over again until you come with a solid idea would make sense, I guess it really applies to different types of literature. However I personally feel in most cases, it’s much easier for me to understand if I can look beyond the words.

  17.    mary03 said,

    September 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    I agree with Cleanth Brooks and with Brian , when mr Brooks said “There is no ideal reader”. Each crititc can intrepret the poem or literature differently. I also agreed on how a poem or literature are written by motives from the poet it could be about money , hate , love , and life. This also can help the critic understand and relate to the poem and to the author. Another thing that I agreed on was when brooks said in one of his arguments was that “Form and content can not be separated and the form is meaning “. In my opinion and with what I intrepreted was that the poem has to have meaning to the reader or critic and to the authorin order for it to come alive . However, I liked a few approaches that you can apply to a literature using the ” New Criticism / Formalism ” . I believe the critics should read the literature more than once to fully grasp the whole unity of the poem . Other elements that has helped me fully understand the poem by using ” New Criticism was by looking for the tone and to define words that i dont fully understand . So I feel in my opinion both the “New Criticism and The Formalist ” can assist me or another critic to fully understand a poem.

  18.    steveocarpio said,

    September 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Reading the easy it bring out a few positive and negative point from me, when i was reading, it summarizes how when interpreting a poem, the reader should not mix it in with the author’ past or feelings, i disagree with this, many times when i read a poem and i don’t understand what the meaning is, i look up the person life and i totally get arosed of how diffrent my life is from theres. If someone write aout how difficult it is to grow crops and serve crops and pay on lower wage I would automatically be thinking it has to do with a 3rd world country, but it can also be our ancestors who wrote a poem back when the 13 colonies weren’t established yet. I believe researching and looking up a person’s life is a must.

    I liked both bloggers response to the New Critics and agree with some of their points, I also like the fact that they said that a text in poem should not be read as a whole but piece by piece. A poem with many stanzas can certainly be interpreted better when each stanza shows a meaning, because there has been many cases when the poem reveals its theme or main point in the beginning, middle, or end.

  19.    emendoza said,

    September 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Upon reading the first three pages of Brooks’ essay, “The Formalist Critic,” I have to admit I had already assumed his defense of New Criticism to be subpar and weak. This dismissal of Brooks’ stand may have been due to my previous experience with New Criticism (as this is certainly not the first Theory class I’ve taken), and how deeply engraved in my mind it is– the core idea that when dealing with New Criticism, the main focus is solely the “text itself,” and therefore I found Brooks’ essay a bit contradictory to the ideas of New Criticism. Brooks writes, “Speculation on the mental processes of the author takes the critic away from the work into biography and psychology. There is no reason, of course, why he should not turn away into biography and psychology” (247). The latter half of his statement goes completely in the other direction of everything I’ve been taught about what a New Critic should aim to do. Furthermore, Brooks argues that a poem’s Historical context cannot be ignored, only further irritating me, as my stated in the aforementioned sentence. So there’s that….

    There is ONE thing I can agree on with Brooks, and that is how “there is no ideal reader,” as everyone has all their own prior knowledge, experience, and opinions that ultimately leads them to any number of biases, not only in reading and critique, but in everything. Anyway, I do agree with Brian’s idea, that there must be at least some sense of structure and meaning for writing a text, or at least as readers, we would hope for a text to be somewhat coherent. And let’s face it, who wants to sit down for an extra X hours just to decipher a text that they’re only leisurely reading?
    Brian also stated something about how the reader must be able to relate to a piece of literature in order for one to enjoy reading the piece. I strongly disagree, as I’ve read texts with some outlandish events that never have, nor would ever occur in my own life (ex: Titus Andronicus).

    As far as Josh’s response goes, I disagree with his idea that a too general interpretation/understanding of a text is ludicrous; New Criticism functions with solely the Text Itself, there is obviously going to be a very general understanding of a text if all readers are being fixated to understand said text in a specific way, in this case, the lens of New Criticism.

  20.    Terry said,

    September 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Overall, I appreciate the position Cleanth Brooks takes on new criticism in his essay “The Formalist Critics”, despite disagreeing with some of what he stated. One thing that I do agree on is his view on the relationship between readers and the text. Brooks writes: “…to emphasize the work seems to involve severing it from those who actually read it, and this severance may seem drastic and therefore disastrous. After all, literature is written to be read.” This past week, I struggled to take my own opinions and put them aside to use the New Criticism approach. When analyzing a work of literature, especially poems, the majority of what I use in making sense of it is outside information. When we were just using the information we can scavenge from the text, I felt like I was missing the true spirit of the work. I think new criticism is a good approach to get the basic meaning of a poem, but additional effort is needed.
    Both Brian and Joshua did a good job responding to Brook’s essay. I agree with Brian’s opinion on Brook’s views about form and content not being separated. The form the text is written in can give you just as much information as the content. As Brooks writes: “The form is meaning.”

  21.    terrylghong said,

    September 14, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    I agree with Josh. New Criticism is helpful for us to understand and study the text. However, not putting your own experience to the critic is like not giving a character to a person. I also think New Criticism doesn’t work for everything. Sometimes, we need to look at the text as a whole, especially for modem poem. Break it down word by word will just make it more confusing. For example, This is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams, this poem is very straightforward and you don’t have to check the meaning from a dictionary, or look up where does the word come from. If I don’t include my own experience in the critic I will neither hate nor like any texts. Because I will not able to find any connection but just literally analyze the words.

    Note: This is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams
    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox

    and which
    you were probably
    for breakfast

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold

  22.    beezy said,

    September 15, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Cleanth Brooks essay, “The Formalist Critic”, brings up many valid points. Such as the inability of “form and content” to be split up. The two obviously go hand-in-hand. An author would have to be in a somewhat specific mind-state, filled with any wide range of whichever emotion during the point/time said poem was creatively written. Yes, on one end, New Criticism can be quite handy in the break-down and understanding of a poem, re-reading several times, breaking it down in a highly analytic fashion in the hopes to achieve a universal conclusion. Are we not all human? Do we not feel pain? Passion? Sorrow? In this sense, Brian is absolutely correct that without feeling, part of the meaning is lost. In my opinion, and personal reading/analysis of works, it is practically inevitable to not look beyond the scope of words. Looking for something deeper than that which is on the surface..

    -Enes Mrkulic

  23.    seng101 said,

    September 15, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I feel that what Brian said about how “historical context” should not be ignored, is what helps to give the poem meaning. For me it was hard to understand what the author was trying to tell the reader. In many of the poems some references were made that I or others in the present would not know. From our discussion in class about Emily Dickinson’s poems, some things were referenced to the Bible. Some people in class aren’t familiar with the Bible so they wouldn’t be able to make use of that piece of information given in the poem.
    I also agree with Josh about how each individual has his own interpretation about the poem. Because we don’t know how the author intended the poem to be, we can either determine the writing to be what the author intended or we can come up with something totally different. I can see what New Criticism is getting at. The author is trying to get his readers to find something new in his poem even after reading it once or even twice. There is always something new to be taken from the poem.

  24.    cass88163 said,

    September 15, 2011 at 12:23 am

    As a new critic we aim to AVOID intentional fallacy, which is letting the authors personal connection dictate the text;. Brook points out that “the poem has its roots in history” and that the historical context cannot be ignored. I agree with this theory due to the mere fact that poems, novels, play etc; as Brooks stated, “are written as expressions of particular personalities and are written from all sorts of motives”. Brooks also stated
    “The primary concern with criticism is with the problem of unity”. Its hard to separate the text; analyzing the texts in parts for it to come together as a whole. I also agree with this point because it effects the readers impact on how he or she perceives the text. When a reader is de-familariaizes a text; as i did with “I heard a buzz fly when i died” by Emily Dickinson; as i was following the New Critics approach in interpreting the text, my main concern was figuring out the text itself, within the text itself. Joshua stated in his letter “one could easily become so focused on analyzing the parts that they lose focus of the whole”; i agree because it takes away from the emotional aspect of the poem as a whole, and many times that emotion aspect leaves a impact on the reader. Sometimes allowing hoer input such as historical roots of the author as well as your own personal opinions can make interpreting the text less difficult.

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