A 350 word essay on “The Waste Land” by T.S Eilot. The paper should include a brief summary of the work (around 100 words). Then it should give a detailed analysis of the work using 1 of the critical approaches that are in the file I uploaded. Make sure to use examples from the text to back up your writing and your only source should be the work itself.
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Literary Criticism and Theory: Six Critical Approaches
Traditional Approaches: Biographical and Historical
• Type of criticism that dominated until the 1930s
• Study of literature was mostly biography or history
• Art seen as a reflection of author’s life and times (or of the characters’ life and times)
• Necessary to know about the author and the political, economical, and sociological context of the time
period to understand a work
• Operated on the belief that the larger purpose of literature is to teach morality and probe philosophical
• Works for some texts obviously political or moral in nature.
• Helps place allusions in proper classical, political, or biblical background as well as to consider the
themes of works.
• Recognizes that the message of a work—not just the vehicle for that message—is important.
• “The Intentional Fallacy”—The New Critics’ term for the belief that the meaning or value of a work lies
in determining the author’s intent, which, unless the author has put into writing his/her intent, is not
• New Critics believe such an approach reduces art to the level of biography and makes art relevant to a
particular time only rather than universal.
• Some argue that such an approach is too judgmental.
Checklist of Biographical Critical Questions
• What influences—people, ideas, movements, events—evident in the writer’s life does the work reflect?
• To what extent are the events described in the work a direct transfer of what happened in the writer’s
• What modifications of the actual events has the writer made in the literary work? For what possibly
• What are the effects of the differences between actual events and their literary transformation in the
poem, story, play, or essay?
• What has the author revealed in the work about his/her characteristic modes of thought, perception, or
emotion? What place does this work have in the artist’s literary development and career?
A Checklist of Historical Critical Questions
• When was the work written? When was it published? How was it received by the critics and public and
• What does the work’s reception reveal about the standards of taste and value during the time it was
published and reviewed?
• What social attitudes and cultural practices related to the action of the word were prevalent during the
time the work was written and published?
• What kinds of power relationships does the work describe, reflect, or embody?
• How do the power relationships reflected in the literary work manifest themselves in the cultural
practices and social institutions prevalent during the time the work was written and published?
• To what extent can we understand the past as it is reflected in the literary work? To what extent does the
work reflect differences from the ideas and values of its time?
Formalistic Approach (New Criticism)
• Close reading and analysis of elements such as setting, irony, paradox, imagery, and metaphor
• Reading stands on its own
• Awareness of denotative and connotative implications
• Alertness to allusions to mythology, history, literature
• Sees structure and patterns
• Primarily used during the first two-thirds of the 20th century
• This style of analysis involves a close reading of a text and the assumption that all information
necessary to the interpretation of a work must be found within the work itself.
• Performed without research
• Emphasizes value of literature apart from its context
• Text is seen in isolation
• Ignores context of the work
• Cannot account for allusions
• Tends to reduce literature to just a few narrow rhetorical devices, such as irony, paradox, and tension
A Checklist of Formalistic Critical Questions
• How is the work structured or organized? How does it begin? Where does it go next? How does it end?
What is the work’s plot? How is its plot related to its structure?
• What is the relationship of each part of the work to the work as a whole? How are the parts related to
• Who is narrating or telling what happens in the work? How is the narrator, speaker, or character
revealed to readers? How do we come to know and understand this figure?
• Who are the major and minor characters, what do they represent, and how do they relate to one another?
• What are the time and place of the work—its setting? How is the setting related to what we know of the
characters and their actions? To what extent is the setting symbolic?
• What kind of language does the author use to describe, narrate, explain, or otherwise create the world of
the literary work? More specifically, what images, similes, metaphors, symbols appear in the work?
What is their function? What meanings do they convey?
Psychological Approach (Freudian)
• Most controversial, most abused, least appreciated form
• Associated with Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his followers
• Emphasis on the unconscious aspects of the human psyche
• Experimental and diagnostic; closely related to biological science
• All human behavior is motivated ultimately by the prime psychic force, libido
• Because of the powerful social taboos attached to sexual impulses, many of our desires and memories
• The psychoanalytic critic tends to see all concave images as female symbols and all images whose
length exceeds their diameter as male symbols
• Such activities as dancing, riding, and flying are symbols of sexual pleasures
• Pitfalls: the practitioners of the Freudian approach often push their critical theses too hard at the expense
of other relevant considerations; they often simplify and distort
• Helpful for understanding works whose characters have psychological issues
A valuable tool in understanding human nature, individual characters, and symbolic meaning
• Psychological criticism can turn a work into little more than a psychological case study, neglecting to
view it as a piece of art.
• Critics tend to see sex in everything, exaggerating this aspect of literature. Some works simply do not
lend themselves to this approach
Checklist of Psychological Critical Questions
• What connections can you make between your knowledge of an author’s life and the behavior and
motivations of characters in his or her work?
• How does your understanding of the characters, their relationships, their actions, and their motivations
in a literary work help you better understand the mental world and imaginative life, or the actions and
motivations of the author?
• How does a particular literary work—its images, metaphors, and other linguistic elements—reveal the
psychological motivations of its characters or the psychological mindset of its author?
• To what extent can you employ the concepts of Freudian psychoanalysis to understand the motivations
of literary characters?
• What kinds of literary works and what types of literary characters seem best suited to a critical approach
that employs a psychological or psychoanalytical perspective? Why?
• How can a psychological or psychoanalytical approach to a particular work be combined with an
approach from another critical perspective—for example, biographical, formalist, or feminist criticism?
Mythological and Archetypal Approaches
• Appeals to some very deep chord in all of us
• Illuminates dramatic and universal human reactions
• Concerned with the motives that underlie human behavior
• Speculative and philosophic; affinities with religion, anthropology, and cultural history
• Myth is ubiquitous in time as well as place, unites past with present, reaches toward future
• Interested in prehistory and the biographies of the gods
• Probes for the inner spirit which gives the outer form its vitality and enduring appeal
• Sees the work holistically, as the manifestation of vitalizing, integrative forces arising from the depths
of humankind’s collective psyche
• No other critical approach possesses quite the same combination of breadth and depth
• Takes us far beyond the historical and aesthetic realms of literary study—back to the beginning of
humankind’s oldest rituals and beliefs and deep into our own individual hearts
• Works well with work that is highly symbolic
• Because this approach is so interesting, must take care not to discard other valuable instruments; can’t
open all literary doors with the same key
• Myth critics tend to forget that literature is more than a vehicle for archetypes and ritual patterns.
Checklist of Mythological Critical Questions
• What incidents in the work seem common or familiar enough as actions that they might be considered
symbolic or archetypal? Are there any journeys, battles, falls, reversals of fortune, etc.?
• What kinds of character types appear in the work? How might they be classified?
What creatures, elements of nature, or man-made objects playing a role in the work might be considered
What changes do the characters undergo? How can those changes be characterized or named? To what
might they be related or compared?
What religious or quasi-religious traditions might the work’s story, characters, elements, or objects be
compared to or affiliated with? Why?
• Sees the exclusion of women from the literary canon as a political as well as aesthetic act
• Works to change the language of literary criticism
• Examines the experiences of women from all races, classes, cultures
• Feminist criticism reasserts the authority of experience
• Exposes patriarchal premises and resulting prejudices to promote discovery and reevaluation of
literature by women
• Examines social, cultural, and psychosexual contexts of literature and criticism
• Describes how women in texts are constrained in culture and society
• Gender is conceived as complex cultural idea and psychological component rather than as strictly tied to
• Always political and always revisionist
• Feminist literary criticism has most developed since the women’s movement beginning in the early
• Women have been somewhat underrepresented in the traditional canon; a feminist approach to literature
helps redress this problem
• Feminist critics turn literary criticism into a political battlefield and overlook the merits of works they
• When arguing for a distinct feminine writing style, feminist critics tend to regulate women’s literature to
ghetto status; this in turn prevents female literature from being naturally included in the literary canon.
• Often too theoretical
Checklist of Feminist Critical Questions
• To what extent does the representation of women (and men) in the work reflect the place and time in
which the work was written?
• How are the relationships between men and women or those between members of the same sex
presented in the work? What roles do men and women assume and perform and with what
• Does the author present the work from within a predominantly male or female sensibility? Why might
this have been done, and with what effects?
• How do the facts of the author’s life relate to the presentation of men and women in the work? To their
relative degrees of power?
• How do other works by the author correspond to this one in their depiction of the power relationships
between men and women?
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