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Michael Papp
Michael Papp

Historical Biographical Approach To Literary Criticism

Biographical criticism is a form of literary criticism which analyzes a writer's biography to show the relationship between the author's life and their works of literature.[2] Biographical criticism is often associated with historical-biographical criticism,[3] a critical method that "sees a literary work chiefly, if not exclusively, as a reflection of its author's life and times".[4]

historical biographical approach to literary criticism

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Like any critical methodology, biographical criticism can be used with discretion and insight or employed as a superficial shortcut to understanding the literary work on its own terms through such strategies as Formalism. Hence 19th century biographical criticism came under disapproval by the so-called New Critics of the 1920s, who coined the term "biographical fallacy"[7][8] to describe criticism that neglected the imaginative genesis of literature.

Notwithstanding this critique, biographical criticism remained a significant mode of literary inquiry throughout the 20th century, particularly in studies of Charles Dickens and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others. The method continues to be employed in the study of such authors as John Steinbeck,[2] Walt Whitman[3] and William Shakespeare.[9]

In The Cambridge history of literary criticism: Classical criticism, in a chapter titled "Peripatetic Biographical Criticism", George Alexander Kennedy notes that in the Hellenistic age, "The works of authors were read as sources of information about their lives, personalities and interests. Some of this material was then used by other commentators and critics to explain passages in their works. The process became a circular one in that, though Peripatetic biographers utilized external evidence where available, they had little to go on and quarried the texts for hints".[10]

Biographical criticism shares in common with New Historicism an interest in the fact that all literary works are situated in specific historical and biographical contexts from which they are generated. Biographical Criticism, like New Historicism, rejects the concept that literary studies should be limited to the internal or formal characteristics of a literary work, and insists that it properly includes a knowledge of the contexts in which the work was created. Biographical criticism stands in ambiguous relationship to Romanticism. It has often been argued that it is a development from Romanticism, but it also stands in opposition to the Romantic tendency to view literature as manifesting a "universal" transcendence of the particular conditions of its genesis.[citation needed]

Disadvantages: Psychological criticism can turn a work into little more than a psychological case study, neglecting to view it as a piece of art. Critics sometimes attempt to diagnose long dead authors based on their works, which is perhaps not the best evidence of their psychology. Critics tend to see sex in everything, exaggerating this aspect of literature. Finally, some works do not lend themselves readily to this approach.

Feminist criticism is concerned with the impact of gender on writing and reading. It usually begins with a critique of patriarchal culture. It is concerned with the place of female writers in the cannon. Finally, it includes a search for a feminine theory or approach to texts. Feminist criticism is political and often revisionist. Feminists often argue that male fears are portrayed through female characters. They may argue that gender determines everything, or just the opposite: that all gender differences are imposed by society, and gender determines nothing.

Marxist criticism is a type of criticism in which literary works are viewed as the product of work and whose practitioners emphasize the role of class and ideology as they reflect, propagate, and even challenge the prevailing social order. Rather than viewing texts as repositories for hidden meanings, Marxist critics view texts as material products to be understood in broadly historical terms. In short, literary works are viewed as a product of work (and hence of the realm of production and consumption we call economics).

Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan are two key figures who have oriented literary studies toward questions of psychological processes. The works of Carl Jung and Abraham Maslow have also been used in psychoanalytic criticism. Each of these theorists explored how the conscious mind interacts with the unconscious mind.

In the classroom, biographical lens provides a great opportunity for student-centered inquiry. As a teacher, you will act as their advisor, guiding their research and interpretations, but not dominating the conversation. Here are three activities to help students use historical lens in the classroom:

Historical criticism is the historical approach to literary criticism. It involves looking beyond the literature at the broader historical and cultural events occurring during the time the piece was written. An understanding of the world the author lived in (events, ideologies, culture, lifestyle etc.) allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the work.

Discussions raged about the role of literature in the school systems, in higher education, and in society as a whole, with new groups of young scholars, sometimes functioning as collectives and sometimes working outside academia, often presenting their findings to wider audiences and so enhancing the debate. Theory and method were central to this debate, fundamental to which was the introduction of a wealth of innovative approaches to literature, including feminist literary criticism, Marxism and, in due course, poststructuralism and deconstruction.

Kurt Aspelin from Sweden was a Marxist critic much of whose work focused on the Romantic writer C. J. L. Almquist, but he also made a huge contribution in the 1970s with books presenting a range of approaches to literature: Marxist, structuralist, sociological, semiotic, and so on. Neo-Marxist literary criticism also became significant in Norway, where it had one of its roots in the Profil group, and it also flourished in Denmark.

"How does our environment shape our identity?" After researching biographical information about John Knowles and considering how these experiences are reflected in A Separate Peace, class members consider the strengths and weaknesses of the historical/biographical approach to literary criticism.

Although criticism may include some of the following elements in order to support an idea, literary criticism is NOT a plot summary, a biography of the author, or simply finding fault with the literature.

Researching, reading, and writing works of literary criticism will help you to make better sense of the work, form judgments about literature, study ideas from different points of view, and determine on an individual level whether a literary work is worth reading.

In addition to being a literary critic and writer of literary criticism, Susan Sontag was an activist who wrote on some of the most significant issues of her day including the Vietnam War, the Seige of Sarajevo, and the AIDS epidemic. 350c69d7ab


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