Literary Criticism

Literary Criticism

New Criticism was a school of literary criticism that emerged in the mid-twentieth century. It rejected the traditional critical view that literature should be studied in the context of the author’s life, views, and purpose. Instead, New Critics such as John Crowe Ransom and William K. Wimsatt stated that a work of literature must be appreciated for its own sake, independent of its author’s life or purpose and the reader’s biases and emotional response.Ransom’s publication of his book The New Criticism in 1941 marked the start of this literary school of thought.

In this task, you’ll analyze a poem using three different approaches: biographical, New Criticism, and emotional. Later, you will critique your own analysis.

You can use the following resources to complete this activity:

  • how Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life story influenced interpretations of Sonnets from the Portuguese for many years
  • a short biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You can refer to this analysis of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” as a sample to guide your response. The analysis demonstrates the kind of information you can include for each of the three analyses, although it applies to a very different kind of text than the Barret Browning poem you will analyze.

Part A

Read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous Sonnet 43.

Sonnet 43

by Elizabeth Barret Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Write an analysis of the poem with a special emphasis on its historical background and Elizabeth Browning’s life story (a historical or biographical approach).

Part B

Write an analysis of the poem from the New Criticism perspective, closely examining the form and content of the text itself without any reference to the historical or biographical context or to your personal response to the poem.

Part C

Write about your own personal reaction (emotional response) to the poem. Try to explain how you approached the poem and how your opinion could shape or change its meaning.

Part D

In this part of the activity, you will evaluate your three critiques of the poem. You will first need to recall what you learned about intentional and affective fallacies in this unit. W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley coined both terms. The term intentional fallacy refers to the idea that an author’s purpose or intention in writing a work of literature has no importance in appreciating or critiquing that work. The term affective fallacyrefers to the idea that how a work affects a reader or what emotions it arouses in the reader have no importance in appreciating or critiquing that work. Read this Knowledge Article to learn more about New Criticism and the affective and intentional fallacies.

Evaluate your response to part A. Explain the disadvantages of emphasizing background information, such as historical context when critiquing a poem. Be sure to include examples from your analyses.

Part E

Now evaluate your response to Part B. List any advantages or disadvantages in using the New Critical approach when evaluating a poem, including examples from your analyses.

Part F

Finally, evaluate your analysis of Part C. What are the advantages and disadvantages of emphasizing personal bias and emotion when critiquing a poem? Include examples of your analysis when possible.

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Literary Criticism was first posted on January 16, 2021 at 11:14 pm.
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