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< Back to question How should we think about interpreting literature? Show more Show less

In the world of literary criticism, there are many theories about the correct way to interpret literature. Some critics argue that the text alone determines a work's meaning, while others pay more attention to factors like historical context or the reader's experience. Scholars also practice other methods of literary criticism influenced by feminist, Marxist, or psychoanalytic theories, to name a few. So, what are the various theories about interpreting literature?

Formalism and New Criticism Show more Show less

These theories focus on the text alone as the sole determiner of meaning.
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The text alone determines its meaning

When trying to interpret a literary work, readers should pay close attention to the text itself, disregarding outside influences. This method emphasizes close reading, form, irony, paradox, symbols, patterns, and allusions.
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The Argument

In order to interpret a text correctly, readers must pay close attention to the text alone. They must look at the text itself, not at the things happening around it, like historical context, the author's interpretation of their work, or their own feelings about it. These things distract from the text. Ignoring outside influences leads to a purely objective, and therefore correct, interpretation of the work. New Criticism takes a somewhat scientific approach to literary criticism. It gives readers a methodical way of arriving at the text's meaning. If readers give the text a close reading, analyze the work's form, and note any instances of paradox, irony, patterns, symbols, or allusions, they can interpret the text correctly. Famous advocates of this method include Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, and John Crowe Ransom, the founder of this school of criticism.

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    This page was last edited on Saturday, 25 Jul 2020 at 16:58 UTC

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