Application of critical lens to a work of literature that employs outside source data: Middlesex by Jefferey Eugenides
Required reading: Middlesex By Jefferey Eugenides
1. Read this guide to literary lenses:
CRITICAL APPROACHES TO LITERATURE
Described below are nine common critical approaches to the literature.
Quotations are from X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia’s _Literature: An Introduction
to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama_, Sixth Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1995),
* Formalist Criticism: This approach regards literature as "a unique form of
human knowledge that needs to be examined on its own terms." All the
elements necessary for understanding the work are contained within the
work itself. Of particular interest to the formalist critic are the
elements of form-style, structure, tone, imagery, etc.-that are found
within the text. A primary goal for formalist critics is to determine how
such elements work together with the text’s content to shape its effects
* Biographical Criticism: This approach "begins with the simple but central
insight that literature is written by actual people and that understanding
an author’s life can help readers more thoroughly comprehend the work."
Hence, it often affords a practical method by which readers can better
understand a text. However, a biographical critic must be careful not to
take the biographical facts of a writer’s life too far in criticizing the
works of that writer: the biographical critic "focuses on explicating the
literary work by using the insight provided by knowledge of the author’s
life…. [B]iographical data should amplify the meaning of the text, not
drown it out with irrelevant material."
* Historical Criticism: This approach "seeks to understand a literary work
by investigating the social, cultural, and intellectual context that
produced it-a context that necessarily includes the artist’s biography and
milieu." A key goal for historical critics is to understand the effect of
a literary work upon its original readers.
* Gender Criticism: This approach "examines how sexual identity influences
the creation and reception of literary works." Originally an offshoot of
feminist movements, gender criticism today includes a number of
approaches, including the so-called "masculinist" approach recently
advocated by poet Robert Bly. The bulk of gender criticism, however, is
feminist and takes as a central precept that the patriarchal attitudes
that have dominated western thought have resulted, consciously or
unconsciously, in literature "full of unexamined ‘male-produced’
assumptions." Feminist criticism attempts to correct this imbalance by
analyzing and combatting such attitudes-by questioning, for example, why
none of the characters in Shakespeare’s play Othello ever challenge the
right of a husband to murder a wife accused of adultery. Other goals of
feminist critics include "analyzing how sexual identity influences the
reader of a text" and "examin[ing] how the images of men and women in
imaginative literature reflect or reject the social forces that have
historically kept the sexes from achieving total equality."
* Psychological Criticism: This approach reflects the effect that modern
psychology has had upon both literature and literary criticism.
Fundamental figures in psychological criticism include Sigmund Freud,
whose "psychoanalytic theories changed our notions of human behavior by
exploring new or controversial areas like wish-fulfillment, sexuality, the
unconscious, and repression" as well as expanding our understanding of how
"language and symbols operate by demonstrating their ability to reflect
unconscious fears or desires"; and Carl Jung, whose theories about the
unconscious are also a key foundation of mythological criticism (see
below). Psychological criticism has a number of approaches, but in
general, it usually employs one (or more) of three approaches:
1. An investigation of "the creative process of the artist: what is the
nature of literary genius and how does it relate to normal mental
2. The psychological study of a particular artist, usually noting how
an author’s biographical circumstances affect or influence their
motivations and/or behavior.
3. The analysis of fictional characters using the language and methods
* Sociological Criticism: This approach "examines literature in the
cultural, economic and political context in which it is written or
received," exploring the relationships between the artist and society.
Sometimes it examines the artist’s society to better understand the
author’s literary works; other times, it may examine the representation of
such societal elements within the literature itself. One influential type
of sociological criticism is Marxist criticism, which focuses on the
economic and political elements of art, often emphasizing the ideological
content of literature; because Marxist criticism often argues that all art
is political, either challenging or endorsing (by silence) the status quo,
it is frequently evaluative and judgmental, a tendency that "can lead to
reductive judgment, as when Soviet critics rated Jack London better than
William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton, and Henry James,
because he illustrated the principles of class struggle more clearly."
Nonetheless, Marxist criticism "can illuminate political and economic
dimensions of literature other approaches overlook."
* Mythological Criticism: This approach emphasizes "the recurrent universal
patterns underlying most literary works." Combining the insights from
anthropology, psychology, history, and comparative religion, mythological
criticism "explores the artist’s common humanity by tracing how the
individual imagination uses myths and symbols common to different cultures
and epochs." One key concept in mythlogical criticism is the archetype, "a
symbol, character, situation, or image that evokes a deep universal
response," which entered literary criticism from Swiss psychologist Carl
Jung. According to Jung, all individuals share a "`collective
unconscious,’ a set of primal memories common to the human race, existing
below each person’s conscious mind"-often deriving from primordial
phenomena such as the sun, moon, fire, night, and blood, archetypes
according to Jung "trigger the collective unconscious." Another critic,
Northrop Frye, defined archetype in a more limited way as "a symbol,
usually an image, which recurs often enough in literature to be
recognizable as an element of one’s literary experience as a whole."
Regardless of the definition of archetype they use, mythological critics
tend to view literary works in the broader context of works sharing a
* Reader-Response Criticism: This approach takes as a fundamental tenet that
"literature" exists not as an artifact upon a printed page but as a
transaction between the physical text and the mind of a reader. It
attempts "to describe what happens in the reader’s mind while interpreting
a text" and reflects that reading, like writing, is a creative process.
According to reader-response critics, literary texts do not "contain" a
meaning; meanings derive only from the act of individual readings. Hence,
two different readers may derive completely different interpretations of
the same literary text; likewise, a reader who re-reads a work years later
may find the work shockingly different. Reader-response criticism, then,
emphasizes how "religious, cultural, and social values affect readings; it
also overlaps with gender criticism in exploring how men and women read
the same text with different assumptions." Though this approach rejects
the notion that a single "correct" reading exists for a literary work, it
does not consider all readings permissible: "Each text creates limits to
its possible interpretations."
* Deconstructionist Criticism: This approach "rejects the traditional
assumption that language can accurately represent reality."
Deconstructionist critics regard language as a fundamentally unstable
medium-the words "tree" or "dog," for instance, undoubtedly conjure up
different mental images for different people-and therefore, because
literature is made up of words, literature possesses no fixed, single
meaning. According to critic Paul de Man, deconstructionists insist on
"the impossibility of making the actual expression coincide with what has
to be expressed, of making the actual signs [i.e., words] coincide with
what is signified." As a result, deconstructionist critics tend to
emphasize not what is being said but how language is used in a text. The
methods of this approach tend to resemble those of formalist criticism,
but whereas formalists’ primary goal is to locate unity within a text,
"how the diverse elements of a text cohere into meaning,"
deconstructionists try to show how the text "deconstructs," "how it can be
broken down … into mutually irreconcilable positions." Other goals of
deconstructionists include (1) challenging the notion of authors’
"ownership" of texts they create (and their ability to control the meaning
of their texts) and (2) focusing on how language is used to achieve power,
as when they try to understand how a some interpretations of a literary
work come to be regarded as "truth."
website is here:https://home.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/spring97/litcrit.html
2. Read the book. Think about which lens you will choose to apply
PROMPT: YOU ARE TO WRITE AN ESSAY THAT IS AN APPLICATION OF A CRITICAL LENS TO A WORK OF LITERATURE AND THAT EMPLOYS OUTSIDE SOURCE DATA.
1. Choose a critical lens
2.Research and locate a framework from that specific field of study(gender studies, sociology, etc.)
3. Use elements from the framework to construct a topic sentence outline. Write a topic sentence for each of these framework elements.
4.Write the body paragraphs using all eight organizational patterns at least once, excluding narration. Use direct quotations from the text and MLA:
(I will upload the eight organizational patterns in PDF format)
5.Research source material that supports the points in the body paragraphs. You will inlcude quotations and data from AT LEAST FIVE SOURCES from ACADEMICALLY VALID PROVIDERS. Random webpages are not accpetable. Any peer-reviewed or edited publication, online or in print in acceptable. ****ESSAYS THAT DO NOT EMPLOY THESE ADDITOINAL SOURCES WILL BE CONSIDERED INCOMPLETE****
Create the source attribution, in MLA.
6. Write a clever INTRO and original CONCLUSION
8.Revise for ACADEMIC DICTION