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Context-oriented approaches




Typological approach identifies the inner links between the works of one author or different authors; describes common trends of the literary works (typology of literary trends, typology of genres, typology of styles, etc.). The approach help identify some general principles forming a literary and aesthetic unity, to define to which type or genre the literary work belongs.

Cultural and historical as well as comparative approaches provide the tools for exploring the influences and interrelations among the literatures.

Humanistic, or ethical, approach (Matthew Arnold) claims human values to be important in the work of literature. Ethical criticism roots back to the ancient philosophers. American Neohumanists(Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More) develop the methodology based on the new conception of humanism and egalitarianism (literature should follow the moral standards synthesized from the world philosophic and literary tradition). Modern scholars (Eugene Goodheart) combine historic and ethical approaches.

Social and cultural approach (Frank Raymond Leavis, Herbert Richard Hoggart) claim that peculiarities of the certain literary epoch are shaped by social and cultural environment.

Sociological approach (Randolph Born, Van Wyck Brooks, F. Dell, S. Finkelstein, John Govard Lawson, Philip Bonosky) provides critical interpretation from some political point of view.

Mythological approach (archetypal literary criticism, comparative mythology) (J. Grimm, James George Frazer, Archer Taylor, E. Chambers, Friederich Max Müller, Joseph Campbell) is based on the theory that the myth originated from ritual and is the source of spiritual life. Myth generates literature. A number of books can be deciphered using mythological codes (mythological themes and motives), the transhistorical archetypes can be identified (K. Jung).

According to Marxism the material reality of economic circumstances forms the base that conditions the social, political, and cultural life of the superstructure. Marxism is a theory of determinancy and historical materiality. Literature is seen as a by-product of its historical and cultural milieu. It can be identified as a mere vehicle of ideology predetermined by the base or as a reflection of ideology.

Cultural materialism locates a text in its material contexts but greatly enhances the relevance of language, communication, and culture. So the critics try to find the cultural forces of the period and the author’s position to them, social and economic conflicts represented, implicit ideology.

New Historicism (Michel Foucault, Stephen Greenblatt) maintains that the problem of historiography lies in the contradiction between past events and their retrospective subjective representation. The past is not a stable, coherent entity, and therefore cannot serve as a firm background and reference point of literature. History exists in multiple texts, which do not add up to one version. Michel Foucault analyses the historical formation of thinking and knowledge in discourses. The literary text is embedded in a dynamic network of interdependent cultural discourses and social practices. The term discourse draws attention to the role of language as the vehicle of ideology. The New Historicists try to find out how the literary text describes, exposes, or takes part in negotiations of power, truth, and values. Reconstructing Historicism (Leo Strauss, Wolfgang Iser, Hans-Robert Jauss) claims that the pastness of the texts under interpretation demands accommodation of critical approach to negotiate historical differences; it studies relations between fact and fiction, history and aesthetics.

Feminism and gender theory (Simone de Beauvoir, Elaine Showalter, Erica Jong, Marge Piercy, Julia Kristeva, Irigaray) address literary texts raising questions about the women’s writing, concepts of femininity and gender, absence of women from literature, sexual identity. Feminists brought to literature a suspicion of established ideas. They were interested in literature as a powerful means of creating and perpetuating belief system. Feminism takes issue with real forms of discrimination and discriminating cultural gender constructions. There is a difference between the biological sex (biological constitution as female or male) and the cultural construction of gender roles (cultural programming as feminine or masculine, which are categories created by society rather than by nature). Gender studies tend to analyse cultural constructs, whereas lesbian and gay theorists shift the balance towards the body and sexuality. Feminist readings of literature have exposed masculine representations of women and retrieved neglected literature by women. Feminist theory constantly incorporates new ideas from other fields and can be seen as interdisciplinary.

Postcolonialism and multiculturalism in criticism (Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, Franz Fanon, Neil Lazarus, Homi Bhabha, Henry Louis Gates) are concerned with the impact of colonialism and postcolonialism on both British cultures and identities and those of the peoples under the British Empire. They address themselves to the historical, political, cultural, and textual ramifications of the colonial encounter between the West and the non-West, dating from the XVI century to the present day. There are two traditions of postcolonial thinking – the theoretical post-structuralist and the practical political. Postcolonial and multicultural theories are concerned with the multiple relationships between dominant and subordinate cultures. Both postcolonial and multicultural critics research the ethnic re-reading and rewriting of canonised literary and historical texts, the recuperation of indigenous cultures, and the construction of multicultural identities and literatures. They introduced the concepts of orientalism, subalternity, hybridity.

Ecocriticism (William Rueckert, Raymond Williams, Annette Kolodny) is a literary and cultural criticism from an environmentalist viewpoint. Texts are evaluated in terms of their environmental harmful or helpful effects. Ecocriticism analyses the history of concepts such as “nature”, in an attempt to understand the cultural developments that have led to the present global ecological crises.

 







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