Literary concepts

archetype
a term used to describe the universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses in a reader. In literature, characters, images, and themes that symbolically embody universal meanings and basic human experiences, regardless of when or where they live, are considered this. Common literary ones include stories of quests, initiations, scapegoats, descents to the underworld, and ascents to heaven.

Point of view
Refers to who tells us the story. What we know and how we feel about the events in a work are shaped by this of the author. The teller of the story, the narrator, inevitably affects our understanding of the characters’ actions by filtering what is told through his or her own perspective.

third person point of view
uses he, she, or they to tell the story and does not participate in the action

first person point of view
uses I and is a major or minor participant in the action.

second person point of view
uses “you” but is barely used because of the awkwardness of thrusting the reader into a story, such as “You are minding your own business on a park bench when a drunk steps out and demands your lunch bag.”

objective point of view
Employs a third person narrator who does not see into the mind of any character. from this detached and impersonal perspective, the narrator reports action and dialogue without telling us directly what the characters think and feel. since no analysis or interpretation is provided by the narrator, this point of view places a premium on dialogue, actions, and details to reveal character to the reader.

Stock responses
Predictable, conventional reactions to language, characters, symbols, or situations. the flag, motherhood, puppies, God, and peace are common objects used to elicit these from unsophisticated audiences.

stream-of-consciousness technique
the most intense use of a central consciousness in narration. this takes a reader inside a character’s mind to reveal perceptions, thoughts, and feelings on a conscious or unconscious level. this suggests the flow of thought as well as its content; hence, complete sentences may give way to fragments as the character’s mind makes rapid associations free of conventional logic or transitions. James Joyce’s novel ulysses makes extensive use of this narrative technique.

Style
the distinctive and unique manner in which a writer arranges words to achieve particular effects. this essentially combines the idea to be expressed with the individuality of the author. these arrangements include individual word choices as well as matters such as the length of sentences, their structure, toe, and use of irony.

symbol
a person, object, image, word or event that evokes a range of additional meaning beyond and usually more abstract than its literal significance. these are educational devices for evoking complex ideas without having to resort to painstaking explanations that would make a story more like an essay than an experience.

Conventional symbols
have meanings that are widely recognized by a society or culture. Some are the Christian cross, the Star of david, a swastika, or a nation’s flag. Writers use these to reinforce meanings. Kate Chopin, for example emphasizes the spring setting in “The Story of an Hour” as a way of suggesting the renewed sense of life that MRs. Mallard feels when she thinks herself free from her husband.

literary or contextual symbol
can be a setting, character, action, object, name, or anything else in a work that maintains its literal significance while suggesting other meanings. Such ones go beyond conventional ones; they gain their meaning within the context of a specific story. foe example, the white what in Melville’s Moby-Dick takes on multiple meanings in the work, but these meanings do not automatically carry over into other stories about whales. The meanings suggested by Melville’s whale are specific to that text; therefore, it becomes this.

theme
the central meaning or dominant idea in a literary work. this provides a unifying point around which the plot, characters, setting, point of view, symbols, and other elements of a work are organized. It is important not to mistake this for an actual subject of the work; this refers to the abstract concept that is made concrete through the images, characterization, and action of the text. In nonfiction, however, it generally refers to the main topic of the discourse.

tone
the author’s implied attitude toward the reader or the people, places, and events in a work as revealed by the elements of the author’s style. this may be characterized as serious or ironic, sad or happy, private or public, angry or affectionate, bitter or nostalgic, or any other attitude and feeling that human beings experience.

existentialism
prominent writers of this form include Sartre, Kafka, Beckett, Dostoyeski, Camus, and Ionesco. THe movement gained prominence after WWII. Simply put, the work explores the statement existence precedes essence. The significant fact is that we and things in general exist, but these things have no meaning for us except as we can create meaning through acting upon them. Sartre claims that the fundamental truth of this is in Decartes’ formula, “I think; therefore, I exist.” It looks at the unique individual in the human situation. It attempts to codify the irrational aspects of human nature, to objectify nonbeing or nothingness and see it as a universal source of fear, to distrust concepts, and to emphasize experiential concreteness. this explores the meaninglessness of the outer world; this meaninglessness prodces discomfort, anxiety, loneliness in the face of human limitations, and desire to invest experience with meaning by acting upon the world, although attempts to act in a meaningless, absurd world lead to anguish greater loneliness and despair. Human beings are totally free but also wholly responsible for what they make of themselves. The freedom and responsibility plague on their most intense anxiety.

Archetypal Criticism
Carl Jung coined this term and literary critics borrowed the philosophy to explain some literary works. carl Jung, notable psychologist, held the belief that behind each individual’s unconscious lies the collective unconscious of the entire human race. The blocked-off memory includes our radical past and our primal past. There are powerfully effective primordial images that are shaped by the repeated experiences of our ancestors and expressed in myths, religion, dreams, fantasies, and literature. The primordial image that traps the preconscious memory is called an archetype. the literary critic will use Jung’s philosophy applying to to an image, a descriptive detail, a plot pattern, ora character type that frequently occurs in literature, myth, folklore, and is believed to evoke profound emotions because it touches the unconscious memoir and plays into the emotional responses. the Archetypal critic studies a work in terms of images and patterns that it has in common with other works of literature. They look to the human experience. An archetype is a Northrop Frye defines it, “a symbol, usually an image, which recurs often enough in literature to be recognized as an element of one;s literary experiences as a whole.”

biographical Criticism
an approach to literature which suggests that knowledge of the author’s life experiences can aid in the understanding of his or her work. While biographical information can sometimes complicate one’s interpretation of a work, and some formalist critics (such as the New Critics) disparage the use of the author’s biography as a tool for textual interpretation, learning about the life of the author can often enrich a reader’s appreciation for that author’s work.

Feminist Criticism
an approach to literature that seeks to correct or supplement what may be regarded as a predominantly male-dominated critical perspective with a feminist consciousness. this places literature in a social context and uses a broad range of disciplines, including history, sociology, psychology, and linguistics, to provide a perspective sensitive to feminist issues. these theories also attempt to understand representation from a woman’s point of view and to explain women’s writing strategies as specific to their social conditions.

Formalist Criticism
An approach to literature that focuses on the formal elements of a for, such as its language, structure, and tone. Formalist critics offer intense examinations of the relationship between form and meaning in a work, emphasizing the subtle complexity in how a work is arranged. Formalists pay special attention to diction, irony, paradox, metaphor, and symbol, as well as larger elements such as plot, characterization, and narrative technique.

Gender Criticism
An approach to literature that explores how ideas about men and women can be regarded as socially constructed by particular cultures. This expands categories and definitions of what is masculine or feminine and tends to regard sexuality as more complex than merely masculine or feminine, heterosexual or homosexual.

Historical Criticism
An approach to literature that uses history as a means of understanding a literary work more clearly. Such criticism moves beyond both the facts of an author’s personal life and the text itself in order to examine the social and intellectual currents in which the author composed the work.

Marxist Criticism
An approach to literature that focuses on the ideological content of a work- its explicit and implicit assumptions and values about matters such as culture, race, class, and power. Based largely on the writings of Karl Max, typically aims at not only revealing and clarifying ideological issues but also correcting social injustices. These critics use literature to describe the competing socioeconomic interests that too often advance capitalist interests such as money and power and rather than socialist interests such as morality and justice. They argue that literature and literary criticism are essentially political because they either challenge or support economic oppression. Because of this strong emphasis on the political aspects of texts, these focus more on the content and themes of literature than on its form.

Mythological Criticism
An approach to literature that seeks to identify what ina work creates deep universal responses in readers, by paying close attention to the hopes, fears, and expectations of entire cultures. These critics (sometimes called archetypal critics) look for underlying, recurrent patterns in literature that reveal universal meanings and basic human experiences for readers regardless of when and where they live. These critics attempt to explain how archetypes (the characters, images, and themes that symbolically embody universal meanings and experiences) are embodied in literary works in order to make larger connections that explain a particular work’s lasting appeal. These critics may specialize in areas such as classical literature, philology, anthropology, psychology, and cultural history, but they all emphasize the assumptions and values of various cultures.

New Criticism
An approach to literature made popular between the 1940s and the 1960s that evolved out of formalist criticism. These critics suggest that detailed analysis of the language of a literary text can uncover important layers of meaning in that work. This consciously downplays the historical influences, authorial intentions, and social contexts that surround texts in order to focus on explication- extremely close textual analysis. Critics such as John Crowe Ransom, I. A. Richards, and Robert Penn Warren are commonly associated with this.

New Historicism
An approach to literature that emphasizes the interaction between the historic context of the work and a modern reader’s understanding and interpretation of the work. New historicists attempt to descrive the culture of a period by reading many different kinds of texts and paying close attentnio to many different dimensions of a culture, including