Literary Theories-Advantages and Disadvantages

Historical/Biographical Approach
Advantages: Works well for some which are obviously political or biographical in nature. Places allusions in their proper classical, political, or biblical background.
Disadvantages: “The intentional fallacy”. Tends to reduce art to the level of biography and make it relative rather than universal.

Moral/Philosophical Approach
Advantages: Useful for works that present an obvious moral philosophy. Useful when considering the themes. Doesn’t view literature merely as “art” isolated from all moral implications. Recognizes that literature can affect readers and that the message is important.
Disadvantages: “Judgmental”

Formalism/New Criticism
Advantages: Can be performed without much research. Emphasizes the value instead of the context of literature. Virtually all critical approaches must begin here.
Disadvantages: Text is seen in isolation. Ignores the context. Cannot account for allusions.

Psychoanalytical Approach
Advantages: Can be useful for understanding works in which characters obviously have psychological issues. Knowing something about a writer’s psychological make-up can give us insight into his work.
Disadvantages: Can turn it into a psychological case study. Sometimes attempts to diagnose long dead authors. Sees as sex is everything and exaggerates this. Some don’t lend themselves readily to this approach.

Archetypal Approach
Provides a universalistc approach and identifies a reason why certain literature may survive the test of time. Works well with works that are highly symbolic.
Disadvantages: May become a vehicle for archetypes. May ignore the “art” of literature.

Feminist Approach
Advantages: Redresses the problem of under representation. Seeks to provide more realistic portrayals of women within the text. Examines the power struggle between the sexes.
Disadvantages: Can turn literary criticism into a political battlefield. Can overlook the merits of works they consider “patriarchal”.

Reader Response Criticism
Advantages: Recognizes that different people view works differently and that interpretations change over time.
Disadvantages: Makes an interpretation to subjective. Doesn’t provide adequate criteria for evaluating one reading in comparison to another.