Approaches to Analyzing Literature
As I have mentioned previously, a piece of literature is likely to have more than one theme. You have found themes by taking note of the meaning that you and the author together create as you encounter the text (Reader Response approach to analysis) and you have found themes by analyzing the way that literary devices work to bring certain ideas to light (Formalist approach to analysis) . In this unit on the novel, you are going to gain experience seeing literature from the perspective of someone who aligns himself/herself with a particular school of thought. Literary scholars often do, over the course of many years of reading and studying literature, come to see patterns in the sorts of things they attach to and which seem meaningful when interpreting and analyzing the texts. There are several of these “schools of thought” or approaches in literary criticism/analysis. In this unit you have been introduced to a six of these approaches to add on to the Formalism and Reader Response approaches which you have already learned about and practiced using.
Any of these (now) eight approaches could be used to good effect to locate and prove a theme in JM Coetzee’s novel Disgrace.
The question is—which of these schools of thought do you find particularly fruitful, fun, interesting? Which one or two help you to really hone in on a theme, an overall message about humanity, life, how things work, etc.
After familiarizing yourself with the approaches to literary criticism you read about it Writing about Literature, pgs. 181-194, and now that you have read part of the novel Disgrace, choose two approaches to apply to the work.
Write a 6-8 page essay that discusses what you take as one of the primary, overall meanings in Disgraceand how you have come to that conclusion.
Your reasons for coming to that conclusion about meaning should clearly utilize two of the approaches you have been presented with as support for this meaning that you gleaned. (You do not need to explicitly state those approaches in the body of your essay though you may if you choose. A title is also a good place to offer this sort of preparation as well. It should be clear by your discussion which two you chose.) Support your thesis about the overall meaning with evidence from the book as well as from any elements that are relevant given your chosen approach, using the techniques of summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting as appropriate to your claims. (Some of you, depending on which approach you chose, will find a small amount of outside research to be in order whereas others will find no need for any additional reading/research.)
**As you read and re-read sections of the book, take note (literally, in the margins would be good) of places where you find evidence to support a theory.
• Only use Formalism or Reader Response in combination with another theory. However, you may choose to focus on just one theory as long as that theory is one of the others besides Reader Response and Formalism.
• Make sure to include a works cited page at the end. This will be fairly straightforward. If you use any outside texts, make sure those are included as well, though you may find that you only work with Disgrace and Writing about Literature.
• Make sure you have an original title that reflects your main purpose.
The approach I learned are The moral/intellectual critical /topical/historical critical/feminist critical/psychological/archetypal/symbolic/mythic critical/reader-response critical approachs