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Literary Theory and

Criticism
Because there’s a reason we don’t all
read literature the same way
There’s more than one way to read a book.

Each different perspective or “lense” that we look through is a different school of


literary theory or criticism. These “lenses” determine what stands out to readers
as notable and most important to be analyzed.
We read through different lenses to offer
ourselves the opportunity to look at a text
from a variety of perspectives. These lenses
will help us develop a more complex way of
thinking about the world as well as reading
literature
Literary Theories

● Gender/Feminist lense
● Social Power/Class lense
● Reader Response lense
● Biographical Lense
● Psychoanalytical/Freudian lense
● Structuralism
● Post-structuralism
● Deconstruction
● Post-Colonial
● Archetypical
● Moral Criticism
● New Historicism
Lenses for Hamlet

We’re going to be using only a couple of


lenses while looking at Hamlet (doing all
would be overwhelming).

We’re focusing on the Gender/Feminist


lense and the Social Power/Class lense
The Feminist lense

Feminism: noun 1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights
of women equal to those of men. 2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized
movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

A feminist critic sees cultural and economic disabilities in a “patriarchal” society


that has hindered and prevented women from realizing their creative
possibilities, achieving independence,
Concepts held by the feminist criticism

● Civilization is patriarchal (male dominant)


● Concepts of “gender” are largely (if not entirely) cultural constructs created
by the patriarchal biases of our civilization
● Patriarchal ideology pervades texts that have been considered great. Works
lack autonomous female roles. They are implicitly addressed to male
readers and they shut out the woman reader as an alien outsider

This criticism focuses on the relationships between


genders. While reading Hamlet we will examine the
patterns of thoughts, behaviors, values, and power in
relations between men and women.
The Social-Class lense

This critic grounds their theory in the economic and cultural theory of Karl Marx
and his student, Fredrich Engles. Their theory holds that societies develop
through class struggle and in capitalistic society this results in a conflict
between ruling class (the bourgeoisie) and the working class (the proletariat).

Karl Marx: German philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist,


sociologist, journalist, and revolutionary. Most commonly known for writing The
Communist Manifesto and developing the theory known as Marxism.
Concepts held by Social-Class Criticism
● Humanity, its institutions, and its ways of thinking are developed by its basic
economic organization (capitalism, socialism, etc.)
● Changes in basic economic organization cause changes in the constitution
and power relations of social classes.
● Literature can be understood by looking at the economic class and
ideologies or the writer. It can also be understood by examining the relation
of the text to the social reality of that time and place.

This theory focuses on power and money in literature. While


reading Hamlet we’ll pay attention to who has power/money
and who does not and what happens because of that.
We’ll start Hamlet on Wednesday