Explain the liberal humanism approach to analyzing a poem in layman's terms.

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jgeertz | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Liberal humanism is a literary theory that was popular at the end of the 1800's and beginning 1900's. Liberal humanism understands literature/poetry to be timeless. It must reveal a constant or universal truth about humanity. Also, it contains meaning without regard to other works. Liberal humanists analyze the text of a poem with no predetermined ideas or bias. Therefore a Marxist or Feminist could not in fairness call themselves a liberal humanist. Liberal humanists attempt to understand the individual's identity by excluding environmental circumstances. Additionally, the content of a poem is seen as a product of form, e.g. e.e. cummings' poems are a product of his artistic style. Finally, liberal humanists view poetry and literature as an artistic celebration that elevates humanity.


In order to analyze a poem using the liberal humanism approach, follow these guidelines:

1. find the poem's universal truth

2. analyze the text with no bias

3. look for the individual's identity

4. understand that content follows form


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