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A literary critic is a good reader and we "read" all of the time. If you consider reading in its broadest sense, we are constantly doing it. Even without applying a particular critical lens (feminist, post-structuralist, etc), a critical reader is a careful reader.
We read people, we read events. We read the news, we "read" films and popular culture. The skills we gain through literary analysis and criticism allow us to interpret and create meaning out of what we see.
Further, as has been mentioned, literary criticism goes hand in hand with writing. My training is in literary criticism...but I can write about anything. I have the skills to make an argument and to defend it, no matter the topic.
Learning to read critically and to write your opinion and analysis are skills that are applicable to many situations in life, especially in the workplace. Critical reading skills help you to read and analyze data and write reports summarizing it. Writing is a highly marketable skill. As a freelance writer, I am able to charge $50 per hour to produce documents for business clients. Many of my clients want me to read lengthy documents and then write analyses of them.
Great conversation so far. Understanding literary criticism would also be beneficial when reading because it gives us a perspective or lens through which to view the writing. For example if we read Alice in Wonderland and we use feminine criticism, it is a much different piece of literature than if we use historical criticism.
As has already been suggested, the benefits are multifaceted. As a former English major, I take issue when people paint the study of English, or any liberal arts intensive study, as being a useless academic exercise with no "real world" application.
Most significantly, being a good critical reader of literature enhances critical thinking skills, which are important in every day life and in any situation in which informed decision making is necessary... and there are a lot of these in life!
Secondarily, a background in literary criticism allows you to contextualize information and understand the underpinnings or framework of an argument or situation.
These skills and a variety of others gained during a study of literary criticism and its application will help immensely next time you read the paper, of have a dispute with a coworker, or...
I agree with speamerfam that developing skills as a critical thinker will make you better able to determine meanings for yourself and participate more fully in public discourses. I'm not sure that's the same thing as being well versed in literary criticism, though.
As I understand the term, "literary criticism" describes the range of post-humanist approaches to literature, from New Criticism and Russian formalism through psychonalysis and marxism through structuralism and deconstruction and reader response all the way to post-colonialism and postmodernism and whatever's coming next.
Ideally, education in literary criticism will help a person become a more active, critical thinker, but there is no guarantee. When I teach upper-level college courses in literary criticism, I always try to explain how the methods we are using can be extended beyond a reading of a literary text. We have assignments that require students to write critically about any number of other "texts" around them, including for example the "food" in the snack machines in our building or our university's commemoration of Martin Luther King Day. Students enjoy (and, I hope, benefit from) having the opportunity to explore things in their own lives through the various lenses that are presented in literary criticism courses.
First let's talk about what it means to have skills in literary criticism. This means that you have a firm grasp on the terms of art people use to discuss literature. This also means that you have an understanding of how writing is structured and the denotations and connotations of language. These are essentially skills in critical thinking.
Now, as you go through your life, you will be called upon to assess and perhaps act upon what you read and hear, whether at a movie, on television or radio, at a political rally, or in reading a book, magazine or newspaper. If you want to participate fully in the literate world around you, you will want to talk about what you see and hear, as well. If you have mastered the skills of literary criticism, you will be able to assess and act upon what you are exposed to more analytically and intelligently and participate in literate discourse. I cannot imagine why any thinking human being would not actively pursue the acquisition of these skills!
Perhaps you are discouraged as you grapple with learning how to do literary analysis, but I promise you that if you persevere, you will enrich your life and the lives of those around you!
Most courses are either content oriented or skills oriented. By giving you a skill, you can build upon that to transfer that skill to other parts of your life. You can not do that with mere content.
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