What's the difference between practical and literary criticism?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The post by sdeadder gives a good place to start further research into what exactly Practical Criticism is.  I like to think of this approach to reading and analyzing a text as a very formalist approach where I am focussing on the words and then the sentences on the page.  I am primary looking for diction, imagary, symbolism, sound devices, techniques of characterization, structure, narration style, syntax and other specific literary techniques.  I am still looking to understand the work as a whole, but I am focused on the words on the page.

Literary criticism has lots of sub-headings.  When you are engaged in literary criticism, you are looking at the words on the page (like above), but you are also considering other lenses with which to look at the text.  As noted in the other post, you may consider author's background or historical context.  It is in this type of criticism that you start thinking about a feminist reading, a Marxist reading, a psychoanalytical reading, a political reading, a moralistic reading etc.  There are numerous approaches to reading a text that can provide new understanding to a work. 

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sdeadder | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Dear Student,
Literary criticism is known as the study of literature done for the purpose of evaluating and interpreting the work.  Literary criticism always deals with a particular work of literature, as opposed to literary theory which is concerned with the nature of literature and the methods by which we analyze it.  So, when you read a particular book and seek to analyze its meaning and interpret it based on the historical context, or the author’s biographical information, you are engaging in literary criticism.

Practical criticism is a method of study created by a man named I.A. Richards.  He wrote the book Practical Criticism in 1929.  Using this method, a reader would look strictly at the words on the page when interpreting the work and would ignore the author’s biographical information and the historical context in which the work was written.  If you were to look at a poem, for example, and only analyze the words as they appear with no contextual information, you would be engaged in practical criticism.

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kgem | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Practical criticism:  the kind of criticism that analyses specific literary works, not necessarily theoretical. Whereas Literary Criticism is more of a study that is based on certain rules (depending on the theoritical school you're using to analyze the literary work). Literary Criticism goes beyond the analysis of the work; it is more like an evaluation.  

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