Literary Criticism

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What is Formalist criticism?

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A formalist approach studies a text as only a text, considering its features—for example, rhymes, cadences, literary devices—in an isolated way, not attempting to apply their own say as to what the text means. In general, formalists are focused on the facts of a text, because they want to study the text, not what others say about it. 

 


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Formalist literary criticism focuses on the text as the major artifact worthy of study rather than, say, the author him or herself, the historical time period during which the text was written, how the text responds to gender roles or class concerns during the period, or anything else that exists outside of the text's world itself. It is a mode of criticism that came about in response to the more author-centered focus that dominated the literary world prior to the twentieth century.

One noted French literary critic, Roland Barthes, actually wrote an essay called "The Death of the Author" in 1967 in which he advocated for a complete rejection of the...

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