what makes a relationship between literary criticism and teaching literature? is it too important in studing and teaching literature?what makes a relationship between literary criticism and...

what makes a relationship between literary criticism and teaching literature? is it too important in studing and teaching literature?

what makes a relationship between literary criticism and teaching literature? is it too important in studing and teaching literature?

Asked on by hteshak

9 Answers

lmetcalf's profile pic

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

Posted on

I think there is a lot of value in showing students the multiple intellectual interpretations they can have with a text.  I give them the literary theory vocabulary and then ask them to approach a text from a specific perspective, or I may ask them to choose one.  For example, I may ask students to do a pragmatic/reader response to Claudius' first speech in Hamlet.  What I expect them to write is an analysis of how Shakespeare crafts that speech to affect us as readers.  What does he do to make us a little unsure of him upon our first impression?  I may ask students to do some meta-criticism and compare Hamlet to Macbeth and discuss how our expectations of the tragedy genre affect our understanding of the play.  I will tell students to choose some aspect of mimetic criticism, and they will do a psychological interpretation of Hamlet or a feminist reading of Ophelia and Gertrude.  Students like to have the "intellectual" language to understand what they are doing when they are figuring out what a work is all about.

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Literary criticism is what enables us to appreciate the craft of writing literature.  Without it, we can only gush that we like a particular piece or we can dismiss it with "I just couldn't get into it."  Criticism, or analysis, allows us to explore the effect of a well chosen metaphor, a particular structure, a pattern of images, a complex character.  It increases our reading skills and develops our appreciation of the text.  So, of course, literary criticism is a necessary component of any literature class.

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

A number of people have responded with a number of ideas, so I want to focus on responding to a point made by the first poster:

when people read texts they automatically and inevitably use some sort of literary theory .... To claim that a person does not use theory is to be ignorant and to use basically the theory that is most dominant in that particular circle.

I respectfully disagree iwth this statement. As I see it, "literary theory" stands in opposition to the generally unexamined humanist or biographical approaches that dominate the way in which many people read literature. Many students in the college courses that I teach, when first asked to respond to a story that has been assigned, will often search for some sort of universal "moral to the story" or look for simplistic parallels between the author and some character in the assigned work. Such initial, simplistic readings have nothing to do with literary theory. The value of literary theory, as I see it, is to get readers to move past their initial, unexamined ways of approaching literature and to explore the various ways in which a reader can find meaning in a work.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I appreciate dstuva’s use of verbal irony in this discussion. Understanding literary theory is important in at least two ways. One as teachers, we must understand what type of theory we are most likely to use as this influences our percepts and thus our methods of teaching the literature. It is also important to understand the different theories as these are the tools we provide for our students in order for them to explicate a piece of literature. They should be informed enough to select their own strategy rather than simply using the teacher’s personal preference.

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

It would be challenging to try to teach English Literature without some knowledge of Literary Criticism. Although it is perfectly possible for any literate person to enjoy a classic short story for example (maybe "The Necklace " by Guy de Maupassant or "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe) for it's entertainment value, there are many other things to appreciate about a text than it's storytelling qualities. For one thing, it is good to be able to appreciate just how clever an author has been in bringing his/her reader to the point at the end of the story where things are resolved, without that reader leaving off and getting bored! So techniques such as characterization, setting, dialog and imagery can all be appreciated too.

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Literary criticism is only important in teaching literature if the teacher wants to know what he/she is talking about.  If one doesn't want to understand the literature and then be able to teach what one knows to others, then by all means one doesn't need to study criticism.

Also, your question doesn't ask about literary theory, it asks about literary criticism.  Criticism is any analysis of literature.  When you do a close reading of a text, you are performing literary criticism.  And the more close readings performed by others you read, the more you will know about a text.  You shouldn't blindly accept everything you read, but you should read everything just the same. 

Furthermore, just in case you had theories in mind, such as Feminist, Economic, etc., those, too, are vital.  Every approach applied to a text that you study has the potential of teaching you something you didn't previously know.  What could be more important than that? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that there is a strong relationship in understanding literary criticism and teaching it to students.  This might be due to the fact that in being able to understand literary criticism of texts, it allows the teacher to be able to speak from a position of strength in attempting to illuminate the multiple dimensions of literature.  If teachers are well versed in literary criticism, they are able to bring out more nuances of the literature in question and can relay these to students.  Additionally, if students are able to understand the importance of literary criticism in studying texts, it would serve to strengthen their grasp of content within literature.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is a good question and one that is important. I believe that it is important to know literary criticism, because when people read texts they automatically and inevitably use some sort of literary theory; there is not way around it. So, it really is a way to to be self-reflective. To claim that a person does not use theory is to be ignorant and to use basically the theory that is most dominant in that particular circle. This brings us to another important usage of literary criticism. The more a person learns in this area, the more a person's view is expanded. For instance, if a person read a text with the point of view of post-colonial theory or reader response, or something else, then that person's reading will grow in depth. In short, literary theory can be very helpful.

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subrataray | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Literary criticism enhances the province of proper understanding of literature

A teacher or a student generally remains with his own ideas on a literary work , say ,-a poem or a dram , or a novel ,etc .But , when he reads a critic ,then he can tally his ideas with the most thoughtful scholars , and in that mirror he can detects his short-comings .For instance , when I have first read Hamlet , Macbeth , King Lear , I could form my own conceptions on those great tragedies . But , my study on Coleridge , A.C.Bradley , Wilson Knight , Granville Barker , helped me to see myself from the back ,and led me to discover the subtler aspects of human psychology .

Similarly , Aronld’s ctiticism on poetry , and then Eliot’s criticism on Arnold came upon me as a bliss of culturing my untrained mind .

Literary criticism therefore is a must for having a comprehensive view on a piece of a literature . The theories and their applications need a tradition , and an advanced student of literature must be aware of them .