Romantic Literary Criticism

Start Free Trial

What are some different literary theories?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Literary theories are frameworks used by critics to analyze various works of literature. They each operate on different assumptions, and focus on distinct aspects of a text. Though a variety of literary theories exist, the most popular literary theories are Formalism, Psychoanalytic Criticism, Marxist Criticism, and Reader-Response Criticism.

Formalists view a text as distinct from its author and historical background; they instead assume that a text's meaning is derived from the text itself. Formalists analyze how a work's various components, such as its symbols, characters, conflicts, and ironies, contribute to the overall meaning.

Psychoanalytic critics use Sigmund Freud's psychological theories to explain characters' behaviors. Some Freudian concepts they employ are the unconscious, ego, desire, repression, and the Oedipal complex.

Marxist critics examine how a text depicts socioeconomic systems. They explore how a work represents class distinctions, and ask who the principle character or characters' efforts ultimately benefit.

Reader-Response critics primarily concern themselves with how readers respond to a work. Critics of this school assume that a text's meaning is found in the interaction between the reader and the text.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team