EN 2002 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: New Criticism

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Today we start looking at formalist theories and formalist approaches. Formalism is about bringing a scientific approach, or a kind of disinterestedness" to the study of literature. It is an interpretative approach which emphasizes the literary form and it focuses its analysis on the literary devices and the use of language found in a text (you can see how eliot helps bring this about). Formalism in general is about severing the text from its connection to culture (so some kinds of formalism arise in reaction to. Marxist theories of literature, for example, with its heavy emphasis on the conditions of production). Instead, formalism seeks an objective analysis of things like motifs, images, and the structures that comprise the text. New criticism, which is where we are beginning today, was a product of american universities in the 1930s and 1940s. It was influenced by its british counterpart, practical criticism. New criticism was seen as revolutionary in its time.

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