Discussion Facilitator: Ian Hayes
Teacher bio: http://peoplescolloquium.org/teacher-bios/
If a novel falls in the woods and there’s no one around to read it, can it still be a great work of literature? New Criticism says, “Yes!”
For New Criticism, “the text itself” is the only authority when it comes to interpreting a work of literature, not the author’s childhood or gender, or the socioeconomic circumstances under which it was written. Rather than succumb to intentional or affective fallacies, New Criticism asserts that only the organic unity of formal elements––images, symbols, metaphors, rhyme, meter, etc.,––can account for the meaning of the text. Wouldn’t it be great if there were standards for interpreting and evaluating literature instead of reducing it to the status of “the ink-blot on which psychiatric patients project their own meanings”?
On the other hand, New Criticism arose as a response to the popular method of interpreting a literary text. “Students attending a lecture on Wordsworth’s ‘Elegiac Stanzas’ (1805) could expect to hear a description of the poet’s personal and intellectual life: his family, friends, enemies, lovers, habits, education, beliefs, and experiences. ‘Now you understand the meaning of “Elegiac Stanzas,”’ they would be told, without anyone in the room, including the lecturer, having opened the book to look at the poem itself.”
How much ought an author’s background factor in to understanding their work? How do we, as writers, feel about our writing being judged in the broader context of the life we live while writing?
During this discussion, we’ll review Chapter 5, New Criticism, from Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today….”
Chapter 5 – New Criticism by Lois Tyson: https://efford.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/8/3/13833564/critical-theory-today_3.pdf