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The meaning of a work of literature is best found by learning more about persons and events surrounding its writing
Institutions create class differences. Literature either supports the status quo or tries to change it, it justifies power differences, or tries to shift power. (This became quite a popular approach in the 1930s) Karl Marx actually write about economics – the way owners of capital maintain control of labor, so this new theory is somewhat different.
Asserts that text is merely words on a page. Everything else is guesswork and therefore pointless. Even an authors “intended meaning” is pointless because, like more people, they often lie (even to themselves). “new” critics do “close readings” of a “text” (notice the key words) “new” critics (1925) can be seen as a rejection of the authority of historicism and Marxism (mere stories). It returns, in a way, to the ancient studies of poetics and rhetoric’s
Since literature comes out of an authors head,, its meaning can be found by examining an authors mind. (1940’s related to Historical) The most significant Hx exist in peoples minds. Frueds great discovery.
Literature :on the page has NO meaning. It only acquires meaning when it gets into people’s heads. Meaning therefor depends entirely on the personal experiences of readers. Fish (1960) proposed this. Ca you see how this is related to the psychoanalytical approach?
Society and literature creates or maintains power differences between men and women, and generally places women under the control of men, or in position of lower status. (ate 19th C, again in 1960. This is Marxism applied to gender inequality) it arose directly from the experiences of women in the American Civil Rights movement, who noticed that all women shared many of the same “class” experiences of African-Americans.
Society and literature creates and maintains power differences between some majority (a “norm and minorities of any kind (for example, non-strait, non-white, non-Christian, or non-Eurocentric). Which the majority defines as “outside its norm” (thus “abnormal”). From about the 1970s, this is Marxist applied to person identity. It arose directly from Feminism, as Gay and Lesbian (queer) Americans noticed that they also shared the “outsider” experiences of women and African-Americans. It is now a standard approach to analysis of any insider-versus-outsider relation in society or literature.
Society and writing is changed by oppression. The literature of both colonizing and colonized nations either justifies or deals-with the effects of oppression. Late 1970’s, this Marxism applied to nation and subject peoples. This is now a popular approach, arising from the experiences of Native Americans (in the USA, in the American Indian Movement), and people in India (after independence from Great Britain in 1947
Asserts that all differences (especially in opposites like “true” and “false”) are arbitrary social creations, and opposites are “entangled” so that asserting one thing also asserts its opposite. (See Hegels idea of “dialectic”) There is also no clear or even stable meaning in a work of literature. Gaining popularity about 1970s, this is a theory, of German and French origin, deriving from Marxist and other critical theories. It is still popular, though disciples of the theory argue among themselves endlessly.
The meaning of literature can be understood better when we learn more about cultural assumptions of the societies in which writers do their writing, and readers read. How writers view themselves in their own time matters a great deal. About 1985, this is an attempt to resurrect Historicism, but with the focus shifted to culture and self-perception.
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