1. Choose an author that interests you.
2. Choose an approach:
A. Socio-political: If you choose this approach, you will look at social or political issues that were present when the novel was set.
B. Thematic: If you choose this approach, you will choose three short works written by the author and explore how the writer works with similar themes, techniques, or style.
C. Theoretical: When you use a theory to look at literature, it’s like you’re changing the shade of the glasses with which you look it. It is still the same work of literature, but you see it differently based on the shade you are using. Here are some different “shades” or theories:
1. Feminism: What Feminist Critics Do:
• Rethink the canon, aiming at the rediscovery of texts written by women
o You could argue why one of the novels should be part of the canon, the way Walker has argued for Hurston.
• Revalue women’s experiences
• Examine representations of women in literature by men and women
• Challenge representations of women as “other” or “lack” as part of nature
• Examine power relations which obtain in texts and life, with a view to break them down, seeing reading as a political act and showing the extent of patriarchy
• Recognize the role of language in making what is social and constructed seem transparent and natural
• Raise the question of whether men and women are “essentially” different because of biology, or are socially constructed as different
2. New Historicism: What New Historicists Do:
• They juxtapose literary and non-literary texts, reading the former in light of the latter.
o For example, you could take a real law or court decision and see how it could have affected an event or character in the work you have chosen. You can consider Jim Crow laws, language that banned slavery, laws on rape, especially of black women. You can look up laws on divorce or inherited wealth for women, for example. You can look at Supreme Court decisions (on civil rights, women’s rights, education) that can help explain the situation your characters find themselves in.
• They focus attention on issues of state power and how it is maintained, on patriarchal structures and their perpetuation.
3. Marxism: What Marxists Do:
• They examine themes such as class struggle or the progression of society through various historical stages
• Relate the context of a work to the social class status of the author, often believing that the author is unaware of its effect.
• Explain the nature of a literary genre in terms of the social period in which it was produced.
Bulleted items taken from Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory by Peter Barry
? Eight – 10 pages, not including works cited page or cover page
? A minimum of six sources: NO NO NO Wikipedia (Use Encyclopedia Britannica in library databases instead). NO NO NO sites that summarize or think about the literature FOR you.
? All sources, other than books, should come from the library databases!
? MLA style.
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