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English 215: Introduction to English Studies

Learning Goals

Reading is never an passive act.

As a critical reader, one must examine texts not just for their narratives but for the roles they play in many categories:

  • literature as a formation of personal rules and judgments
  • literature as a social text
  • literature and multiculturalism
  • literature in the development of a curriculum

Literary Criticism defined...

"The analysis, study, and evaluation of individual works of art, as well as the formulation of general principles for the examination of such works.  From the earliest days of literary history, criticism, has been a major aspect of literary theory and practice."  

  • Harmon, William, C H. Holman, and William F. Thrall. A Handbook to Literature. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice Hall, 2000. Print.


The Critical Process

According to The Fundamentals of Literary Criticism, the critical process is comprised of four steps:

Step I: Interpretation

What is this text actually about?

Now is the time to:

  • Look up unfamiliar words.
  • Examine the tone the author uses. The definition of a word may change depending on the context.
  • Consider how language changes when using it in everyday life compared to more technical language.
    • For example, "heart attack" and "myocardial infarction" mean the same thing. A more technical term may be used to describe something with more precision. It also maintains its definition, whereas everyday terms may change meaning over time.

Step II: Orientation

It is easy to become caught up in the author's point of view and reject a text.

Before doing so, consider:

  • What are the author's ideas?
  • What are the ideas of the author's intended audience?
  • What are the circumstances and expectations surrounding the lives of the audience?

Step III: Evaluation

After steps I and II, evaluation of a work often arises naturally. A true evaluation of a work occurs when the reader is certain they see the literary work as it was intended to or should be seen. At this point, the reader forms their judgment of a work, whether it is good or bad and why. This is done without attributing personal tastes to the work.

Step IV: Articulation

At this point, the reader is ready to share their ideas with others. By taking action, the reader opens themselves up to others' critical opinions of works, allowing a dialog to begin.

Roberts, Mark. The Fundamentals of Literary Criticism. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell Limited, 1974. Print.