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For more information, please see full course syllabus of AP English Literature & Composition
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Lecture Comments (2)

1 answer

Last reply by: Professor Hendershot
Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:31 PM

Post by Alex Moon on October 10, 2013

Hi Rebekah! I love all of you lectures. Among other things,, you mentioned in the last slide some textbook-style material that explains literary criticism. Now as a self-study paradigm, how would you best recommend the manner in which I would become prepared for the AP Lit exam this May? I am thinking about choosing the "user friendly" guide from your last slide as the core structure of my self-paced routine and applying what I would learn on various pieces of literature that I may or may have not read.

Thank you for your dedication!

Literary Criticism

  • What is Literary Criticism?
    • Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature.
    • Essentially, it asks a few major questions:
      • What is the work about?
      • What is the author trying to say?
      • What does [something] mean?
      • How do these works relate to one another?
      • Is this work any good (by any given definition of “good”)?
  • Why Does Literary Criticism Matter?
    • A lot of people would tell you it doesn’t, BUT …
    • It helps you get through high-school and college literature classes.
    • It helps you understand what a lot of very smart people are talking about (and sound smart yourself).
    • It helps you understand the operating system of human beings—stories.
  • Where to Find Literary Criticism
    • Critical anthologies
    • Literary journals
    • Book reviews
    • Popular “literary” magazines (The New Yorker, The Nation, etc.)
  • Major Critical Movements
    • Moral Criticism, Dramatic Construction (~360 BC-present)
    • Formalism, New Criticism, Neo-Aristotelian Criticism (1930s-present)
    • Psychoanalytic Criticism, Jungian Criticism(1930s-present)
    • Marxist Criticism (1930s-present)
    • Reader-Response Criticism (1960s-present)
    • Structuralism/Semiotics (1920s-present)
    • Post-Structuralism/Deconstruction (1966-present)
    • New Historicism/Cultural Studies (1980s-present)
    • Post-Colonial Criticism (1990s-present)
    • Feminist Criticism (1960s-present)
    • Gender/Queer Studies (1970s-present)
  • How to Write Your Own Literary Criticism
    • Essentially, literary criticism is all about observation and interpretation. You observe what is present in or around the work, and you interpret what it means and how it connects to other works.
    • This might be your sincere opinion about whatever you’re reading, or it might not.
    • At least on the AP English Literature and Composition exam, you don’t have to believe a word you say. You just have to back it up.
    • Things to look at:
      • Context: When and where was the work written? Is it part of a larger literary movement? Does it follow the rules of that movement, or deviate from them in some important way?
      • Biography: What do you know about the author? Is this work autobiographical? Is some element of it drawn from the author’s life, or written in response to some key historical event?
      • Content: On a basic level, what’s in the work? What happens in the story or poem? What is predictable? What is surprising? What do you remember most about this work when you’ve finished reading it?
      • Undercurrents: What is the theme of the work? Are there allusions to other works of literature? How does the author’s tone affect your perception of the work?
      • Language: What kind of language does the author use? What kind of vocabulary does he or she display? Are sentences, lines, and paragraphs long or short? Does anything rhyme? What kinds of word origins are in play? What kind of sound would this work have when read aloud?
      • Critical Perspectives: How would members of the various critical schools approach this work? What would they say about it?
  • The Quick and Dirty Secret of Lit-Crit
    • Write about whatever the author didn’t have to include.
      • Scenes, actions, and characters
      • Language and imagery
      • Allusions
      • Digressions and tangents
      • Style deviations
      • The “weird stuff”
  • Three Great Books on Lit-Crit
    • The Critical Tradition: Classical Texts and Contemporary Trends (1998), edited by David H. Richter
    • Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide (1999), by Lois Tyson
    • Beginning Theory (2002), by Peter Barry

Literary Criticism

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:10
  • What is Literary Criticism 0:36
    • The study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature
    • Asks the questions, what is the work about?
    • What is the author trying to say?
    • What does [something] mean?
    • How do these works relate to one another
    • Is this work any good?
  • Why Does Literary Criticism Matter? 1:24
    • Helps you get through high school and college literature classes
    • Helps you understand what smart people are talking about
    • Helps you understand human beings
  • Wait. What? 1:46
  • Where to Find Literary Criticism 2:33
    • Critical anthologies
    • Literary journals
    • Book reviews
    • Popular literary magazines
  • Major Critical Movements 3:19
  • How to Write Your Own Literary Criticism 5:19
    • All about observation and interpretation
  • How to Write Your Own Literary Criticism: Things to Look At 6:05
    • Context
    • Biography
    • Content
    • Undercurrents
    • Language
    • Critical Perspectives
  • The Quick and Dirty Secret of Lit-Crit 8:49
    • Write about whatever the author didn't have to include
  • Three Great Books on Lit-Crit 10:49
    • The Critical Tradition
    • Critical Theory Today
    • Beginning Theory