Critical Approaches to Literature

Main Page

I. Literary Studies And The Theory Of Science

I.1. Preliminary problems: definitions, scientific expectations

I.2. Ontological problems: the way literature exists

1. Semiotics

2. Literary communication

I.3. Methodological problems: the way we understand texts

1. Meaning and context

2. Interpretation

II. An Overview Of Major Trends In Literary Theory

II.1. Preliminaries

1. Textual Scholarship (philology)

2. Traditional Approaches

II.2. Formal Critical Trends - From Authorial Intention to Text

1. New Criticism

2. Russian formalism

3. Structuralism

4. Phenomenology

III. Contextual Approaches - From Text to Context

III.1. Reader-response Criticism

III.2. Post-structuralism

1. The Semiotics of the Sign and the Subject

2. Psychoanalysis

3. Deconstruction

4. New Historicism

5. Feminist criticism

IV. Post Semiotics - From Sign to Subject

IV.1. Culture as Signification

IV.2. Cultures and Signification

IV.3. The Cartesian Heritage of Modernism

IV.4. The Constitution of the Speaking Subject

1. The microdynamics of the subject

2. The macrodynamics of the subject

IV.5. The Critique of Structuralism

4. Phenomenology

Phenomenology appeared as perhaps the most important philosophical trend of the 20th century. It was grounded in the realization that all we know about reality is known through the cognizing consciousness, so in order to theorize about epistemological or ontological questions, first of all we have to understand the way our consciousness works, the way it relates to reality.

  • "predecessor" of reader-response criticism;

  • Edmund Husserl's philosophy: our sole source of knowledge about reality is our consciousness, objects are intentional object, formed and intended by the naming, interpreting  consciousness, but: this consciousness is capable of getting to know the "essentials," the real, authentic features of reality through the intentional procedure of "bracketing out" subjective prejudices and disturbances.

  • phenomenological criticism: the LWA is an intentional object, containing, manifesting the author's consciousness for the reader;

  • the act of reading is the "coming together of two consciousnesses": we get direct access to the mind of  the author;

  • LWA maintains a direct link between the author's & the receiver's mind;

  • phenomenological reading: the work is a consistent manifestation of a state of consciousness, which governs the vision of the writing.

Phenomenological philosophy and criticism had a crucial influence in various disciplines by directing the critical attention onto the human consciousness itself. In so doing, it also paved the way for reader response criticism in literary theory.