Caitlin Jeffery

Exploring the depths of digital literature

Criticizing criticism?

on March 19, 2013

When reading any text it is amazing how many interpretations it can have. People of different classes, ages, sexes, perspectives, etc. each bring their own selves to a text. By being able to analyze a text in so many ways, you can dig into deeper meanings and discover things you would have never noticed otherwise.

If you were to look at The Importance of Being Earnest from a biographical criticism perspective, you would see how Algernon is based on Wilde and the plot is a satire of the world he lived in. By looking at it this way, you see how Wilde’s history and experiences contributed to what you are reading and it is important in your understanding of the text.

From a feminist perspective, you would see that all the characters have a fanciful idea of the lives they want to live. Algernon and Jack have the freedom to pretend to be someone else and live that dream, but Cecily and Gwendolen are restricted by their sex. Cecily reads books and writes stories, which was more accepted at that time. The most interesting piece for me, is that it is in fact a woman who has the most power. All their happiness is contingent upon the approval of Lady Bracknell.

Theories can lead you deeper into the text than even the write has gone. To his death Tolkien would argue that The Lord of the Rings was not allegorical even though many people could interpret the good west against the evil east as the Allies vs. the Axis. Tolkien may not have intended to make it allegorical, but one could argue that the world he lived in could have contributed to the text and be an indirect representation.

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