I have discovered some tools for the methodology of literary criticism. They are:
a) Philosophical Etymology
b) Cultural Anatomy
c) Psychological Pharmacology
d) Ontological Nebula
What is philosophical Etymology? Philosophical etymology is a cross examination of literary and cultural meanings in the light of Philosophy. It seeks to give newer shades of meaning to older thoughts. Let’s look at some examples. The school of structuralism coined that all language is made up of signs. A sign consists of the signifier and the signified. The signifier is a visual tangible thing and the signified is an idea. Let’s use an example: I blossomed in her garden. Here blossomed is figurative and an idea and hence it is the signified. Garden forms the signifier.
Postmodern Philosopher Derrida developed the idea of Binary Divide. A Binary Divide is a text that privileges some and marginalizes others. Let’s look at an example. It is said in an advert: Wanted only Native Speakers to Teach English. This narrative privileges Native Speakers over English spoken by the colonized people. Using the Binary Divide we can deconstruct texts.
From Derrida I have developed an idea called Binary Fusion. Binary fusion is a text that promotes equality. Let’s look at an advert. We do not discriminate people on the basis of gender, color or orientation. This text contains a Binary Fusion. Let’s look at another example. Black Culture, Black Gospel, Jazz and Blues are universally epitomized binary fusions of culture. A literary interpreter can analyze texts and bring out notions of marginalization and privilege and also write a narrative of Binary Fusion.
Then comes Kristeva’s texts of the semiotic and the symbolic. A semiotic text omits grammar and punctuation. Such a kind of text can be found in streams of consciousness narratives, in drama, film and music. A symbolic text on the other hand adheres to the strict conventions of language. Doing a literary analysis we can classify texts into semiotic and symbolic elements.
Form a Marxian point of view we can analyze texts by looking at class values like the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Do texts privilege the Blue Blood or monitor the interests of the working class. Does the text promote the interests of the Capitalist society? What is the dialectic materialism embedded in the text. This refers to political and historical problems created by Social tremors. The narrator can find out how various social institutions have contributed to the writing of literature.
Philosophical Etymology also takes a look at Feminist Theology. Do social, cultural, political and historical institutions promote gender equality and support Feminism. How are the roles of a working mother enacted in s society? Does the intrusion of masculinity affect the reading of texts? To what levels of subversion are meanings of the feminine in a text?
Psychological Pharmacology looks at the theories of Freud, Lacan and Jung. From Freud we have the three states: ID (passion and the libido), Ego (language and culture assimilated from parents) and Super Ego (the laws of the society). While doing textual interpretation the author can find out how these mechanisms are working in a text. Texts can also be phallic and vaginal that is texts promoting the language of the feminine and the masculine. Is the language of the text phallic or vaginal?
Next I would like to take the theories of Lacan into consideration. Prominent are the Mirror Stage and the Gaze. The Mirror stage consists of the child’s entry into Language. Mirror stage can be a psychoanalytic tool to gauge level of subversion in a text. It’s an analysis of psychological symptoms in a work of literature. Gaze for Lacan has sexual connotations. What kind of gaze is present in a text? Gazes can be feminine, masculine and gay.
Next I would like to take Jung’s theories into account. Jung has classified the psyche into archetypes (personality types). Some archetypes are the Wizard, the Witch, the lover and many more. We can analyze how and why and for what these archetypes are created.
Ontology a study of being comes from Existential Philosophy. Here I take the traditional ontology and the ontology created by me into consideration. Traditional Ontology, the one espoused by Sartre and Camus is destructive as it condemns life to be absurd and chaotic. Constructive Ontology created by me states that meaning of being lies in Valueblization (from Value and Realization). We can analyze texts and examine whether texts are favoring destructive ontology or constructive ontology.
What Cultural Functions does a text serve? For who is the narrative intended? Which cultural institutions are prominent? Is there a culture clash or a culture divide?
Probing into the meaning of literature is an interesting thing. I have classified the meaning of Literature as Art, Life, Culture and Philosophy.
Literature as Art
Literature as Art resembles a painting. The tropes or figures of speech used in the literary language ornament it. Literature as art belongs to the realm of aesthetic appreciation. Art of Literature uses various literary devices like Metaphors, Similes, Puns, Parables, Hyperboles, Allusions, Allegories, hyperbole, rhetorical question, Metonymy, Zeugma, Oxymoron, Fables and many more.
When it comes to life, what is literature? What does literature do? Life of Literature is a character sketch. Character is the revelation of biography and autobiography. Character also includes the plot of the novel or the mystery hidden in the novel.
How can literature become culture? Looking at literature from the cultural point of view, we have to take a plunge into structuralism. Structuralist thought divides all language into signs. A sign consists of the signifier (a visual tangible element) and the signified (an idea). When we say Rose is love, we mean that Rose is the signifier and love the signified. A writer will write culture into signs. As culture, literature also dwells on the socio-cultural institutions.
How can we look at literature from the philosophical point of view? Philosophy of the novel contains ideas in the novel. For example: in Camus’ Myth of the Sisyphus, we find that Sisyphus is condemned by the Gods to roll a boulder all the uphill, only to find it rolls down again. What Camus meant was life is chaotic and absurd. The literature of Camus paved the way for the philosophy of existentialism.
I have developed ideas on interpreting art and they are surface level meanings, aesthetic appreciation and literary, cultural and Philosophical Interpretation.
I take paintings of Belgian Surrealist Paul Delvaux, Picasso and the paintings of Gauguin and Van Gogh.
Paul Delvaux Call of the Night
On the surface level, there is barren land, nude female bodies having hair of vegetation, hills and trees without branches.
To appreciate it from an aesthetic angle as a pure work of art, it is an elegant craft of displaying the contours of the naked feminine. The tone of color used is a rich nuance, producing an aesthetic effect. Everything is serenely placed as rhythm of light and color.
Let’s look at the painting from a literary, cultural and philosophical point of view. The painting depicts dream and reality juxtaposed together. Is barrenness of the terrain showing contrast with the sexual awakenings of the woman (the woman are veiled with hair)? Does the woman covered with veil, initiating others into the realm of sexuality. Is the light held the buxom woman an invitation to do the poetry of the bed?
Gauguin’s Spirit of the Dead Watching
On the surface level, there is a nude young girl and man hooded in black.
An aesthetic appreciation we understand how vividly is the brilliant use of color, the dark and light shades forming an ambient tapestry of a picture of art.
From a cultural point of view, we find Gauguin celebrating the culture of Tahiti. As a philosophical art, Gauguin ponders on the questions of immortality, life after death and the soul. From a psychoanalytic point of view we find that the man is obsessed with a younger woman.
Van Gogh’s Cultivator
On the surface level it is a painting in agrarian settings were a farmer is sowing the field.
As an aesthetic appreciation we understand the brilliant exposition of color, light and shade forming metaphors of a painting of art.
From a cultural point of view we can understand that Van Gogh was influenced by the Parable of the Seed in the Bible. Philosophically speaking there’s harmony of man with nature both being metaphoric as friends.
From a surface level of meaning we can see a distortion of animal and human figures embedded in the canvas.
As aesthetic appreciation, we can follow the ingenuity of Picasso to create a new school of painting called Cubism. Art is shown to create an aversion in the mind. Looking at it we are overcome with a feeling of catharsis.
From a Cultural Point of View we can understand Guernica to show the bombing of a town called Basque and the horrors.
I have developed degrees of aesthetic appreciation and they being surface level of meaning, atheistic appreciation and interpretation.
On a Surface Level of meaning we find man with awkward posture, very stiff, very macho.
As an aesthetic artifact we appreciate the fine grandeur of the body resembling ancient Greek Gods, handsome, fierce, quite disturbing for the human eye.
Interpretation can be made culturally and philosophically. The Thinker is an art, defiant one, showing the brilliant triumph of reason, able to cope with any adversity, a superman (Zarathustra) described by Nietzsche, being driven recklessly to celebrate the age of reason and yet being passionate in a poetic way with beauty.