Methods of Literary Criticism

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

 
Philosophical Etymology
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
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.

 
Ontological Nebula
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.


Cultural Anatomy

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?

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Witchcraft

Witch and Craft have prejudicial connotations associated with the dark rituals of Satanism, idolatry and all forms of malevolence and the diabolic. As an idiom it means being an anti-feminist and being a male chauvinist. Witchcraft is perversion for male chauvinism. Wiccanism, the earth and Mother Nature should not be diabolized into Witchcraft. The bodies of the woman, her smells, her menstrual blood, the odor from her orifices are the sacred feminine and not witchcraft.

Analysis of Death of a Salesman

Death of a Sales Man by Arthur Miller is one of the prominent plays which won a Pulitzer Prize. The play depicts the life of an American Middle Class Family in pursuit of the great American Dream. Here I would like to analyze the play from various schools of literary thought.
Existentialism
The protagonist Willy Lowman can be compared to Albert Camus’ Myth of the Sisyphus where the Gods torture Sisyphus by making him roll a boulder all the way uphill to find that it rolls down again. Willy Lowman is forced to do a menial job for a selling company. The tragic hero of the play is a person in pursuit of the great American dream but fails to achieve and succumbs to suicide. Looking at him from Sartre’s existential point of view, we find him a bearer of existential angst. Plagued by the power of negative thinking, Billy relapses into existential solipsism. Billy’s character reveals an overarching narcissism.
Marxian Perspective
Looking at the play from a Marxian perspective we find the play is littered with oppressive symptoms of a leviathan, showing the perils of a capitalist society. The proletariat are struggling workaholics. We find a society that is inhuman and dehumanizing. Society is fragmented and proceeds on bettering oneself with the forsaking of one’s neighbor.
Psychoanalysis
I would like to introduce the Lacanian concept of the mirror stage. The mirror stage in psychoanalysis is a stage where the child enters the realm of language and becomes a self, a subject. The mirror stage is an arena where Billy’s psyche conflicts with the aspirations and goals set by him. The mirror becomes an absurd theater of life. From a Jungian perspective, Billy Lowman is an archetype of a fool. He is living in an illusory demented world. I would also like to make a comparison of Billy Lowman with Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The follies of Don Quixote at one point of time were denigrated as a fool’s conquest for utopia. Don Quixote in psychoanalysis can be considered as a narcissistic hero who creates the myth of existential anarchic living. Billy Lowman is a tragic, stoic hero who becomes a king of neurotic behavior.
Feminism
Billy’s wife Linda Lowman is an essence of the sacred feminine. She can be compared to a mother Goddess who tries to balance with the realities of life and who strives to cope up with Billy’s dementia. She is an archetype of a classic American middleclass woman who tries to cope up with the realities of life.
Postmodernism and Post structuralism
Postmodern perspectives analyze how binary divide is created in language. Certain structures are privileged signifiers and others are marginalized. In Death of a Salesman we find capitalism and the bourgeoisie to be privileged signifiers where as Billy Lowman and the proletariats are marginalized. Capitalism and the bourgeoisie become structures that can be read as texts of interpretative deconstruction.

 

Analysis of Julia Kirsteva’s Philosophy

Julia Kristeva is a postmodern, post-structural philosopher, a radical feminist known for introducing many new terms into Philosophical jargon.

 
Her first concept is subjectivity. Individuals are people who feel, think and will. Subjectivity is process of semantic signification. Subjectivity is closely linked to the ontological concept of being. Philosophy asks questions like what is being, what it means to be a being. Every individual is subjective.

 
Next comes Kristeva’s concepts like Semiotic and the Symbolic. The semiotic is a realm where the normal rules of language do not apply. The semiotic dethrones the syntax of language. Examples of the Semiotic can be taken from streams of consciousness narrative, poetry, dance and music. The symbolic realm is one which follows the traditional structure of language. Grammar and rules of the syntax are strictly adhered to. Legalistic, political, linguistic and medicinal texts operate on Symbolic norms. Kristeva distinguishes between two types of texts the Geno text and the Pheno text. The Geno text belongs to the semiotic realm and the pheno text belongs to symbolic realm.

 
Kristeva says that structuralism is synchronic and post-structuralism is diachronic. A synchronic approach begins from a point of time and does not take into account the history of many periods. A diachronic effort takes into account the meaning of a term from different historical epochs. For example: let’s take into account the meaning of the word temple diachronically. Temple as found in the Biblical Old Testament refers to synagogue or place of worship. Temple found in the New Testament refers to the body of Christ and also we have the saying: ‘your body is the temple of God: so don’t desecrate it’.
Next of Kristeva’s concepts is inter-textuality. Language is interwoven simultaneously from many texts. For example a work of fiction might contain idioms and allusions. Reading too is a process of inter-textuality.

 
Kristeva makes a foray into the Freudian concept of dreams. Freud described dreams as being one of condensation and displacement. A condensed dream shows many symbolic images that can be interpreted. A displaced dream is a dream where the dreamer wants escape from reality. Let’s illustrate it with examples. In a dream I saw I am making love to my significant other in granddad’s house. This is an example of a condensed dream. An interpretation of it would be, I am doing an act where I am desecrating the sanctity of marriage. The house of my grandfather can mean sanctity. Another example is I am seeing my father constantly in a dream. This is an example of displacement. Do I want to shirk my responsibilities of being a father?
Kristeva also questions the stability of the self. The self has to do a tight-rope-walking act between the Id, Ego and Super Ego. A postmodern interpretation would be deify the ID, glorify the Ego and subvert the Super Ego.

 
Kristeva has also introduced the concept of abjection. Abjection is a process through which one expels what one dislikes. Examples of abjection are feces, vomit and wee-wee. Kristeva uses the concept of abjection for the Nazi hatred of Jews. Hitler felt abject when he was denied of paternity by his own father. And his father being a Jew, Hitler became a tyrant in decimating them.

 
Kristeva mentions of three generations of feminism, the first wave, the second wave and the third wave. The first wave feminists wanted to be just like men. The second wave feminists imitated the archetypal role of the lover and the mother. The third wave feminists on the other hand balance themselves between alternating roles of being a wife, mother and worker. For the third wave feminists, feminism is glorified and deified.

Gothic Sublime

Gothic literature is sublime and let’s ascertain the reasons for it being so. I would like to use the following paraphernalia for doing it. They are New Criticism, Existentialism, Psychoanalysis, Marxian Criticism, Deconstruction and Feminism.
New Criticism is the analysis of tropes or figures of speech used in literature. The tropes in Gothic Literature bear a semblance of illumination. They dissect the human psyche to portray the storm of inner angst. When we read into the tropes of Gothic Literature we are filled with awe, fixated to a neurotic delirium and we become fascinated with the flux of psychedelic mania. Gothic literature is fanciful, ornamental and hyperbolic. There is a tendency to portray the supernatural realm through the lens of being human. The pathetic dilemma of human condition is portrayed vividly through using neurotic and psychotic features.

Viewing it through the prism of existential literature, the first prominent feature that is highlighted is angst. Most characters undergo an extreme angst that transcends to a manifestation of neurosis or psychosis. Edgar Allan Poe is a master of portraying psychological torment. There is a tendency to overcome societal norms and showcase characters with violent criminal behavior. Using Sartre’s term, the characters exhibit a being- in- itself syndrome and project their ego to annihilate the other’s subjective postures. Thus characters encounter nothingness with reality and use their freedom to egotistical excess.

Psychoanalytically speaking we can use the famous term of Lacan: the gaze. The gaze is violent, pathetic, neurotic and psychotic. There is a romantic elevation of the psyche to dizzying levels of melancholia. All Gothic characters are lunatic psyches with a tendency to usurp the existing synthesis of being democratically tuned to a society’s ethos. The ID is elevated, the ego is defied and the superego is violated. There is a tendency to be in the reverse tangle of despondent romanticism. The characters are either psychotic or neurotic or both. Murder is justified with the luminal space of being egotistically sadistic.

A Marxian critic would look at the Gothic as being productive enterprise of the bourgeoisie. The sole aim of the Gothic is to produce a pleasurable catharsis. The reader is fantastically transmitted into the world of the sublime where it’s the aim of the bourgeoisie to keep the proletariat satisfied. The means of producing literature are gratified with the excess of capitalistic profit. For a Marxian critic, the Gothic is an out-of-place reality, a genre where the interests of the working class are negated.

Looking at it through the ideas of deconstruction, one would understand the binary divide of characters. For example, in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, the monstrous element becomes the grotesque, ugly and portrayed with pathos of being psychotically disturbed. This is a symptom of Binary Divide, an escape from the reality of being clinically sane. Democratic norms are subverted to justify the colonialism of the psyche. Tyranny of the mind reigns high and becomes the threshold of the DNA ladder of the Binary divide. The book becomes the centre of psychological gratification in one sense and in another, feasible appetizer for psychological gratification.

From a Feminist point of view, the archetypes are masculine, and having the qualities of being misogynists. There is no gaze of the feminine. The characters are psychological machos caught in the throes of violence and murder.