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?

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 Althusser’s Philosophy

Louis Althusser is a postmodern, post-structural philosopher known for his contribution of reinterpreting Marxism and making it a modern reading. His career suffered downfall when he strangled his wife to death and that point of time he was suffering from bipolar disorder. For analyzing his thoughts we have to make preview into the philosophy of Marxism.
Marxism is an atheistic philosophy that has introduced the concept of materialistic interpretation of history and dialectical materialism. What is materialistic interpretation of history? Marx argues that all the institutions of society have their root base on the production system. The factors of production are owned and controlled by the Capitalists who exploit the workers and make stupendous profit. All the institutions of the society like legal, political, religious and literary are owned and controlled by the capitalism. Dialectical materialism espouses the view that that roots of society’s foundations, its institutions lie with the economic base that is who owns the factors of production. Marx is of the view that a capitalist system makes profit and creates an industrial class of people called the bourgeoisie and a menial exploited class of people the proletariat. Althusser is not clear about how these Marxian concepts can be accommodated into modern day capitalist societies.
The next concept used by Althusser is ideology. Ideology is used in the broad sense of the term and encompasses society’s structures especially its political, legal, economic, psychiatric and literary structures. These structures function as ideological apparatuses. However the relevance of Marxism and ideological structures is anachronistic. All of the ideological apparatuses, the legal, political, economic, and psychiatric are dependent on the economics of production. Profit making of the bourgeoisie and exploitation of the workers is the result of the function of ideology. Here I would like to disagree with Althusser. What began as Communism and known as the Eastern bloc including the erstwhile Soviet Union collapsed. Free enterprise and capitalism rule the world today. Even in a country like China, only it political structure is communist while its market is market friendly.
Next we come upon Althusser’s term: the problematic. A rereading and re-interpretation of Marxian texts is problematic. The Marxian concept of class struggle is antiquated. The workers in a capitalistic society are not exploited. They are paid wages to meet their needs. Marxism has been successful only in Communist Cuba but Cuba is also opening its doors to a free market economy. Marxian concepts have failed to work in modern day economy. The internationalization of the industry as the transnational corporation and also out sourcing has created many jobs for workers in the third world. The world is edging towards a one world order and a one world currency. The bourgeoisie are becoming richer and richer while the workers become divided into upper and lower middleclass strata of the society.
Next Althusser talks about ideology as an aesthetic artifact. Aesthetics produces works of art which have an ideological structure. For example Renaissance paintings carried Christian motifs and it represented the ideological influence of Christianity. The works of Andy Warhol show the preponderance of crass consumerism. Mainstream literature especially pulp literature depicts the ethos of consumerism starved with the narcissism of the fetish of deprived minds. Can art transcend ideology and introduce something new? Art and aesthetics have to become a culture of deviation.

 

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.