Literary & Cultural Criticism notes –
  • Looking at a text through the “lens” of one particular concern

Reader Response Lens
  • Assumes the reader can’t know the writer’s intentions
  • Readers actively make meaning and this process is valuable
  • What we used in grade school and middle school. What we still use when we read for fun.
  • Ex.: I think of my sister when I read this. That really affects me because I worry about her.
  • How did I like the book? How does it affect me?

Archetypal criticism – (recurrent cultural symbol)
  • Looking in literature for narrative patterns, character types or images
  • These archetypes are assumed to be universal and deep within us all, so that they evoke a strong response in the reader.
  • Examples: forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and the poison apple in Snow White
  • How does this story reflect the deep beliefs and myths of a culture?


Gender lens –
  • Assumptions:
    • Each reader’s status affects that person’s reading
    • Men and women have not had equal access
    • Men and women are different
    • Recognizes patterns in our culture
      • Patriarchal
        • Men’s power is overt
  • Historically, women were seen as passive objects
    • Women’s power is forced to be covert
    • Neither men nor women have options regarding their traditional roles
    • How does the text reinforce or undermine traditional gender roles?
    • How does gender affect the power roles in the text?

Privilege and Social Power Lens –
  • The economic organization of a society determines its attitudes and institutions
    • i.e., how wealth is produced makes society what it is
    • Who has the most opportunities in the story?
    • Is power shared? Is it transparent?
    • Focuses on money and power and control.

Psychological lens –
  • Reference to the author’s personality is used to interpret a literary work.
  • Reference to the text is used to understand the author.
  • Reading is a way to experience the consciousness of the author.



Historical lens –
  • How does the work reflect the time and place it was written?
    • How has that affected the author?
    • Apply specific information (social, political, economic, etc.) to explain the work
      • Ex.: Faulkner wrote many of his novels during WWII, a fact that explains the struggles and feeling of darkness in his novels.

Ecological lens –
  • How does this work reflect the author or culture’s attitude toward land use and awareness of ecological balance?
  • This looks at underlying assumptions of the author and society, as reflected in the text, toward the role of humans in the environment
    • Ex.: In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest the government builds a huge dam, sure that they have taken care of the salmon problem and unaware of any other problems they may be causing.
Post-colonial criticism/lens –
  • How does this text show the attitudes of the conquering culture and the culture they are attempting to overrun? What are the longer term implications of these attitudes?
  • Successful colonialism depends on a process of “Othering” the people colonized, making the conquered people seem dramatically different and lesser than the colonizers or conquerors.
  • Literature written by the colonizers often distorts the experiences of the colonized.
  • Literature written by the colonized includes attempts to reclaim culture and identity in the face of colonization.