Literary Theory: Major Approaches
Positivist biographical approach
- Which aspects of the author’s life are important to understand the text?
- Does the text simply mirror experience or does he transform it?
- What is this image of the world meant for? What is its function for the writer / reader?
- Is the difference between reality and fiction due to aesthetic reasons or psychological reasons?
- What do the images and conflicts in the text tell you about conflicts in the author’s psyche?
- What made the author write fiction? What were his / her motives?
- What do we learn about ourselves reading the text?
- What is the major topic in the text?
- Do all elements of the text contribute to the topic or is there something that doesn’t seem to fit at all?
- How do content and form work together to create unity?
- What basic oppositions do you find in the text (e. g. male – female, light – darkness)? How are they related to each other?
- What are the most important elements in the story? What is their function?
- How to they fit into the context of the genre?
- How does the world created by the text fit together with how we see the world?
- Where do basic oppositions in the text (e. g. black – white, old – young) become shaky?
- Where do you find contradictions?
- Where do you find shifts in perspective that disrupt the main point of the story?
- Where do you find gaps in the story? What do they mean?
- Where do you find references to other parts of the text or to other texts? Do they change the meaning of the text?
- What is society in this period of history like?
- What is the author’s position towards society?
- What position towards society is presented by the text?
- Does the text present economic or social conflicts?
- What seem to be the most important issues? Are the characters aware of them?
- At the time of writing, what seems to be important in art and everyday culture? Who defines what is important? How did they do that?
- How does the text reflect these things, how and by whom they are made important?
How do other texts reflect the relationship between art and culture?
Feminism, Gender Theory, Queer Theory
- At the time writing, what does it mean to be male / female / lesbian / gay?
- What does it mean for writing and reading?
- How are males and females, gays or lesbians presented in the text?
- Does the text address males / females / gays / lesbians in a specific way?
- How do female / male / gay / lesbian readers react to this text and to gender-specific literature in general?
- At the time of writing, how did people react to different cultures, races, genders, and classes?
- How are people from different cultures portrayed in the text?
- Does the author follow the rules of the dominant culture? Does he make his own way of writing?
- What do you expect from this text?
- What is left unsaid? How does it relate to what is told?
- How do you respond to the information in the text and how do you react to the gaps?
- How do your ideas about the text change while you are reading?
- Why do you respond in a certain way?
- At the time of writing, what do people expect when they get themselves a book?
- How does this text fit into this framework of expectations?
- What is taken for granted in the text and what has to be explained?
- How did readers and writers actually respond to the text? Why?
- How do the interpretations of the text change over time? Why?