ENG20400 Critical Theory
Emma Treacy (16413544)
1. Give a basic definition/description (50-100 words for each definition) of two of the following terms mentioned in Williams’ article: new criticism; new formalism; close reading; distant reading.
2. Identify five descriptive words or phrases that are associated with ‘symptomatic reading’ in the essay. What criticisms of symptomatic reading are reported in the essay? (100-150 words)
3. This article suggests differences in method and objective/aim between ‘symptomatic reading’ on the one hand, and ‘surface reading’ on the other. What are the similarities and differences between the methods and aims (including the political aims) of these two forms of reading? (200-250…show more content… Formalism and formalist critics believe that all that is needed to interpret a piece of literature art is in the work itself, through literary forms and techniques. New criticism however, is the revision of these texts once more, but doing so in isolation, separate from political and social preconceptions but still observing the literary form.
• New formalism was a movement throughout the 1980s and 1990s in America. It was the resurgence of metred and rhymed poetry, and was very popular amongst the young generation of the time. The literature was more direct in the depiction of emotion and colloquial in diction. Seeing as this was well used within the youth of time, the writers were very comfortable and at ease with American popular culture, and so new formalism was seen as a revival of a formalist’ structure for a piece of work.
• Five words or phrases associated with symptomatic reading are; paranoia, detective, excavation, hidden meaning and…show more content… Both symptomatic and surface reading could, in ways, be viewed as similar methods of criticizing and reading a text. Both forms of criticism can be considered outdated methods of reading that have seen a revival throughout generations. Both techniques have been taught to students, at a young age and while students are analysing a piece of work, they must always search for the hidden meaning that lay beneath the words, the form and the structure of the text. The only difference between the two, is that with surface reading, the critic must isolate the text from the political and social problems of the time, and instead focus on its literary techniques to learn more in depth about culture, history and literature itself. However, with symptomatic reading, the critic must take into account the issues in society, whether it be pollution, slavery or even women’s rights. Surface reading can be viewed as a more scholarly method of criticism (Williams Jeffrey,) due to the fact it allows readers to understand more about the cultural aspect of literature. By analysing literary techniques, such as allusions, alliteration, onomatopoeia and so on, the critic can become emerged in history, simply by observing the form of a text. On the other hand, symptomatic reading forces the critic to act as a detective (Williams Jeffrey.) They must broaden their understanding of