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Literary Criticisms Cheat Sheet by

Questions Marxist Criticism Asks

concerns itself with class differ­­ences, economic and otherwise, as well as the implic­­ations and compli­­ca­tions of the capitalist system
Relate context of work to social class of the author and or time period
Whom does it benefit if the work or effort is accept­ed/­suc­ces­sfu­l/b­eli­eved, etc.?
What happens as a result in differ­ences in power/­money
What is the social class of the author?
What roles does power, money and class play in this work?
Which class does the work claim to represent?
Consider who has the money/­power and who doesn't
What values does it reinforce?
What values does it subvert?
Does the work propose some form of utopian vision as a solution to the problems encoun­tered in the work?
What conflict can be seen between the values the work champions and those it portrays?
What does the work say about oppres­sion; or are social conflicts ignored or blamed elsewhere?
What social classes do the characters represent?
In what ways does the work serve as propaganda for the status quo; or does it try to undermine it?
How do characters from different classes interact or conflict?
How do characters overcome oppres­sion?
What role does class play in the work; what is the author's analysis of class relations?

Gender Criticism:

the manner in which gender and sexuality is discussed
What elements of the text can be perceived as being masculine (active, powerful) and feminine (passive, margin­alized) and how do the characters support these tradit­ional roles?
What sort of support (if any) is given to elements or characters who question the mascul­ine­/fe­minine binary? What happens to those elemen­ts/­cha­rac­ters?
What elements in the text exist in the middle, between the perceived mascul­ine­/fe­minine binary? In other words, what elements exhibit traits of both (bisex­ual)?
How does the author present the text? Is it a tradit­ional narrative? Is it secure and forceful? Or is it more hesitant or even collab­ora­tive?
What are the politics (ideol­ogical agendas) of specific gay, lesbian, or queer works, and how are those politics revealed in...the work's thematic content or portrayals of its charac­ters?
What are the poetics (literary devices and strate­gies) of a specific lesbian, gay, or queer works?
What does the work contribute to our knowledge of queer, gay, or lesbian experience and history, including literary history?
How is queer, gay, or lesbian experience coded in texts that are by writers who are apparently homose­xual?
What does the work reveal about the operations (socially, politi­cally, psycho­log­ically) homoph­obic?
How does the literary text illustrate the proble­matics of sexuality and sexual "­ide­nti­ty,­" that is the ways in which human sexuality does not fall neatly into the separate categories defined by the words homosexual and hetero­sexual?

Critical Race Theory

a theore­tical and interp­retive mode that examines the appearance of race and racism across dominant cultural modes of expres­sion.
What is the signif­icance of race in contem­porary American society
How does racism continue to function as a persistent force in American society
How can we accurately reflect the experi­ences of victims of racism
How can scholars convey that racism is a concern that affects all members of society?
What types of texts and other cultural artifacts reflect dominant culture’s percep­tions of race?
Where and to what ends does race appear in American culture and shape the ways we interact?
How can we combat racism to ensure equal opport­unity

Femini­st/­Gender Criticism Questions

concerned with lit that reinforces or undermines the economic, political, social, and psycho­­lo­gical oppression of women and the implicit misogyny in male writing about women
Consider the gender­/or­ien­tation of the author and characters
How is the relati­onship between men and women portrayed?
What roles does the gender of sexuality play in the work (examine power relations)
What are the power relati­onships between men and women (or characters assuming male/f­emale roles)?
look for sexual stereo­types either reinforced or contra­dicted
How are male and female roles defined?
imagine yourself as the opposite gender reading the text
What consti­tutes mascul­inity and femini­nity?
How do characters embody these traits?
What does the work reveal about the operations (econo­mic­ally, politi­cally, socially, or psycho­log­ically) of patria­rchy?
Do characters take on traits from opposite genders? How so? How does this change others’ reactions to them?
What does the work imply about the possib­ilities of sisterhood as a mode of resisting patria­rchy?
What does the work say about women's creati­vity?
What does the history of the work's reception by the public and by the critics tell us about the operation of patria­rchy?
What role the work play in terms of women's literary history and literary tradition? (Tyson)

Historical Criticism Questions

seeks to reconnect a work with the time period in which it was produced and identify it with the cultural and political movements of the time and assumes that every work is a product of the historic moment that created it.
What langua­ge/­cha­rac­ter­s/e­vents present in the work reflect the current events of the author’s day?
Are there words in the text that have changed their meaning from the time of the writing?
How are such events interp­reted and presented?
How are events' interp­ret­ation and presen­tation a product of the culture of the author?
Does the work's presen­tation support or condemn the event?
Can it be seen to do both?
How does this portrayal criticize the leading political figures or movements of the day?
How does the literary text function as part of a continuum with other histor­ica­l/c­ultural texts from the same period...?
How does the work consider tradit­ionally margin­alized popula­tions?

Psycha­nal­ytical Criticism

people’s uncons­cious affects their behavior. the uncons­cious feelings affected behavior are desire, fear of loss, and repres­sion. Dreams are a lens into the uncons­cious. The behavior of characters in a story give insight into the author’s uncons­cious feelings
How do the operations of repression structure or inform the work?
Are there any oedipal dynamics at work here?
What does the work suggest about the psycho­logical being of its author?
What might a given interp­ret­ation of a literary work suggest about the psycho­logical motives of the reader?
Are there prominent words in the piece that could have different or hidden meanings?
How can charac­ters' behavior, narrative events, and/or images be explained in terms of psycho­ana­lytic concepts of any kind


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