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The Formalist Approach To Analyzing Literature

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1214 words Published: 21st Apr 2017

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If meaning depends on the historical situation of the interpreter as Gadamer claims, formalists readings cannot totally eliminate subjectivity. Discuss the extent to which you agree with this statement.

The Formalist approach to analyzing literature, even though obviously restrained in its critical ambitions has been opposed to subjectivist theories, formalism holds great influence in many academic fields/areas, one such area being the literatures. The formalists aren’t interested in the individual responses of readers of the ‘feelings of poets and representations of reality, but are instead, its interest lies in artistic structure and form. They (formalists) want to turn literary critics’ into a science. One key or main factor in formalist theories is their object stance in criticizing works of literary art and their avid opposition to subjectivity viewing subjectivist theories as relativistic. Hans-Georg Gadamer in his book entitled EPZ Truth and Method, posited that meaning depended on the historical situation of the interpreter, using that statement as “idk a guide” is objectivity possible? Can one individual or individuals truly be objective in their ‘interpretation’ on any work of art? Can formalist Readings totally eliminate subjectivity? (Sort this foolishness out!!!) Formalist critics such as Roman Jacobson and Boris Eichenbaum view literature as a form of “verbal art , rather than as a reflection or reality or an expression of emotions” (put that MLA stuff here) and add sumn too. This essay will seek to answer all the questions asked above (find a diff word) to decide if formalists readings can totally eliminate subjectivity and to discuss on the extent of which I agree with the statement as it relates to Gadamer’s claim, that formalist readings cannot totally eliminate subjectivity. To answer this question I will compare and contrast two completely opposed theoretical perspectives; Reader Response/Reception Theory and Formalist Criticism (in an attempt to show that the former is lacking).

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I agree with Gadamer in his claim that ” The Reader Response Theorist, focus on the reader or the audience instead of the text or form of work. Reader response Theory recognizes the reader as an active agent who imparts “real existence” to the work and completes its meaning through interpretation (change up dat) and add stuffs. (moving on) . they (Reader Response Theorist) believe in the reader brings meaning to a text, and that meaning lies in the author nor in the text, but in the readers mind, it is the ideal reader who is the true interpreter of a text to bring across it’s meaning. (sort out that). It is the reader who is able to get into the text and deciferit’s meaning, through re-reading and other strategies which as stated in Introduction To Theory and Critism, “determine the shape of meaning, which thus is neither prior to nor independent of the act of interpretation.” Now, with that said, our next step would be to figure out what interpretation is?… (add or move) the Formalist Critics belive approach the concept of meaning in a compketely different manner , believing that to para-pharse a texts content inorder to achieve meaning is wrong. It is by the use of the “affective fallacy” and “intentional fallacy,” that the formalist critics/theorist forbid the reader from responding emotionally or responding to the intentions of the author, respectively.

Interpretation is personal response, appreciation, critique, historical reception, exegesis, evaluation, and explication. Personal response and appreciation emphasize the intimate, casual, and subjective aspects.

The New Critics approach meaning quite differently. Thcy warn against the “heresy of paraphrase,” emphasizjng that it is a mistake for a reader toparaphrase a work’s content in order to distill its propositional meaning. Textual paraphrases usually end up being moral or utilitarian statements, putting literature on a level and in competition with other disciplines such as philosophy, religion, or politicS. By invoking the “affective fallacy” and

(sort this out..not your work)–ƒ  Upon reading Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author,” it seems like Barthes is sort of a bridge between Formalism and reader-response theory. He describes writing as “the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin” (1322). He is wary of the author, on which criticism centers: “To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing” (1325). Barthes argues that the language speaks for itself; it has no origin. This seems very closely related to “The Intentional Fallacy” as delineated by Wimsatt and Beardsley, who argue that critics should not debate about or try to find the author’s intention and should instead look at the form of a work for meaning. With the death of the author that Barthes proposes, the reader is born: “The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (1326). The prominence of the reader, however, is not part of Formalism, but rather, reader-response theory. Thus, Barthes’ theory seems to form a bridge between the two approaches to a text. Like Wolfgang Iser in “Interaction between Text and Reader,” Barthes acknowledges the role of the reader while still focusing on the structure of a work.

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Indeed, the headnote to Barthes’ essays describes him as being in between structuralism and post-structuralism, and this is due to the great diversity of his works. His later works in some ways contradict or reconstruct the ideas posited by his earlier works. For instance, he later writes that the author exists, but not as “an extra textual identity determining meaning;” instead, the author is a text that can be read (1318). In addition, in another work Camera Lucida, Barthes contradicts his arguments about photography that he presented in Mythologies. In the earlier work, he described how photographs reveal a reality that is contrived, whereas in the later work, he writes that a photograph can tell us “This has been” (1319). I bring these two ideas up because they show the contradictions inherent in Barthes’ work and also because these are two subjects that I find interesting, having studied the body as text and the role of photographs in the poetry of Natasha Trethewey.

With regard to Frankenstein, I guess I would then ask, what is the structure from which it is created? Barthes writes that “The text is a tissue of quoataion drawn from the innumerable centres of culture” (1324), and that “the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred” (1325). What are the cultural signifiers that make up Frankenstein? What does the language (especially since we have three narrators) tell the reader?

 

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