Introducing Theoretical Frameworks
 

Features of Deconstruction:

Assumptions: 

1) Meaning is made by binary oppositions, but one item is unavoidably favored (or “privileged”) over the other. 

2) This hierarchy is arbitrary and can be exposed and reversed. 

3) Further, the text’s oppositions and hierarchy can be called into question because texts contain within themselves unavoidable contradictions, gaps, spaces, absences that defeat closure and determinate meaning. 4) All reading is misreading.
 

Strategies: 

1) Identify the oppositions in the text. 

2) Determine which member appears to be favored and look for evidence that contradicts that favoring. 

3) Expose the text’s indeterminacy. 

4) Whereas New Criticism assumes that you should read a text closely as if it made sense, deconstruction assumes the opposite: that if you read closely enough, the text will fail to make sense—or at least will contradict itself.
 

Questions: 

1) How are contradictory and opposing meanings expressed in the work? 

2) How does meaning break down or deconstruct itself in the language of the text? 

3) Would you say that ultimate definitive meanings are impossible to determine and establish in the text? Why? 

4) How does that affect your interpretation? 

5) How are implicit ideological values revealed in the work?

Features of Cultural Studies:

Assumptions: 

1) Focus is on the historical contexts of a literary work, but pays particular attention to popular manifestations of social, political and economic contexts. 

2) Popular culture—mass-produced and consumed cultural artifacts, ranging from advertising to popular fiction to television to rock music—and “high” culture are given equal emphasis. 

3) All human activity falls within the ken of cultural criticism, nothing is too minor or major, obscure or pervasive, to escape the range of its analytic vision. 

Strategies: 

Cultural critics use widely eclectic strategies drawn from New Historicism, psychology, gender studies, deconstructionism (to name only a handful of approaches).

Questions: 

1) What does the work reveal about the cultural behavior contemporary to it? 

2) How does popular culture contemporary to the work reflect or challenge the values implicit or explicit in the work? 

3) What kinds of cultural documents contemporary to the work add to your reading of it? 

4) How do your own cultural assumptions affect your reading of the work and the culture contemporary to it?

Features of Postcolonial Criticism:

Assumptions: 

1) The work must examine cultural behavior and expression in relationship to the formerly colonized world. 

2) Analyzes literary works written by writers from countries and cultures that at one time were controlled by colonizing powers—such as Indian writers during or after British colonial rule or Native American writers after EuroAmerican conquest or Irish writers following British occupation. The term also refers to the analysis of literary works written about colonial cultures by writers from the colonizing country. 

3) Points out how writers from colonial powers sometimes misrepresent colonized cultures by reflecting more their own values. 

4) Represents a broad range of approaches to examining race, gender, and class in historical contexts in a variety of cultures.
 

Strategies: 

Postcolonial critics 

1) use widely eclectic strategies drawn from new historicism, cultural studies, psychology, gender studies, deconstructionism, (to name only a handful of approaches); 

2) examine power in relation to the conqueror and the colonized; 

3) look for ways in which cultural power have suppressed, shaped, or encouraged dissent; 

4) examine relationships between power and knowledge among colonized people. 

 

Questions: 

1) What role does the work play as an agent of oppression and resistance, distortion and understanding regarding the conqueror and the colonized? 

2) What do European and American imperialists say about the people they colonized? 

3) How do the colonized people talk about themselves and their colonizers?


Features of Race/Ethnic Criticism:

Assumptions: 

1) The work doesn’t have an objective status, an autonomy; instead, any reading of it is influenced by the reader’s own status, which includes race and ethnicity, or attitudes toward race and ethnicity. 

2) Historically the production and reception of literature has been controlled largely by (privileged, white, heterosexual) men; it is important now to insert multicultural viewpoints in order to bring to our attention neglected works as well as new approaches to old works. 

3) Race and ethnicity influence the ways in which writers write, read, and write about their reading. These influences should be valued. 

Strategies: 

Race- and ethnicity-conscious critics 

1) use widely eclectic strategies drawn from
new historicism; 

2) borrow from cultural studies, psychology; gender studies, deconstructionism
(to name only a handful of approaches); 

3) examine power in relation to race and ethnicity; 

4) look for ways in which cultural power has suppressed, shaped, or encouraged dissent/resistance; 

5) examine the relationships between power and knowledge. 
 

Questions: 

1) What role does race/ethnicity play in the work? 

2) When race/ethnicity is not marked, what race/ethnicity is assumed? 

3) What difference do our assumptions make? 

4) What role does racial or ethnic status play in reading?