The Role of the Critic # Criticism is a pejorative misnomer for someone who describes, analyses and evaluates literature, food, art, music or any other human endeavour. Though they have been around since early times – even before Plato and Aristotle, their hey day began in the 1920’s to about the 1990’s when their influence was eroded by the proliferation of commentary on the internet.¹ Many scholars feel we suffer from an implosion of opinion that has smothered authoritative and informed criticism.
Archetypal and Mythical Approach (Jungian) # Myth is ubiquitous in time as well as place: it is a dynamic factor everywhere in human society; transcending time, uniting the past (traditional modes of belief) with the present (current values) and reaching toward the future (spiritual and cultural aspirations). “Myth is what never was, yet always is”, Joseph Campbell They are collective and communal belonging to the people. Myths reflect the unconscious desires, anxieties and fears of peoples; a palpable projection of a people’s hopes, values and aspirations, representing their deepest instinctual existence.
Critical Analysis # The way we interpret a piece of literature depends on the perspective we come from. Largely it is determined by the constructs or social, religious and cultural conditioning that have influenced our way of seeing the world and our way of thinking. Dr Samuel Johnson claims the “common readers” shy away from technical from the rich and pleasurable insights that balanced, intelligent literary criticism can lead to.
Feminist Criticism # Feminism is a movement which advocates women’s right for equality politically, economically, socially and intellectually. Most religions express views that women should be equal,but in practice they are subjugated and submissive to men. For many women this was and is oppressive, restrictive and disempowering. With early moves (First wave) for enfranchisement (right to vote) in the late 19^(th) C. through to the 1970’s moves (second wave) for equal pay, economic freedom, equal sharing of household tasks and the removal of the glass ceilings in business, women have asserted their liberation from the dominance of men.
Marxist Criticism # Karl Marx who lived and died in the 19^(th) century had a profound lasting impact on political, economic and social thinking of his and our time. Together with Fredrich Engels he developed an ideology known as Communism. Later other groups evolved these theories into movements known as Socialism. Influenced by the dialectical theories of Hegel, Marx claimed that the force which lay behind conflict in history was not spiritual or religious, not nationalistic, but materialistic, causing a clash of classes.
MODERNISM - PERIOD OF POETRY # Believed to have evolved from some time after 1860, Modernism is an ambiguous term representing a radical transition in how we see our human condition after Nietzsche proclaimed the death of the gods, leaving us fragile; abandoned, on our own, in a pitiless universe. The later part of the 19th century saw the rise of many “isms” including clericalism, Marxism, liberalism, socialism….. Two salient ones are covered below, Absurdism and Existentialism.
Post Colonial Literature # As in ancient times, European powers expanded their empires during the 18^(th) and 19^(th) C. by invasion and imperialistic territorial claims over 85% of the globe. For more than 400 years, European powers believed they had the absolute right to plunder the rest of the world under a policy of mercantilism; colonies exist for the purpose of the mother country. While the WWI caused the fall of most empires, it remained to Roosevelt and Churchill’s agreement to the Atlantic Charter in 1941, guaranteeing colonies “the right to choose the form of government under which they live”, that marked the end of an era.
Psychological Approaches to Literature # During the twentieth century there was a shift away from the “who done it “genre to the “why did he do it”. Major writers have included Hermann Hess., Franz Kafka, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. In literary criticism some critics have added to the formalistic/aesthetic approach because of their limitations and inadequacies in coming to terms with the major concerns of modern literature. Rather than being “Art for Arts sake”, modern literature tends to be more exploratory and didactic.
Post-Colonial Canada and Australia # Colonial cringe # Comparative Canadian and Australian writing has an historical discontinuity. Originally competitive, but by the 1940’s the two countries developed into cooperative cultural exchanges, which appeared to wither by the 1990’s. Many writers lived or worked in both countries – P.K. Page, Francis Webb, Craig Powell, David Brooks, Janette Turner Hospital….. Academic exchanges were also encouraged through international writers festivals. Canadian-Australian writer awards also assisted literary exchanges, the prize being an Australian writer visiting Canada for a year and a Canadian one spending a year in Australia.