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Basic Approaches to Literary


Interpretation
M.H. Abrams The Mirror and the Lamp

1. Mimetic Approach
2. Pragmatic Approach
3. Expressive Approach
4. Objective Approach
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1. Literature as Art: The theory of
Imitation, Mimetic
o Literature is a form of imitation
o It defines literature in relation to life
o It sees literature as a way of reproducing or
recreating of life in words, just as paintings
reproduces or recreates certain figure or
scenes of life in outline and color.
o Example: George Elliot, and Thackerays
novels imitates middle-class life in
19th century England
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1.1.Plato Republic

o Literature and paint is removed twice from
reality
o Reality is an ideal form, essence, or the
absolute the One behind the many, the light
whose shadows only are visible to a man in
its cave
o Anything in this world and particularly
anything man-made, even a chair or a bed,
seems to be only a copy at one remove from
the real.
o The arts, which Plato thought as copies of
man-made objects, are only copies of a
copy.
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1.2.AristotlePoetics
o Literature is a Mode of imitation [mimesis]
o It is simply the copying or the representation
or recreation of life
o Sir Philip Sidney Apology for Poetry
oPoesy is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle
termeth it in his word mimesis, that is to say,
a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring
forth: to speak metaphorically, a speaking
picture.
o Criticism: ....because a literary work is only an
imitation, it is not true or not the real thing
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2. The theory of effect: pragmatic
o Literature and public view or its effect
readers or spectators.
o Psychological experience of audience
o Catharsis [the purging feeling of pity and
fear which he believed the audience
undergoes in the course of a tragedy]
o Horace poets either teach or delight, at
their best combining the two.
o Interrelation to instruct literature must
delight; or to delight, it must also instruct
o Criticism: various people have various
psychological responsesIt is the
psychologists field
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3. The Theory of Expression
o Literature is seen in the view of its creator
o Poets and his work concept:
3.1.The poet is divinely inspired, a prophet,
possessed by a muse or divinity who
speaks through him:
on the process of the creation, the poet is
almost out of his senses, in the power of a
divine madness (Platos term).
Literature is the profoundest, divinely
inspired wisdom a testament of prophecy-
created spontaneously in an ecstatic state.
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Continued
3.2. The poet is fundamentally craftsman (poeta,
maker)
o He is fully conscious of what he is doing both
at the moment of composition and afterwards,
when he is willing to polish and re-polish the
work. (Horace term: the labor of the file.)
o Literary work is regarded as a piece of art in
the literal sense as something man-made
which can be labored over, changed, and
refined.
o Historically, this view was dominant in 17th
and 18th centuries of neoclassicism.
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Continued
3.3. The poet is capable of extraordinary
inspiration.
o He is genius who, through his imagination and
emotions, is able to grasp and record truths
about man which ordinary people may no
recognize or feel.
o Literature is a form of expression (in the basic
sense of a process whereby strong and
irrepressible feelings are forced out).
o Poetry : spontaneous overflow of powerful
feeling. (Wordsworths term).
o Criticism: .It focuses on the poets
psychology it is for the sake of psychology
than that of literature.



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Criticism of the approaches
o Those approaches are incomplete and
unsatisfying
o They emphasize the relationship between
literature and something else
o its subject matter, its audience, or its
originator
o Critics say:
we should look for ways of describing the
special and distinctive quality of a literary
work per se (in itself: in itself, by itself, or
intrinsically)
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4. Objective approach
o It proposes that one must find what happens
within a literary work.
o It is a reflection or recreation of the world and of
life but it is not the world and not real life.
o The best literary work describing the real world
where we find familiar characters is moving in
the fictional world or their own, not in the real
world.
o Poet expresses his idea by presenting himself in
a single mood: as a lover, mourner, etc.
o Thus, he is already fictional character in incipient
form, and he is moving about in a fictional world,
which may resemble ours but is not world in
which we move.

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Continued
o To explore the world the following ideas are
proposed:
1. The Idea of Structure
o Literature is regarded as a structure.
Fundamentally, each work is a highly complex
organization and that its many components or
facets are interrelated in such a way that the
whole is greater than its parts.
o The term does not merely refers only to the
formal aspects but it includes the whole of a
literary work.
o Each work not only has a structure but it is
structure.
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Continued
o A structure used is not just as the mechanical
putting together of assorted ingredients but as a
vital and dynamic interrelationship of plot,
character, tone, style, and all the other
component parts.
o Integrity and unity of a work of literature can
been in this way.
o Form and content: How can we know the
dancer from the dance? (W. B. Yeats)

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Continued

o The idea of a virtual world is a useful way of
distinguishing literature from actual
experience
o In literature people are interested not only in
what is being said but also in how the
language is used.
o The plot and the characters owe their very
existence to the words which recount them
they have no other being than in these words.
o The style is quite as much as integral part of
the whole as the larger elements of plot,
character, or setting. Paraphrase is not
tolerable.
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Continued
o We may less concerned with how accurately
one of these works transcribes an actual
occurrences since the characters and actions
are invented.
o It is a distinctive feature which literature
shares with the other arts but which
differentiates it from other uses of language
that, rather than making us look from what is
being expressed to what is being referred to,
it makes us look squarely AT ITSELF, at its
internal relationships.
o Like the other arts, literature can be studies
and appreciated for ITS OWN SAKE, AS A
VALUE IN ITSELF.

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Literature: How is it multicultural?



Communication of values






Experience






Cultural influences






Cultural influences
Literary texts
Readers