Analyzing Literary Theory

Beyond asking students to read through a lens of critical theory, you can also bring criticism into your classroom for your students to evaluate.  However, a lot of teachers do not incorporate literary criticism in their classrooms because they are afraid their students will struggle with the content or they do not have adequate resources.  Below are a series of strategies and resources to make the implementation smooth and effective.

It might be overwhelming for lower-level students to grasp the main idea of a large work.  To make it easier, excerpt the criticism to include the most pertinent information.  This gives them a condensed look at the text, which allows them to focus more on the connection between the criticism and the text they’re reading.  Then, get student to engage in literary criticism by asking them to read the piece with two highlighters.  They need to highlight anything they agree with in one color and anything they disagree with in another color.  This will require them to support their views with knowledge of the text itself.  This allows students to debate the validity of the argument.  In the form of a debate, ask students to defend or challenge key ideas in the criticism.  Not only will this teach them key argumentation skills, it will also deepen their understanding of the text because they have to support their views.  Finally, this is a great approach for students who are good at criticizing and evaluating but struggle to create their own interpretation.  This allows them to explore their understanding of a novel through the lens of someone else. 

Two books I would highly recommend for their practical, hands-on approaches are Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide, by Lois Tyson, and Critical Encounters in High School English, by Deborah Appleman.  The latter also has website with handouts and PowerPoint presentations that can be downloaded and used in the classroom. 

Another website with a lot of information about the different literary theories is the Purdue OWL website.  This is a great source for information that is easy-to-follow and written in student-friendly language. 

However, below are criticisms that directly respond to popular pieces of literature. 

The Great Gatsby:  Feminist, Marxist, Psychoanalytical

Into the Wild-Psychoanalytical and Gender


Romeo and Juliet-Psychoanalysis

The Crucible-Historicism, Gender, Archetypal, Psychoanalysis, Marxist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *