Approaches To Literary Criticism Essay

Written texts, literary and other, provide a rich source of data for understanding cognition. But my position is not as asymmetric as these words would make it appear.It would also be too strong to say that all cognitive scientists are ignorant of literary criticism, but they certainly do not mention it often in their footnotes. Hayes and Linda Flower (1980) and Patricia Carpenter and Marcel Just (1987), have studied the processes of writing and reading but have not extended their studies to works of literature.

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We have the New Criticism, now old, Structuralism, and Deconstruction. We have text-centered theories, reader-centered theories, contextualist theories, and interactionist or constructionist ones.

Some theorists place "political correctness" front and center.

Literary criticism concerns (among other things) the meanings of, in, and evoked by literary texts.

Cognitive science concerns thinking, by people and computers, and extracting or evoking meanings while reading and writing requires thinking.

These do not begin to exhaust the list, but they may serve as examples.

A taxonomy of theories of literary criticism might derive from answers to the questions: How is meaning attributed to the text? These, and many others, would seem to be appropriate inquiries within the domain of literary criticism.Much of the rest of the conversation can be carried on in ordinary language.If what I say sounds like common sense, so much the better.That will not be easy, for I will not be using the key terms in their ordinary senses, but in senses dependent upon a theoretical framework and formal language that I can set forth here only in broad outline.Focusing on the term "meaning" and how that term is interpreted in contemporary cognitive science will concentrate most of the technicalities and difficulties in one place. These data have not been much mined by cognitive scientists, who therefore have much to learn from literary criticism, which examines the texts in depth. Enormous thought goes into the production of texts and perhaps even more (given the ratio of readers to writers) into interpreting them.Does criticism require us to ask what the author meant, what the text means, or what meaning derives from a reading of the text? ." To understand what Jefferson and his colleagues meant, we would have to know (at least) the extent of their acquaintance with previous writings on political theory (Locke, for example), their beliefs about the philosophical bases for self-evidence, their understanding of and views on the political, economic, and social institutions of their times, their persuasive and rhetorical intent, and their knowledge of the audiences to which they were addressing the Declaration. In fact, to a cognitive scientist it is not at all clear why there are schools of literary criticism.Or, as some Deconstructionists would claim, does the text extend (have meanings? Some contemporary theories of criticism answer these questions by "All of the above." For, assuming that we have a theory of "meaning"--of the meaning of "meaning"--there is no reason why we should not explore what an author intended when in the process of writing down certain words, and explore what interpretations of that sequence of words are consistent with the syntax and semantics of the language (i.e., of the community that uses it), and ask what meanings various readers, with their various histories and experiences, are likely to extract from it. To understand how their contemporaries read these words, we would have to answer similar questions about them. There are many things that can be said about a literary work, many standpoints from which it can be read.With rare exceptions, there is little or no cross-referencing.It would be too strong to say that literary critics and theorists of literary criticism are ignorant of the social sciences.


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