Gratia the Neo-Deconstructionist

Introduction to Literature



Deconstructionist criticism rejects the traditional assumption that language can accurately represent reality. The deconstructionist approach attempts to show how the text can be broken down into mutually irreconcilable positions. It insists on the impossibility of making the actual expression coincide with what has to be expressed, of making the actual signs coincide with what is signified. The deconstructionists reject the notion that the critic should endorse the myth of authorial control over the text. They call for the "death of the author," that is, the rejection of the assumption that the author however ingenious, can fully control the meaning of the text. They have also announced the death of literature as a special category of writing. In their view, literature is merely words on a page that deserve no privileged status as art; all texts are created equal, equally untrustworthy, that is.

The Neo-Deconstructionist criticism was founded by a student of N.Y.U. These critics believe that if the author and literature are dead and all texts are created equally untrustworthy: there are no limits in the deconstruction of texts making it possible to transcend all boundaries of time and space to create new characters that fit more into their liking. From their point of view it was unfair that during the Victorian era the fun was taken out of the life of Ophelia and that she became a study in sexual intimidation, a girl terrified by her father, her lover and of life itself. To the feminists she has become a heroine, a symbol of themselves, someone who speaks their fluid but chaotic language. The Neo-Deconstructionists find the feminist view that this fairer representation of her and reality should occur to all of womankind-- depressing!

In A Comedy of Errors, by Shakespearearistotlegratiajoyce the texts of Ophelia are deconstructed and transported through time and space into a modern era where everyone speaks her same chaotic language and where she at last fits in perfectly. Here she transcends her father’s rigid principles by writing, producing and directing, The Mattress, a tragedy where poet and plot are obsolete and where technology takes over the place of poetry thanks to Cosmopolitan magazine. She finds her other half in Bloom with whom she has very much in common and at last she is able to become herself. She gets over her unrequited love for a society scion with his help and they live happily and wealthily ever after. The only people who commit suicide are the readers.

The Neo-deconstructionists believe that this representation of Ophelia and reality is what all womankind should be so lucky as to get.




Aristotle, father of Ophelia

Ophelia, daughter of Aristotle

Bloom, suitor of Ophelia


SCENE: Madrid



Enter Aristotle and Ophelia.

Aristotle: Following the order of nature, let us begin with the principles which come first. Men must either be of a higher or lower type for moral character mainly answers to these divisions. He is either better than in real life or worse or as he is.

Ophelia: I shall the effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart. He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders of his affection to me.

Aristotle: I propose to treat of him and of his various traits, noting the quality of each: to inquire into the structure as requisite to a good person; into the number and nature of his parts; and similarly into whatever else falls into the same category.

Ophelia: I do not know, my lord, what I should think.

Aristotle: Comedy aims at representing men as worse. Tragedy as better than real life.

Ophelia: My lord, he hath importun’d me with love in honor fashion and hath given countenance to his speech with almost all the holy vows of marriage.

Aristotle: He has taken an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude.

Chorus: The father wants to meet the groom. Does this portend Ophelia's doom? O my god, O my god.

Ophelia: I shall obey, my lord.


ACT II The asking of the hand in marriage

Enter Bloom who has arrived late and Aristotle

Aristotle: ….We may instance the statue of Mitys at Argos, which fell upon his murderer while he was a spectator at a festival and killed him.

Bloom: A noble work! I scolded that tram driver on Harold’s cross bridge for illusing the poor horse with his harness scab. Bad French I got for my pains. Of course it was frosty and the last tram. All tales of circus life are highly demoralizing.

Aristotle; Any relation to Harold Bloom? He is one who is highly renowned and prosperous.

Bloom: I have forgotten for the moment. Ah, yes! Dr. Bloom, dental surgeon. You have heard of von Bloom Pasha. Umpteen millions. Donnerwetter! Owns half Austria. Egypt. Cousin. My club is the Junior Army and Navy. Solicitors: Messrs John Henry Menton, 27 Bachelor’s Walk. (he produces from his pocket a crumpled yellow flower.) This is the flower Ophelia gave me. You know that old joke, rose of Castille? Bloom. The change of name Virag.

Aristotle: Keep to the real name, that what is possible is credible.

Bloom: We are engaged you see. Love entanglement. ( he shoulders Aristotle gently) Dash it all. It’s a way we gallants have in the Navy. Uniform that does it. (he turns gravely to Aristotle) Still of course you get your Waterloo sometimes.

Aristotle: It is probable that a thing may happen contrary to probability.

Chorus: Hope Bloom has learned to tame the shrew. Harvard, Yale or N.Y.U.

Bloom: (indistinctly) University of life. Bad art.

Aristotle: The absurdity does not pass unnoticed as the person acting is seen. Therefore the element of the wonderful which depends on the irrational is not pleasing. But the fact is that everyone tells a story with some addition of his own. You should learn from Homer the art of telling lies skillfully. How do you mean to support Ophelia?

Bloom: Well, I follow a literary occupation. Author-journalist. In fact we are just bringing out a collection of prize stories of which I am the inventor, something that is an entirely new departure. I am connected with the British and Irish press. If you ring up…..

Aristotle: (to himself) Where the first thing is untrue, it is quite unnecessary, provided the second to be true, to add that the first is or has become. (To Bloom) I myself am a critic of Tragic and Epic poetry in general: I analyze their several kinds and parts, with the number of each and their differences: the causes that make a poem good or bad: the objections of the critics and the answers to these objections.

Bloom: Ophelia is like that. Her stockings are loose over her ankles. Dreamy, cloudy, symbolistic. Esthetes you are. However, I am not one of those policemen sweating Irish stew into their shirts; you couldn’t squeeze a line of poetry out of him. Don’t know what poetry is even. Must be in a certain mood.

The dreamy cloudy gull

Waves o’er the waters dull.

Aristotle: You replaced the trochaic tetrameter with the iambic measure, which was originally employed when the poetry was of the satyric order, and had greater affinities with dancing. The vehicle of expression in poetry is language but fortunately character and thought are merely obscured by a diction that is over brilliant.

Bloom: Oh, get off it and put a transparent show cart with two smart girls sitting inside writing letters, copybooks, envelopes, blotting paper. I bet that would catch on. Smart girls writing something catch the eye at once. Everyone dying to know what she’s writing. Get twenty of them around you if you stare at nothing. Have a finger in the pie. Women too. You can’t lick ‘em. What? Our envelopes. …

Chorus: Oh my god, Oh my god.


Enter Bloom.

Bloom: Kosher. A snack for supper. The home without potted meat is incomplete. I was at Leah. Trenchant exponent of Shakespeare. Unfortunately threw away the programme. Rattling good place around there for pig’s feet. Feel.

Ophelia: Good my lord, how does your honor for this many a day?

Bloom: (meaningfully dropping his voice) I confess I’m teapot with curiosity to find out whether some person’s something is a little teapot at present.

Ophelia: You are merry, my lord

Bloom: (humbly kisses her long hair) then(quickly) Yes, yes. You mean that I… Sleep reveals the worst side of everyone, children perhaps excepted. Steel wine is said to cure snoring. For the rest there is that English invention, pamphlet of which I received some days ago, incorrectly addressed. It claims to afford a noiseless inoffensive vent. (he sighs) "twas ever thus. Frailty, thy name is marriage.

Ophelia: Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?

Television is turned on. The trumpets sounds. Dumb show follows. Mainly a very dumb South American soap opera.

Ophelia: Will ‘a tell us what this show meant?

Bloom: What railway opera is like a tramline in Gibraltar? The Rows of Casteele. (laughs)

Ophelia: You are naught, you are naught. I’ll mark the play.

Soap opera interrupted by announcement of society scion's death in plane crash. Ophelia falls into a swoon.

Bloom: Eh! Ho! (There is no answer; he bends again.) Ophelia! (there is no answer) The name if you call. Somnambulist. (He bends again and brings his mouth near the face of the prostate form) Ophelia! (There is no answer. He calls again.) Ophelia!

Bloom: (distraught) Remember her laughing at the wind, her blizzard collar up. Corner of Harcourt road remember that gust. Brrfoo! Blew up all her skirts and her boa nearly smothered her. She did get flushed in the wind. Remember when we got home raking up the fire and frying up those pieces of lap of mutton for her supper with the chutney sauce she liked and the mulled rum. Could see her in the bedroom from the hearth unclamping the busk of her stays. Swish and soft flop her stays made on the bed .Always warm from her. Always liked to get herself out. Sitting there after till near two, taking out her hair pins. Tucked up in beddy house. Happy, Happy. That was the night….Ophelia!

Ophelia: (mumbles incoherently) "And will's not come again?

And will's not come again?

No, No, he is dead."

Bloom: Poetry. Well educated. Pity. (he bends again and undoes her buttons.) To breathe. Not hurt anyhow. (he listens) What!

Ophelia: (mumbles) "He is dead and gone, lady,

he is dead and gone,

At his head a grass-green turf,

At his heels a stone."

"Quoth she, ‘Before you tumbled me,

You promis’d me to wed.’"

(he answered) "’So would I ‘a’ done, by yonder sun,

If thou hadst not come to my bed.’"

(and falls back into swoon)

Chorus: Alas, no viren bride was she, shame and scandal in the family. O my god, o my god.

Bloom: Ophelia! (there is no answer, he calls again) Ophelia!

Ophelia:( wakes up dazed) What is my lord?

Bloom: Tell me I want to. Know. O. Course if I didn't I wouldn't ask.

Ophelia: At home, my lord. My lord, as I was sewing in my closet, he, with his doublet all unbrac’d, No hat upon his head ---he comes before me. ‘Twas brief, my lord.

Bloom: . Not to worry. Love, what is it? A cork and a bottle. I was precocious too. Youth. The fauns. I sacrificed to the god of the forest. The flowers that bloom in the spring. It was pairing time. Capillary attraction is a natural phenomenon. Lotty Clarke, flaxenhaired, I saw at her night toilette through ill-closed curtains, with poor papa’s operaglasses. The wanton ate grass wildly. She rolled downhill at Rialto bridge to tempt me with her flow of animal spirits. She climbed their crooked tree and I ….. A saint couldn’t resist it. The demon possessed me. Besides, who saw?

Ophelia: No more but so?

Bloom: Trust me.

Ophelia: O my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted!

Bloom: (with a sour tendrish smile) A little frivol, shall we, if you are so inclined? Would you like me perhaps to embrace you just for a fraction of a second? Was an old friend of mine too. He died quite suddenly, poor fellow. Funeral was this morning.

Your funeral’s tomorrow

While you’re coming through the rye.

Diddlediddle dumdum


Ophelia: "They bore him barefac’d on the bier’

[Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny,]

And in his grave rain’d many a tear"----

Fare you well, my dove!

Oh ho! (they laugh together)

Ophelia: Indeed without an oath I’ll make an end on’t. ‘Tis in my memory lock’d, And you yourself shal’ keep the of key of it. Pray let’s have no words of this, but when they ask you what it means, say you this

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,

All in the morning betime,

And I a maid at your window,

To be your Valentine.

Bloom: ‘Twas I sent you that valentine of the dear gazelle.



(dinner party with father before going to Premier of the tragedy The Mattress)

Enter Aristotle and Bloom

Aristotle: A tragedy must have; Plot, Character, Diction, Thought, Spectacle and Song. Plot is the arrangement of the incidents and the soul of tragedy. Plot is the first and most important thing in tragedy. It should center around an action that in our sense of the word is one.

Ophelia: You are as good as a chorus, my lord.

Bloom: Ah, I’m hungry.

Ophelia: There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance: pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.

Bloom: After all there’s a lot in that vegetarian fine flavor of things from the earth garlic, of course, it stinks Italian organgrinders crisp of onions, mushrooms truffles. Pain to animal too. Pluck and draw fowl. Wretched brutes there are at the supermarket waiting for the poleaxe to split their skulls open. Moo. Poor trembling calves. Meh. Staggering bob. Bubble and squeak. Butchers’ bubbles wobble light. Give us that brisket off the hook. Pulp. Rawhead and bloody bones. Flayed glasseyed sheep hung from their haunches, sheepsnouts bloodypapered snivelling nosejam on sawdust.

Aristotle: The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean.

Chorus: Oh my god, oh my god.

Ophelia: There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me: we may call it herb of grace a’ Sundays. You may wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets.

Bloom: Have you a cheese sandwich?

Aristotle: Plots are either simple or complex.

Ophelia: Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. God be at our table.

Aristotle: Complex plots have Reversal of the Situation when the Change of Fortune takes place. Reversal of the situation is a change by which the action veers around to its opposite.

Ophelia: You are keen, my lord, you are keen.

Aristotle: Plot is the first and most important thing in Tragedy. Every tragedy falls into two parts: Complication and Unravelling. The unravelling of the Plot must arise out of the plot itself.

Ophelia: Ay, my lord.

Aristotle: Complication is all that extends from the beginning of the action to the part that marks the turning-point to good or bad fortune. The unravelling is the rest. Plot is the first and most important thing in Tragedy.

Orphelia: Ay, my lord.

Bloom: ( quietly) Taking a little more than is good for him. Absinthe, the green eyed monster. I know him. He's a gentleman, a poet. It's all right.

All three leave for the Premier of "The Mattress"a tragedy written, produced and directed by Ophelia



The biggest money making movie this year is The Mattress, written, produced and directed by Ophelia. Experiencing The Mattress is like being strapped into a seat on a roller coaster and being taken for the ride of one’s life. When the film ends, one still hasn’t landed. As I left the theater in a daze, my friend asked me something about the plot. I looked at him in amazement as it dawned on me that the plot was of no importance one way or another. The place of the poet had been completely overshadowed by technology. I probably could have been almost brain dead and still have gotten a huge thrill. The visual and auditory effects were overpowering.

" The spectacle has, indeed, an emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts, it is the least artistic, and connected least with the art of poetry. For the power of Tragedy, we may be sure, is felt even apart from representation and actors. Besides, the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than that of the poet." (Aristotle 14)

It took 2,400 years. The poet and the plot have become obsolete. The stage machinist reigns. Technology has taken over poetry.


Aristotle POETICS (pithy aphorisms from Gratia the neo-deconstructionist)

The arts are differentiated by their mediums of imitation.

The objects of imitation are men in action, either better or worse than in real life.

Comedy represents men as worse, Tragedy as better than real life.

Differences which distinguish artistic imitation; the medium, the objects and the manner.

Poetry takes two forms; graver spirits imitate noble actions and the actions of good men. The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons, i.e. satires.

Tragedy tries to confine itself to 24 hours, epic poetry has no limits of time.

Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude.

Through pity and fear it seeks to effect the proper purgation of emotions.Gratia von Furstenberg

Tragedy must have; Plot, Character, Diction, Thought, Spectacle and Song.

Plot is the arrangement of the incidents and the soul of a Tragedy.

Plot is the first and most important thing in Tragedy. It should center around an action that in our sense of the word is one.

Poets tend to express the universal, history the particular.

Plots are either simple or complex.

Complex plots have Reversal of the Situation and Recognition scenes when the change of fortune takes place.

Change of fortune must not be of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity; for this moves neither pity nor fear, it merely shocks, but of a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty.

Pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like us.

Fear and pity may be aroused by spectacular means but the better way is from the inner structure of the piece.

Reversal of the Situation is a change by which the action veers round to its opposite, i.e.

" The messenger comes to cheer Oedipus and free him from his alarms about his mother, but by revealing who he is, he produces the opposite effect."

Recognition is the change from ignorance to knowledge. Both will provide pity or fear.

The best of recognitions, is that which arises from the incidents themselves, where the startling discovery is made by natural means.

Tragedy is divided into separate parts; Prologue, Episode, Exode and Choric song.

Prologue is the entire part which precedes the Parode of the Chorus.

Episode is the entire part which is between complete choric songs.

Exode is entire part which has no choric song after it.

The unravelling of plot, no less the complication, must arise out of the plot itself.

Complication is all that extends from the beginning of the action to the part that marks the turning—point to good or bad fortune. The unravelling is the rest.

The Chorus should be part of the integral part of the whole and share in the action.

The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean.

Beauty depends on magnitude and order.


The joy of solely appreciating a great work of art for that mere reason seems not to be possible anymore. Everything has to be analyzed and rehashed to death. It is the revenge of the intellect upon art. It is the revenge of the untalented upon art. It is the revenge of technology upon art. It is the revenge of gender upon art.

Why don’t we leave the work of art alone? Is it to make it manageable and conformable? Is it to stereotype it into groups to make it easier to study scientifically? Does something with no limits, no rules scare us? Or are we envious of that which can not be learned, only admired?

In this world of technology where everything has to work in perfect order under perfect rules the unfettered artist frightens us. Do any of us mediocre people have the right to meddle in the work of genius?

We are learning to study everything scientifically without any inborn reverence or awe for beauty. The only thing that we will one day become are experts in aesthetic pathology.



Feminists in reviewing Shakespeare’s Hamlet do so from a women’s point of view to understand what reflects and shapes the attitudes that have held women back. The French have put their focus on language stressing that it is definitely male orientated. They think women should invent a feminine language that is rhythmic and unifying. "If from the male perspective it seems fluid to the point of being chaotic, that is a fault of the male perspective." The large market of male buyers is hereby eliminated. American feminist critics have shown a cautious distrust in this idea probably because they are more into marketing and also because they think that women have had their own style all along and have been writing mainly about clothing and self-fashioning, or on madness, disease, and the demonic. This also limits the market somewhat. The Americans, true to form, began by analyzing literary texts rather than philosophizing abstractly about language. That is when the scientific method of rehashing came into fashion. They decided to form their own theory about feminist criticism which stressed universal feminine attributes. The British focused on the political conditions experienced by certain groups of women at certain times in history.

In A Feminist Perspective by Elaine Showalter, the emphasis is on the character of Ophelia who until the arrival of the feminists had been left blissfully alone. The little she had been noticed had been only in the context of what she had to say about Hamlet. Four hundred years later Showalter came to the conclusion that Ophelia had her own personal biography that must finally come out into the open. Both the American scientific approach based on texts and the French theory are combined in this meatloaf.

The true life story of Ophelia is the story of her representation by the different kinds of artists, audiences and critics. The critics at last have a starring role in the presentation. Her life begins in the Elizabethan era. She was a normal run of the mill nymphomaniac. She dressed in white, had flowers in her hair, and played the guitar. Her speech was full of free associations and extravagant metaphors. Maybe she took L.S.D. Everybody understood what she was about so she was stereotyped as sexual not intellectual. Because of this, her role was either upgraded or downgraded depending on the existing code of censorship. During the Victorian era she was not allowed out of the closet too often. On those few occasions, she was explained away as having had a nervous breakdown, the type that comes during adolescence. Everything was very hushed up. She came to embody madness to such an extent that madwomen were expected to look and behave like her in order to be considered truly mad. This was good marketing because it ensured hundreds of viewers who wanted to be considered truly mad and had to get some practice. Unfortunately it was also during the Victorian era that the fun was taken out of her life. She became a study in sexual intimidation, a girl terrified by her father, her lover and of life itself. This view has been taken up to the present day. She has become to the feminists a heroine, a symbol of themselves, someone who speaks their fluid but chaotic language. For the feminists, this fairer representation of her and reality, hopefully will also occur to all of womankind.

If you ask me, I personally preferred her hippy stage.




Traditional criticism assumes that imaginative writing is a creative act. Reader response theory assumes that reading is the creative process. Reader-response criticism attempts to describe what happens in the reader’s mind while interpreting a text. These critics believe that literary texts do not exist without the readers interpretation. They reject the notion that there can be a single correct reading for a literary text. Therefore, any reading however outlandish, is a possible one. Whoopie!!!!

Most of the criticism of Hamlet, in Ulysses by James Joyce takes place in the library at 2 p.m. The art that is discussed is literature and the organ most utilized for this purpose is the brain. The symbol designated for this category is Stratford, London. This might be because one of the characters in the story believes that the mystery of Hamlet lies in the Stratford monument. (Joyce 214)

Bloom’s first mention of Hamlet comes when he compares two lines of his own poetry:

"The hungry famished gull

Flaps o’er the waters dull."

to two lines of Shakespeare’s blank verse:

"Hamlet, I am thy father’s spirit

Doomed for a certain time to walk the earth."

---Two apples a penny! Two for a penny! (Joyce 152)

Bloom’s two lines are going for the same price as the two lines of Shakespeare. This should not come as a surprise to us as many critics consider Shakespeare the only rival that James Joyce has as a master of the English language.

In Richard Shechner’s interpretation of Hamlet, the ghost is dressed in the uniform of the Gestapo. Robert Greene, a rival playwright of Shakespeare’s time, called Hamlet a deathsman of the soul since there were nine lives taken to avenge the death of his father. "Khaki Hamlets don’t hesitate to shoot. The bloodboltered shambles in Act V is a forecast of the concentration camp sung by Mr. Swinburne." (Joyce 187) Is this where R. Shechner got his inspiration?

The identity of Hamlet seems to be the point of debate at 2 p.m. in the library. Shakespeare seems to be the main suspect. But as this is considered merely the speculation of schoolboys the brain is put to use to arrive at the conclusion that the true value of the work art lies in the deepness of the life of the artist. (Joyce 185) This conclusion, unfortunately, is of short duration.

What is a ghost? Who is King Hamlet? The discussion returns to where Shakespeare himself is the ghost. That his whole life has been lived to finally be able to play this role.

"Hamlet, I am thy father’s spirit." Supposedly, Shakespeare is talking to his dead son, Hamnet. What has to then be taken into consideration is that not only is Hamnet, Hamlet’s twin brother but also that Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, is the adulterous queen. Is Shakespeare really suspicious of the fidelity of his wife? If so, this makes Hamlet an extremely personal story, somewhat like the Oprah Winfrey Show. (Joyce 188-194)

Another theory is that since an actress played Hamlet for 408 times in Dublin, the prince is a woman or an Irishman. (Joyce 198) That seems logical.

But no. A father is a necessary evil. Shakespeare wrote the play shortly after the death of his own father. That would make him about 35 years old with two marriageable daughters. Nowadays, considering the fast pace of life in the olden days, that would make him a graying 50 year old. If he were Hamlet, the undergraduate from Wittenberg, then his 75 year old mother would be the lustful queen. No, something is rotten in Denmark, something besides all the incests and bestialities recorded in Shakespeare’s works. "Sons with mothers…..jailbirds with keyholes, queens with prize bulls." (Joyce 208) These queens do not remind me of the English royal types. Could they be the N.Y. Village ones?

"Well, if the father who has not a son be not a father can the son who has not a father be a son?" Here a clear comparison to Peter Piper who picked a peck of pickled peppers is seen.

"Fatherhood in the conscious sense of begetting is unknown to man. Paternity may be legal fiction. Shakespeare is both the ghost and the prince. He is all in all. The boy of Act I is the mature man of Act V. All in all. He acts and is acted on. Cuckoo, Cuckoo." (Joyce 208)

Is Hamlet crazy or does cuckoo imply cuckold, this obsession of being the husband of an unfaithful wife and the doubtful father of a son? One solution to this problem is in heaven, the only place where adultery doesn’t exist. Here marriage doesn’t exist as such because of lack of space. The only existing thing is an androgynous angel who is a wife unto himself. But first he must die. So Hamlet returns to earth to pick up his supposed son and both are buried. End of story.

Is Hamlet Shakespeare? Is that really the question? Or is the question; Is Bloom Shakespeare? He does seem to be suffering from an ego transplant when he compares his poetry to that of Shakespeare. His wife does commit adultery even though it might only be of the mental sort. His son died. Just as Hamlet is haunted by the ghost of his father, Bloom is haunted by the ghost of Shakespeare. Bloom is Shakespeare, is Hamlet, just as we all are. We all are haunted by the ghosts of Shakespeare.

Critical Approaches to Literature

Formalist Criticism regards literature as a unique form of human knowledge that needs to be examined on its own terms. To analyze a poem or story, the formalist critic, focuses on the words of the text rather than facts about the author’s life or the historical milieu in which it was written. Special attention is paid to the formal features of the text- the style, the structure, imagery, tone and genre. Close reading means a careful step by step analysis and explication of the text. Form and content cannot be meaningfully seperated. Literary works are merely potential until they are read–they are recreated in the minds of actual readers, who vary enormously in their capabilities, their interests, their prejudices, their ideas. They are primarily concerned with the work itself.

Biographical criticism begins with the simple but central insight that literature is written by actual people and that understanding an author’s life can help readers more thoroughly comprehend the work. They focus on explicating the literary work by using the insight provided by knowledge of the author’s life. Romantic aesthetics seem bent on dissolving the formally realized "objective" elements in works of art into "expression of personality"; while the scholars, in revolt against Romantic subjectivity, seemed set of on casting out all the more shifty questions of value and gestalt as subjective, and concentrating on the kinds of facts amenable to scientific verification. The scholars didn’t have in mind the newer Psychological sciences, but such purer disciplines as physics and biology. It was at this point that it became fashionable to talk about literary study as research and graphs and tables began to appear in analyses of works of art.

Historical criticism seeks to understand a literary work by investigating the cultural, social, and intellectual context that produced it. This includes the artist’s biography and milieu. They are concerned with recreating the exact meaning and impact it had on its original audience.

Gender criticism has recently expanded beyond its original feminist perspective. Critics have explored the impact of different sexual orientations on literary creation and reception. A men’s movement has also emerged in response to feminism. The men’s movement does not seek to reject feminism but to rediscover masculine identity in an authentic, contemporary way.

Psychological criticism, led by Sigmund Freud, endorse the belief that great literature truthfully reflects life. He paid Sophocles the considerable compliment that he had such insight into human nature that his characters display the depth and complexity of real people. It often employs three approaches: 1.) the creative process of the artist 2.) the psychological study of the artist 3.) the analysis of fictional characters.

Sociological criticism examines literature in the cultural, economic and political context in which it is written or received. It explores the relationship between the artist and society. Marxist criticism focuses on the economic and political elements of art. Literature may be an artefact, a product of social consciousness, a world vision; but it is also an industry. Marx said ; "A writer is a worker not in so far as he produces ideas, but in so far as he enriches the publisher, in so far as he is working for a wage." Art is first of all a social practice rather than an object to be academically dissected.

Mythological critics look for recurrent universal patterns underlying most literary works. It combines the insights of anthropology, psychology, history and comparative religion. It explores the artist’s common humanity by tracing how the individual imagination uses myths and symbols common to different cultures and epochs.

Reader-response criticism attempts to describe what happens in the reader’s mind while interpreting a text. Writing and reading are both creative processes. Reader-response critics believe that literary texts do not exist independently of readers interpretation. While reader-response criticism rejects the notion that there can be a single correct reading for a literary text, it doesn’t consider all reading permissible. NO READING, HOWEVER OUTLANDISH IT MIGHT APPEAR, IS INHERENTLY AN IMPOSSIBLE ONE.

Deconstructionist Criticism rejects the traditional assumption that language can accurately represent reality. Literary texts which are made up of words have no fixed, single meaning. It involves close readings. It shows how a text can be broken down into mutually irreconcilable positions. They reject the notion that the critic should endorse the myth of authorial control over language. They reject that the author, however ingenious, can fully control the meaning of a text. They call for the death of the author and the death of literature. In their view, poems and novels are merely words on a page that deserve no privileged status as art; "all texts are created equal–equally untrustworthy, that is."

"Historically the reign of the author has also been that of the critic, nor again in the fact that criticism is today undermined along with the author.

FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA: Simultaneous English-Spanish translation

La Guitarra Guitar

Empieza el llanto Begins the crying

de la guitarra. of the guitar.

Se rompen las copas From earliest dawn

de la madrugada. the strokes are breaking.

Empieza el llanto Begins the crying

de la guitarra. of the guitar.

Es inutil It is futile

callarla. to stop its sound.

Es impossible It is impossible

callarla. to stop its sound.

Llora monotona It is crying a monotone

como llora el agua, like the crying of water,

como llora el viento like the crying of the wind

sobre la nevada. over fallen snow.

Es impossible It is impossible

callarla. to stop its sound.

Llora por cosas It is crying over things

lejanas. far off.

Arena del Sur caliente Burning sand of the South

que pide camelias blancas. which covets white camelias.

Llora flecha sin blanco, It is crying the arrow without aim,

la tarde sin manana, the evening without tomorrow,

y el primer pajaro muerto and the first dead bird on the branch.

sobre la rama.

Oh, guitarra! O guitar!

Corazon malherido Heart heavily wounded

por cinco espadas. by five sharp swords

___Translated by Keith Waldrop

Federico Garcia Lorca is one of the greatest Spanish poets and dramatists. He and Cervantes are the most widely translated Spanish authrs. He was killed in the Spanish Civil War by followers of Francisco Franco.

The first sentence of the poem in Spanish is complete, where as in English, "Begins the crying of the guitar." sounds odd. "From earliest dawn the strokes are breaking," is a strange translation. Copas in Spanish mean glasses filled with drinks, so it would be more correct to say that the glasses being drunk at dawn are being broken. "It is futile to stop its sound," sounds harsh. "It’s futile to silence her" sounds softer. Guitar in Spanish is feminine. "It is crying a monotone like the crying of water, like the crying of the wind over fallen snow," most nearly approximates the Spanish version even though "it is crying monotonously, like the crying of water…" is more correct. I would think that "It is crying the arrow without aim, the evening without tomorrow, and the first dead bird on the branch," should be "it is crying over the arrow without aim….., or "it is mourning over the arrow without aim.." The sound of the Spanish guitar has more of a mourning sound than of a battle cry. "…and the first dead bird on the branch," could have been:

"and on the branch"

"the first dead bird."

The resonance of Lorca’s poem La guitarra sounds like a Spanish song played on a guitar. This is brought about by themes which are repeated throughout each movement. In the English translation the same themes are repeated but the effect is stilted, not musical. Pattern and structure move as one in the Spanish version. I don’t think that the translator had much of an idea of the sound of a Spanish guitar or even what Lorca was trying to bring about. But since I’m German, I might be the one who is mistaken.

Octavio Paz

Con Los Ojos Cerrados With Our Eyes Shut

Con los ojos cerrados With your eyes shut

Te iluminas por dentro You light up from within

Eres la piedra ciega You are blind stone

Noche a noche te labro Night by night I carve you

Con los ojos cerrados With my eyes shut

Eres la piedra franca You are clear stone

Nos volvemos inmensos We become immense

Solo por conocernos Just knowing each other

Con los ojos cerrados With our eyes shut

___Translated by John Felstiner

Octavio Paz in his 1990 Nobel Prize lecture " European Languages and the Literature of the Americas "pointed out that even though the European languages were brought to the Americas and were then adopted by its people, these languages then took on their own personalities. He says that the same happened not only with the Spanish language in the Spanish Americas but also with the French language in Canada and the English in North America. Octavio Paz considers himself a descendent of Lope and Quevedo as any Spanish writer would but not as a Spaniard.

The English translation of With Our Eyes Shut is a replica of the Spanish version. The same feeling is conveyed in every aspect. The reason for this could be that John Felstiner is perfectly bilingual in both languages or that I am not an expert in South American Spanish so do not get the nuances that could be lost in translation. It could also be that American English and American Spanish have more in common so that the translation is easier. Maybe the two cultures are also closer. In any case it would be ideal if it were possible to translate everything as expertly.

Back to syllabus