What is Literary Criticism?
Criticism: The study, analysis, interpretation, and history of literature. It is a dialog.
"Criticism asks what literature is, what it does, and what it is worth." Encyclopedia Britannica
Literary criticism analyzes, interprets, and evaluates works of literature. Though you most often find criticism in the form of an essay, in-depth book reviews may also be considered criticism. Criticism may analyze an individual work of literature. It may also examine an author’s body of work.
Why use literary criticism?
Literary criticism is the act of interpreting literature.
Authors present us with work that can have multiple meanings, expecting us to consider thoughtfully--to interpret. Writers and critics build on each others' understanding of a work of literature in a kind of dialog. Noted authors often have a body of criticism attached to their work. Critics evaluate and debate the ideas of fellow critics. Good criticism can help us develop a better understanding of a work. It can help us develop a point of view about a work, whether or not we agree with the opinions of the critic.
As you work with literary criticism in your writing it is important that you incorporate your own reactions and points of view.
When looking for criticism, check for:
- Credentials of the writer
- Quality of the sources--journals, books, Websites
Opinions supported by evidence, relating to:
- Technical qualities of the writing (artistry, style, use of language)
- Complex ideas and problems
- Relationship of work to the time, or social, historical, or political trends
When looking for criticism, AVOID:
- Plot summaries, SparkNotes, etc.
- Casual posts on discussion groups
- The works of other students
- Author biography
OWL at Purdue Literary Theory
Sidebars on the left of this site link directly to the different schools of literary critical thinking.
ELACC.11-12.R.L.2 Key Ideas and Details: Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text...
ELACC.11-12.R.L.7 Integration of Knowledge an Ideas: Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem...
ELACC.11-12.W.1 Text Types and Purposes: Write arguments to support claims...
ELACC.11-12.W.2 Text Types and Purposes: Write informative/explanatory texts...
ELACC.11-12.W.7 Research to Build and Present Knowledge: Conduct short as well as more sustained research...
ELACC.11-12.W.8 Research to Build and Present Knowledge: Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital...
ELACC.11-12.WE.9 Research to Build and Present Knowledge: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts...
ELACC.11-12.W9a Research to Build and Present Knowledge: Apply grades 11-12 Reading standards to literature...
More critical theory presentations
ELACC.9-10/11-12.R.I.7 Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats...
ELACC.9-10/11-12.W.7 Research to Build and Present Knowledge: Conduct short as well as more sustained research...
ELACC.9-10/11-12.W.8 Research to Build and Present Knowledge: Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital...
ELACC.9-10/11-12.WE.9 Research to Build and Present Knowledge: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts...
ELACC.9-10/11-12.W9a Research to Build and Present Knowledge: Apply grades 11-12 Reading standards to literature...
Bloom's Literary Reference: Use login and password from your agenda
Literary Reference Center: available through GALILEO (pwd in agenda)
Internet Public Library Literary Criticism Links
Literary Criticism and Authors by name and historical period