Toolbox Manifesto

There isn’t, in my opinion, any type of literary analysis that is more or less deserving of study. Each form of literary analysis, if you’ll excuse the metaphor, comes together to form a toolbox of sorts, a kit designed to tackle any story or scholarly article. However, like the literal toolbox, there are some tools that see more use than others. While things such as Race Analysis and Post Colonialism have their time and place their use is mostly relegated to specific types of works. They are relegated to the ‘specialized’ category, tools that have their uses but are nowhere near as universal. And while New Criticism, created under the careful watch of Wimsatt and Beardsley, is by no means without its use, it is still far from a universal tool.

While part of me does agree with the theory that a piece of text should be viewed on merits of itself alone, there is still a part of me that wonders if, in doing so, we miss out on the importance of a text. Author intentions, backgrounds and the like are useful, of course, and can help lend itself to towards a better appreciation of the book. But Greenblatt’s New Historicism is by far the most practical and universal of tools that can be used in the analysis of a text.

Texts have many different uses. They convey information, help us dig deeper into another’s mind or just entertain. Yet texts can also act like sedimentary formations of text, with each ‘layer’ containing information on a time period. Things such as styles of writing, prevalent trends and emotional undercurrents can be dug up through the New Historical reading. While this only gives cursory support towards the analysis of the text itself, such work can often help to show the changing tempos and moods of our history.

Each tool that this class has given us has a use, that I know. And, after taking this course, I can understand why it is required for me to continue with my English Major. The importance of each form of critical approach is clear, yet my preference will remain with New Historicism for the breadth of understanding that it offers.

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