During this class, I was astounded at the various ways one can look at a piece of literature, or any written material. One word can change how one reads a poem or novel, or even the order the words in a sentence and what words come, the author’s background, the historical context, and the societal structures can influence interpretations of what the text means and what the author intended to write. In addition to learning about different ways of studying literature, I discovered that I usually pay a lot of attention to the authors, and am used to thinking from a biographical critic’s point of view. This class was a chance for me to look at text differently. The biggest change this class brought to my thinking of literature was that text could be analyzed independently from the author or the society, as the new critics do.
I learned about the importance of the words, their repetition, and their double meanings most when looking at Mrs. Dalloway. From small things like the usage of the name “Mrs. Dalloway” versus “Clarrissa,” to indirect discourse and stream of consciousness in this book, I realized that the text provided me with all that was needed for analyzing the text. It is possible to argue that Clarrissa’s life can be compared to that of Virginia Woolf herself, but the fact remains that the text tells you the inner thoughts of Clarrissa and describes her sufficiently to build a character for which we do not really need a real-life match.
When reading the poetry of Robert Frost, I discovered how fascinating it is that the structure of a poem, mainly the rhyme and meter, can provide us insight about the meaning of a text and give away the doubts, paradoxes, ironies and tension that exists in a single piece. New criticism allowed me to see that using a rhyme scheme of AABBCCDD not only is a technique, but can also portray the deeper meanings of the text; maybe it brings an emphasis on change.
Even though this class was eye opening for me in terms of the importance of looking at text independently to discover some meanings in the book and analyze paradoxes or ironies that exist in the writing itself, I have also realized that there is no wrong way of looking at a piece of literature. New Criticism might allow the reader to stay focused on the text and analyze it as an independent object; there are many right ways of reading and analyzing literature. After looking at various methods and theories of criticism In future, I will most likely use New Criticism as my method of studying text to not overwhelm myself with historical, societal or biographical context that may or may not be relevant to the text, but I believe the one thing this class definitely teaches students is to be open to learning about diverse ways of looking at literature.