Welcome to Critical Lenses! Many educated readers use critical lenses to see texts from new angles and discover new meanings within a text. Critical lenses are also called “literary theory” Where do they come from? Different literary theories or lenses come from other writers and thinkers (mostly philosophers, sociologists, and historians) Once these new philosophical or historical ideas have become part of a culture, educated readers and literature scholars start using these lenses to get new ideas about texts, or to discover new themes in them. A few major critical lenses Historical / Biographical Feminist Psychoanalytic Socio/Political (Marxist, etc) Post-Colonial Historical lens The historical lens looks at a novel or text by thinking about the history surrounding it. The critic thinks about questions such as: How was this text received by readers when it first came out? What were the social values and attitudes at the time that might have affected this text? What actual historical events did the writer refer to, and how was the event altered in the fictional account? Feminist lens Feminist criticism looks specifically for what a text reveals about the position of women and the relationships between women and men. The critic thinks about questions such as: Does the author present the text with a primarily male or female viewpoint? What sorts of assumptions does the text make about the roles of men and women? Psychoanalytical lens The Psychoanalytical lens tries to discover the hidden mindsets and motivations of the author and characters. The critic thinks about such questions as: What are the unconscious wishes of the characters? How do the images and metaphors in this text reveal the psychological motivations of the characters? What would Freud say about this author? Socio-political (Marxist) lens The Socio-political lens tries to make sure that the text is read with an eye to the political and economic contexts of when it was written. (more narrow than Historical criticism) The critic thinks about such questions as: What kinds of political power and institutions are present in the text? How do political, economic, and social forces drive the characters to do certain things? Is there a “culture of power” in this text, and is there evidence of the oppression of a class of people? Post-Colonial Post-colonial theory looks at a text, focusing on the effects of colonization. In particular, post-colonial criticism thinks about the relationship between the colonized and the colonizer. The critic thinks about questions such as: How did colonization affect the people who were colonized? How did it affect the colonizers? What kinds of resistance were there to colonial control? What were the results? How does the text use language(s) to portray characters? The key thing to remember… Critical lenses are a TOOL you can use to unlock other interesting aspects of a text that might not come to the surface on the first reading. By applying them, you start to notice subtexts or secondary messages that didn’t shout out to you on the first reading, and that makes the text richer and more interesting!