Critical Perspectives Biographical Criticism Final Submission


No comments posted yet


Slide 1

By: Brian Doyle, Alli Allison Gell and James Gornick Biographical Criticism Critical Perspective Presentation Samuel Johnson 1709-1784

Slide 2

Our mission; ensure at the end of this slide presentation, a fuller understanding of the key success of what’s needed to make a review from the view point of a biographical critic. We will do this by defining the current contemporary writer’s to the forefront of the stories and author’s lives and the lives' of the characters they create as defined by the modern critic. Biographical Criticism Uncovered

Slide 3

Biographical Criticism Needed Terms Uncovered Understanding Critical Definitions of A Biographical Critic You Need To Know: Cultures – is the total way of life of a particular society—its language, economy, art, religion, and attachment to a location. For the new historicist, culture is a collection of codes that everyone in a society shares and that allows them to communicate, create artifacts, and act. Text- is traditionally defined, is a written document that employs a symbolic system (words, mathematical symbols, images, musical notation). You Need To Know: Discourse – in the structuralists mean any system of signs, whether verbal or nonverbal. “Discourse”, then is analogous to language (Saussure’s langue) and “text” to specific uses of language (parole). You can say that groups of people, such as doctors, lawyers, priests, and other athletes, create their own discourses. Each discourse has its own unique “discursive practice”—word choice, sentence structure, bodily movements, prejudices, rhetorical forms, and “rules” about where and when to use the discourse You Need To Know: Ideology – Keep in mind, Ideology is a system of beliefs that governs a group’s actions, its view of reality, and its assumptions about what is “normal” and “natural.” Ideology than can be communicated by discourse and represented by texts. Think within stories and real history how one group of people unfairly imposes its ideology upon others, devaluing and exploiting those who fail to fir its definitions of the “normal” and “natural.” Call them Power elites who are persons within a society—wealthy persons, politicians, white people, males—or whole societies, such as countries or regions.

Slide 4

Biographical Criticism Uncovered Understanding The Author Although not the only determiner of meaning in a literary work, authors are the most important. They choose the genres and conventions of their works and characters. They craft their stories to embody ideas. As readers, we are drawn to certain works because we like the way authors write– their style, values, and artistic techniques. Three types for a critic to use in developing a review are noted below: Historical Criticism Biographical Criticism New Historicism

Slide 5

Biographical Criticism Uncovered Understanding The First To Blaze The Trail Samuel Johnson was the first great biographical critic. His lives of the poets (1779-1781) provided truthful accounts of the author’s lives and assessments of literary achievements. Biographical criticism became increasingly popular during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and is still very much practiced.

Slide 6

Biographical Criticism Uncovered New versus “old” historicism New historicism emerged in the late 1970s as a “new” way to use history to understand and evaluate works of literature. It shares “old” historicism’s belief that historical culture from which a work comes helps us understand the work. It differs drastically from the older historicism in its beliefs about the nature of literature, the nature of history, the ability of people to perceive “reality,” and the purpose of literary studies.

Slide 7

Biographical Criticism Uncovered The Important Questions For a Critic: Understanding The Author What facts about the author’s life suggest ideas in the work? Did anything that happened to the author affect his or her themes or choice of subject matter? What was the author’s worldview? Which of the author’s beliefs seem reflected in their story? What commentary on the story did the author make? Does it point to ideas in the story? The Angles of View The Critic Can Come From Can Be a Moral / Philosophical Approach in a Biographical Criticism Critic believe that the larger purpose of literature or the writer life is to teach morality and to probe philosophical issues. Reflection of the author’s life and times. What worldview was typical of the author’s time? What aspects of this worldview seem prevalent in this story or character? Does the author seem to accept or rebel against this worldview? How did people respond to the author’s works and life? What ideas did they find in it? This can be closely related to the moral / philosophical approach, but is somewhat broader. Mimetic critics ask how well the work of literature or the writers accomplishments accords with the real world. Is the author tend to be accurate or the stories? Is the author able to be reviewed as correct with their writings and/or their stories? Is the author’s history of writing geared towards Morals or the character within the story? Does it show how people or the Stories really act?

Slide 8

Biographical Criticism Uncovered Important To Mention the Social Structure: Traditional Approaches Social structure or way of life of a certain time period of the author gives greater depth from which to draw conclusions and better understanding the story Discovering details about the author’s life and times also provide similar ways to further develop ideas about the story

Slide 9

Biographical Criticism Uncovered The Next Slide Gives a True Biographical Critics Review as The Last Point We Make Before Reviewing The Modern Writers and Author’s of Today Look carefully at the use of crafted words and point of views this critic has written The ability of a critic is to illicit a positive or a negative summary of the author or of the author’s characters. Assemble your thoughts as you find the pearls of knowledge this next critics review gleams.

Slide 10

Critical Perspectives A Basic Walk Through The Past As To Biographical Criticism I have read Melville's works with a progressive appreciation of the author. No writer ever put the reality before his reader more unflinchingly than he does in “Redburn,” and “White Jacket.” “Mardi” is a rich book, with depths here and there that compel a man to swim for his life. It is so good that one scarcely pardons the writer for not having brooded long over it, so as to make it a great deal better. You will see by my wife’s note that I have all along had one staunch admirer; and with her to back me, I really believe I should do very well without any other. Nevertheless, I must own that I have read the articles in the Literary World with very great pleasure. The writer has a truly generous heart; nor do I think it necessary to appropriate the whole magnificence of his encomium, any more than to devour everything on the table, when a host of noble hospitality spreads a banquet before me. But he is no common man; and, next to deserving his praise; it is good to have beguiled or bewitched such a man into praising me more than I deserve.

Slide 11

Tim O’Brien author of The Things They Carried Born October 1, 1946 Grew up in Minnesota We are involved in on & off campus events. He was against the Vietnam War. He was drafted to the Army in 1968. He served from 1968 to 1970 as an infantry foot soldier. Snapshot of Tim O'Brien in Vietnam. Unknown date and photographer. A little about the real Tim O’Brien… A little about the story… The story takes place in Vietnam. It details the burdens that infantry soldiers carried, both physical and mental. In an extended Novel released in 1990 he give the Narrator of the story his own name. It is important to note that this is a fictional story and not a true story as it sounds. How the authors biography helps… It is very easy to see how this story may have been influenced by the authors life. It is impossible to imagine that his experience in Vietnam couldn’t have influenced his story. As noted in “Readers should note and remember that although the actual and fictional O'Briens have some experiences in common, The Things They Carried is a work of fiction and not a non-fiction autobiography. This distinction is key and central to understanding the novel.” As one critic put it “One of the most fascinating things about O’Brien’s story was his own reflection on the art of telling a story, and specifically, the art of telling a war story. We are continuously reminded that the story is fiction, but it is difficult to separate Tim the narrator and Tim O’Brien the author.” It is obvious that a biographical criticism is very useful in the case of The things they carried by Tim O’Brien.

Slide 12

Jack Forbes author of Only Approved Indians Can Play: Made in USA Born in 1934 in California He is of Powhatan-Renápe , Delaware-Lenápe and other background. He is professor emeritus and former chair of Native American Studies at the University of California Photo by Beatrice Weyrich A little about the story… The setting is an all Native American basketball tournament. It tells of a conflict between Native Americans and the burden of proving what qualifies as a Native American. It shows a great deal of irony about how Native Americans have been affected by their environment. How the authors biography helps… Again, it is easy to see how the authors back ground has prompted him to write about such topics. But it is also good to note that this a fictional story. It would be improper to assume just because the authors background fits into the story that it is in any way a true story. It is simply a tool that shows us why the author might want to tell a story like this or why they might be qualified to speak about such topics.

Slide 13

The Modern Biographical Journey Through The Following Author’s Works The following is the words spoken by the narrator while he reads from the script stating: “Here is this dank and unfamiliar kitchen I study my father’s embarrassed young man’s face. Sheepish grin, he holds in his one hand, a string of shinny yellow perch, and in the other, a bottle of Carlsbad Beer. He would like to pose bluff and hardy for his prosperity, wear his old hat cocked over his ear. All his life my father wanted to be bold, but the eyes give him away, and the hands that limply offer the dead string of perch and bottle of beer. Father I love you. How can I say thank you. I owe I can’t hold my liquor either, and don’t even know the places to fish” (YouTube Video Raymond Carver - Part 1). Raymond Carver Short Stories Raymond Carver was considered a genius by many that knew him throughout his life of writing, specially his ex-wife and children (YouTube Video Raymond Carver - Part 1). His life starts from living within tuff times within the inner North West portion of the country. During Raymond’s early years had him enjoying fishing many a hole that was engrained as life with his brother and parents. The description of Raymond’s father is critical to hear and understand when you view the YouTube Biography “Raymond Carver Part 1” (YouTube Video Raymond Carver - Part 1). Raymond Carver had stated these following words, setting a stage of acceptance to his reflection of the chains that would bind him throughout his life. The following is the words spoken by the narrator while he reads from the script stating: Raymond Carver used shiftless people as many of his images throughout his stories as learned preparing this response discussion piece. The basic fact of Carver’s success he drew from many of his life experiences. When married to Maryann Buckley in 1957, at the age of 19, within the first year they were blessed with their First child Christine. In the next year, their second child, a boy whose name given was Vance made their family complete. The problem in the marriage was issues with never enough money and the drive of a genius to develop his writing skills under famous professors, John Gardner and Richard Day. The underlining alcoholism would be the string that would finally break their marriage (YouTube Video Raymond Carver - Part 1). It was through Carver’s writing, “Cathedral” and "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love", is not only the most well-known short story Carver would title. It became his contribution to the latter part of the 20th century; this genius had created a masterpiece to stand for, “an entire style of aesthetic, the bare-bones prose style” (Park), for which Raymond Carver became famous. It has been said by watching the videos, that have five parts on YouTube or Google Video, that many who knew him, thought perhaps, it could be argued, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”, and “Cathedral”, had made Carver as stated by Mary Park, “too famous, at least for his fiction's own good” (Park). Carver Passed Away Much To Early

Slide 14

The Modern Biographical Journey Through The Following Author’s Works Joyce Carol Oates Short Stories The striking walk on the wild side comes to life with the characters and type of language used through these characters by Joyce Carol Oates who herself has turned from Christianity to Atheism and it comes out within, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (Barnet, Burto and Cain 483-495). So often they say, be careful for what you wish for, for it may come true. Oates uses naïve headstrong youth with the backdrop of the hidden rural of Southern country to set the tone. It reads like a page right out of the movie screenplay “The Hitch-Hiker” written by Daniel Mainwaring that was a script, based upon a play written by Gerald Hargreaves in 1945 (Wikipedia). The plot in “The Hitch-Hiker” prays on the innocence of its victims, just as Oates has used, “You don’t want them to get hurt, Arnold Friend went on. Now get up, honey, Get up all by yourself” (494). In sharp contrast to Oates having a walk with the devil or dance shall we call it, she writes near the start of the story, “A boy name Eddie came in to talk with them. He sat backward on his stool, turning himself jerkily around in semicircles… She drew her shoulders up and sucked in her breath with pure pleasure of being alive, and at that moment, she happened to glance at a face just a few feet from hers. It was a boy with shaggy black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold. He stared at her and his lips widened into a grin…She spent three hours with him, at the restaurant where they ate hamburgers and drank Cokes in wax cups…” (485). Clearly, the Wolf from, “Little Red Riding Hood” has arrived. Oates has demonstrated the classic, “Little Red Riding Hood” by the Brothers Grimm (Grimm and Grimm). Be careful is the old tale, for what lurks behind may be a wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing. Certainly, Eddie has fit this role with cast as the sheep ready to pounce. Even in “The Hitch-Hiker”, all they were doing was going fishing. What led them to pick up a stranger is what challenged all to stay glued to their seats within the movie theaters. Language certainly will set the time era and the place of where a story takes place (Griffifth). Oates uses a lot of Good Ole Country Southern slang within her presentation of her characters from what could be gathered. A good example would be, “Don’tcha like my car? New paint job, he said. Hey. What? You’re cute… Can’tcha read it?” (487). All language dialect points to a Southern flavor of good ole folk in rural country America.

Slide 15

Biographical Criticism Uncovered John Updike’s “The Rumor” In “The Rumor” there were so many similarities as you will see as we reflect upon the life of John (the author) and Frank (the main character.) We will compare the life of the writer, the main character in the story, and story line, to come up with a better understanding of why John Updike wrote “The Rumor” and get a better grasp of the story behind the story. This will allow you to see the proper tools necessary to use the biographical critic approach. Sharon (Franks wife) went to school for Dance. In 1977 they moved to Manhattan from Cincinnati with their 2 children. He was described as a Slim Blond, several inches under 6 feet, Narrow head, Kept trim, milky blue eyes set at a slight tilt, small mouth, reluctant to smile, and he was vain of his flat belly. There was talk around town that Frank was engaging in sexual relations with another man. Frank got malicious pleasure from his wife’s discomfort. He was more comfortable with his father, then his mother. His Father- A lawyer, taller, darker, with the same long teeth. He was said to have the “gift of silence.” His Mother-Belle from Louisville. He inherited his “artistic” side as well as his blondness. He said he was Attracted to Stoical men, taller then he & nursing in unexpressed sadness. Father of 4 Father-High School Math Teacher Mother- She had literary dreams of her own, books were a large part of their lives. Encouraged him to write and draw. Worked on a newspaper in High School Admitted to Harvard in Massachusetts After Graduating from Harvard, his wife, and himself went to oxford England where he studied drawing and fine art for a year. He later became a critic of art, developing his own method. They moved to Manhattan and he worked for the New Yorker as a writer. However, after 2 years of writing in the “Talk of the Town” column his wife and their family moved back to Massachusetts to devote his time fully to writing. From 1958-2009, John was the Recipient of 2 Pulitzers for Fiction, and an author of dozens and dozens of short stories, novels, and poems.

Slide 16

Comparing John Updike and Frank First of all, the main character in the story, Frank, has a very similar resemblance to John. Take a look at the picture of John while you read the description of Frank. He was described as a Slim Blond, several inches under 6 feet. Narrow head, kept trim, milky blue eyes set at a slight tilt, small mouth. Reluctant to smile, and he was vain of his flat belly.

Slide 17

Comparing John Updike and Frank Secondly, we see that the life, education, and location of John and Frank were very similar. Frank got married right when he finished school and John got married as a Junior in college. After getting married both John and Frank settled down in Manhattan, at least for a while. Both John and Frank had an interest in Art, they both, as it says in the story, received their “artistic” side from their mother. Both of their mothers seemed to be sweet “southern bells.” Frank’s mother was from Louisville & John’s mother was from Lowville. . As they grew older and received education, they both ended up being art critics in one form or another. Although John’s main interest was writing, he went to school for art and critiqued art, whereas John owned a gallery and critiqued art for a living.

Slide 18

After reviewing the reflections and details of John and Frank’s life, we can get a better grasp on why John wrote “The Rumor” and attain a deeper meaning of story. After seeing the similarities between Updike and Frank we, as critics, can assume he wrote the story based one of three things: This rumor was spread about John Updike, therefore one can also assume that the rumors consequences, Franks questioning of his own sexuality, was also experienced by John Updike. 2. This rumor was covered by John Updike in one of his “Talk of the Town” columns. Updike, utilizing artistic license wrote a short story about a rumor submitted by a local gossiper. 3. The final conclusion one can come to is that Updike himself spread this rumor, and took it upon himself to write about it. 4. When revisiting the story, after reviewing the biography of John, we can see that somewhere in John’s time there was a rumor that spread. There is a deeper comprehension of the real meaning of the story, which is that even though there are rumors or false statements made about us, it can make us look deeper into our lives and learn more about ourselves that we didn’t know existed. Biographical Criticism Uncovered

Slide 19

Ending Thoughts… Concept of “literature”. The new historicist approach to literary study emerges from all these concepts. The strength of the critic to remember all three areas of concerns as to an author works are: The author, Their Works, and the readers—help distinguish the direction of the criticism in what the critic will be able to write. The Author and reader—are connected automatically to the codes embodied as covered at the start of the presentation as; cultural, textual, ideological, discourses, and last by Ideologies and “The Self.” Use your resources and review as many comments posted or written by the readers of these authors you may be developing an article or book of criticism for. Biographical Criticisms are a way of better understanding how the authors background and experiences could influence their writing. A biography is a very useful tool that can be used to better understand an author and their work. However, it would be a mistake to think that just because the authors’ background does or doesn’t have anything that relates to the topics of the story, that reflects the quality of the story. The story should still be judged on its own merits.hat should be judged on it’s own merits.

Slide 20

Biographical Criticism Final Summary To finalize this presentation It 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." Hence, it often affords a practical method by which readers can better understand a text. However, a biographical critic must be careful not to take the biographical facts of a writer's life too far in criticizing the works of that writer: the biographical critic "focuses on explicating the literary work by using the insight provided by knowledge of the author's life.... [B]iographical data should amplify the meaning of the text, not drown it out with irrelevant material." (The University of Mississippi, Department of English)

Slide 21

Biographical Criticism Works Cited,pageNum-5.html \ Park, Maryann. Editorial Reviews. 29 May 2009 Schilb, John and John Clifford. Making Arguments about Literature - A Compact Guide and Anthology. Ed. Stephen A Scipione. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005. YouTube Video Raymond Carver - Part 1. Video Google - Raymond Carver. May 2009. 16 Jun 2009 <>. King. 2009. 3 September 2009 <>. Barnet, Sylvan, William Burto and William E Cain. Making Arguments about Literature - A Compact Guide and Anthology. Ed. Joseph Terry. Fifteenth Edition. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. ShortStories - Little Red Riding Hood. Aarne-Thompson, 1827. Wikipedia. The Hitch-Hiker. 1953. 3 September 2009 <>.

Summary: Biographical Criticism Critical Perspective By: Brian Doyle, Alli Allison Gell and James Gornick with Animation by: James Gornick

Tags: biographical criticism reading literature writing

More by this User
Most Viewed