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Six Ways of Reading English Literature

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    Until 1960"s we had not had much choice in picking approaches in reading English literature. Since Jacques Derrida published his article "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,"however, the whole picture of reading literature, English literature for that matter, has completely changed. He has ushered in what we might call the age of deconstructive philosophy. In view of the sea change of reading literature since then, I arbitrarily selected six approaches of reading literature: deconstructive criticism, Lacanian psychoanalytic approach, reader-response criti챠sm, Bourdieu"s sociological approach, feminist approach, and Zen approach. Hamlet has long been a very important literary work for critics because of the enigmatic nature of its text. When we approach Hamlet, we find a very interesting aspect of this text. It begins with the appearance of King Hamlet"s ghost. Since the ghost, by nature, is actually an absent presence, we would say that the play begins with nothingness. In this respect, the Hamlet text can be said to begin with absent presence, and reading this text from a deconstructive point of view can generate a set of interesting interpretations. Wuthering Heights has also been an interesting piece of literature for a long time. What interests me most, however, is not its progression of the story line, but the three episodes of Lockwood"s dream sequence at the beginning of the novel. These dreams show the anxiety of Bronte""s identity as a woman writer which is projected through the dreams of Lockwood, who can be considered to be Bronte""s alter ego. The Waste Land is considered the most important poem in the 20th century. What baffles the reader, however, is that the text of this poem is full of gaps and loopholes. In reading this poem, therefore, the reader has to constantly adjust his horizon of expectations, filling up the gaps. One good example of this practice would be the interpretation of the following line: That corpse you planted last your in your garden, / Has it begun to sprout? Jane Auten"s Pride and Prejudice has been read simply as a story of courtship. When we apply Pierre Bourdieu"s new concept of capital to the reading of this novel, however, we can find that the courtship and marriage boils down to the merger of capitals: Darcy"s economic capital and Elizabeth"s cultural capital. Jane Eyre has long been a very popular novel. When we approach this novel from a feminist perspective, however, this novel is not simply a story of an orphan girl turning out to be a successful wife of a gentleman. In this story we read how a woman writer gains her discursive right to tell her own success story as a writer of good standing in her own right. The approaches shown above, however, are those originated from the West. At this juncture, we can ask whether there would be any way for us to read English literature from our own point of view. The best answer to this question can be found in reading Wallace Stevens poetry from a Zen point of view. A very good example of this kind can be shown by reading "The Snow Man" from a Zen point of view. The snow man is actually an absent presence as well as a present absence, which is the basis of Zen enlightenment.


  • 주제어

    deconstructive criticism .   Lacanian psychoanalytic approach .   reader-response cricitism .   Bourdieu"s sociological approach .   feminist approach .   Zen approach.  

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