According to “Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism” on Purdue Writing Lab Online, literary criticism is a combination and application of ideas like Marxism, feminism, formalism, psychoanalytic, and etc.
The ideas are also called the schools of theory or criticism. These ideas are like lenses in that critics would use them to analyze and discuss art, literature, and even culture. Critics can use certain schools of theory that they find important to focus on pieces of a work.Summarizing what Castle said in “The Blackwell Guide to Literary Theory,” literary theory is a method of using certain strategies to allow critical practice. The critical practice is literary criticism. Students, who are studying literary theory, may notice a division between text-based theories and historicist theories. Some examples of the text-based theories are Poststructuralism, Structuralism, and New Criticism, and examples of historicist theories are Marxism, Feminism, New Historicism. The division is caused by how these contexts understand theory completely differently.
In text-based theories, the criticism is only directed to “language, rhetoric, signs or other systems of signification.” For the historicist theories, “it is directed towards a critique of social, cultural, and historical conditions and the way these conditions are reflected in and altered by cultural forms like literary texts.” Because of the differences, the studies are time to time complicated with their “ideological differences.” These methodological and ideological differences increase when individual theories come into play and are examined closely. Each theory has its own origin with unique traits and connections to history. Though, there is one similarity that all practitioners of various theories tend to think a certain way. The idea is the approach to understand complexities in physical and metaphysical worlds is similar.
Castle’s working definitions is “theory is the capacity to generalize about phenomena and to develop concepts that form the basis for interpretation and analysis.” There are three steps of thought that are suggested by Castle’s definition. The first step is to broadly thing about your topic like the connections towards other ones.
Next is to gather generalizations about your topic to establish a theoretical concept. Using the concepts, you can start to analyze specifics about your topic. A natural scientist with this method and theory to produce confirmable and definite results; however, a literary scholar will use theories to make logical and backed up interpretations which may not be confirmable or definite. (2,3)