ENGL 251: Asian American Literature

What is Literary Criticism?

What is Literary Criticism? 

LITERARY CRITICISM IS analysis, interpretation and evaluation of authors and their works of literature, which can include novels, short stories, essays, plays and poetry. All arts have criticism. 

Such critical analysis is often written by literary critics and is found in essays, articles and books.

Literary "criticism" is not necessarily negative; "criticism" means a thoughtful critique of an author's work or an author's style in order to better understand the meaning, symbolism or influences of a particular piece or a body of literature.

Schools of Literary Criticism

Literary criticism is analysis of a literary text. It may be written for a general audience, such as a book review, or it may be sustained scholarly analysis written for an academic audience.
  • Literary Critics bring many different perspectives to bear on the written word! 
  • These perspectives often evolve as reactions to the political, economic, cultural, educational and artistic climate of a historical period.
  • These perspectives are referred to as Schools of Literary Criticism. Get to know different schools of criticism.
  • The following is a list of some schools of Literary Criticism. There are others!

Important: You may not find criticism of your short story from your critical perspective. It may help you develop your analysis, however, to read how your school of criticism is applied to another story.

Remember too: Relevant scholarly criticism may not use the exact terminology of your school of criticism. To find Marxist criticism, for example, you might search for class, power, poverty, etc. Or to find a feminist reading, you might search for articles that talk about women or gender.

  • Formalism/ New Criticism 
  • Queer Theory
  • Historical Criticism/ New Historicism
  • Psychological Theories 
  • Feminist/ Gender Criticism
  • Cultural Studies  
  • Poststructuralism/ Deconstruction 
  • Reader Response Criticism 
  • Postcolonial Criticism
  • Structuralism
  • Marxist Criticism

Schools of Literary Theory - definitions & discussion

Learn more about schools of literary criticism from library reference sources.

Search by specific schools of criticism or the broader term: literary criticism.

Note: Remember to search phrases in quotes. Ex: "feminist literary criticism"

Learn more about literary theory from online sources: