A guide to general and critical resources in theatre and film.

What is Criticism?

Critical Analysis

CRITICISM IS analysis, interpretation and evaluation of artists and their creative work. "Criticism" is not necessarily negative; "criticism" means a thoughtful critique of an artist's work or style in order to better understand the meaning, symbolism or influences of a particular piece or a body of work. Criticism exists in all art disciplines, including drama, film, music, visual arts, and literature.

Criticism is written for different audiences and purposes. Strategize how to find the right kind of criticism for your research needs.

Reviews, such as theater or film reviews, are written for the general public and published in newspapers and magazines, for radio and television, and on the Web. This "popular" criticism may be brief and superficial or it may engage thoughtfully and substantially with a text; in either case, reviews present an argument on the value of a work of art. Look for thoughtful and in depth popular criticism, and avoid simplistic thumbs up/ thumbs down reviews for your academic work. 

Criticism written for a student audience may serve multiple purposes: it may provide an overview of a work's plot, themes, style, and narrative structure; give an overview of critical interpretations of the work; or situate the work within a genre or theoretical movement. It works at an introductory level and does not assume prior knowledge of the text or issues. It also does not offer original interpretation of a work.

Scholarly criticism written for an academic audience presents original insight into a play or body of work. Scholarly criticism engages in more in-depth, analytical, and sustained interpretation and analysis of a text. Scholarly criticism also steps into the ongoing "conversation" on drama by referring to, building on, or even refuting other critical readings of a text. Scholarly criticism is found in scholarly journals and in books.


Cover of the scholarly journal, Theatre Journal. Find magazine, newspaper, professional, and scholarly journal sources with Holman Library article databases