Working With New Criticism
Write a short, single spaced essay in which you concisely explain the basic premises of New Criticism and apply one or more New Critical interpretive strategies to explaining how this poem is constructed or what it means, using terms found in Tyson on pages 117-52, and in the essays by Wimsatt and Beardsley, and especially the essay by Hirsch. Email it to me either as an attached MS-Word file (recommended for bad spellers!) or in the body of the email, itself.
To successfully complete the assignment, make sure your essay's two parts answer, in some fashion, the following questions:
Part One: Summarize Tyson's, Wimsatt and Beardsley's, and Hirsch's discussion of New Criticism's theory and interpretive methods. Especially, explain clearly the terms of art used by New Critics. Name the theorists who introduce important concepts and terms of art. Do not merely list the terms of art used by the theory. Illustrate or define them with a phrase so that I can discern how well you understand them. Use literary examples when you can--they will improve your memory of the theory and method. What are the goals motivating the New Critic's interpretation of the text? How does the New Critic treat the evidence in the work? What constitutes a successful interpretation?
Part Two: Apply Hirsch's revision of New Criticism to Dickinson's poem "XVI" and produce at least one insight he would accept as an interpretation of the poem's significance. Along the way, as usual, consider what evidence in the poem makes it appropriate for a New Critical interpretation? What New Critical principles seem most effectively to explain that evidence? What non-obvious insight does those principles help us to see in the text?
You do not have to develop a completely structured paper in order to finish this assignment. Don't bother with a formal introduction or conclusion, and if it helps, you can use section headers (i.e., "Part One" and "Part Two") to eliminate the need to write paragraph transition. As a matter of good critical practice, you should provide your paper with a proper title based on your application of New Critical theory, and a Works Cited section, but once you have explained how New Criticism works and have showed how Hirsch's revision of New Criticism might be applied to this text, you are done. You need not explore further the consequences of that application or develop all the available evidence; only the most relevant details need be mentioned.
Click here for the criteria I will use when evaluating the paper.