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View Full Version : How can we apply litcrit to writing?



Birol
01-09-2007, 01:58 PM
Apart from using different critical theories to examine other people's work, how can we use it when writing something of our own?

giftedrhonda
01-09-2007, 05:19 PM
Ohhhhhh I love this question...I'd like to take a stab at it.

I think we can have a particular theory in mind when we go to write. E.g., if we wanted to use Marxist theory, we'd have that slant in our writing. We could layer in symbolism, metaphors, and plot to reflect our theory. I think critical theories can help writers add theme, unity, and a sense of purpose to writing for that very reason.

/stepping off the nerd soapbox

PeeDee
01-09-2007, 07:36 PM
I think th it's a potentially very dangerous thing to start purposefully adding thematics and symbolism into a story. I think that even if you're careful, theme and a particular unifying ideal behind the story can turn the focus away from the story itself, which is most important.

I tend to think that symbols, themes, and its ilk are things which should be noticed after the story itself is done, and then enhanced. I think that they're okay to think about, but best left consciously untouched until the second draft or the edit.

Stephen King was surprised how useful thematic thinking was; before it helped him get unstuck in The Stand, he thought that such things were for bigger minds and higher thinkers. I think that if you're stuck, thematic thinking can indeed help. I just think you have to be careful at looking at the forest before you've finished planting all the trees.


(you'll pardon me for jibber-jabber. This forum is, I suspect, way out of my league. :))

giftedrhonda
01-09-2007, 07:43 PM
LOL - not a problem at all! I don't pretend it's in my league, but I'm very interested in it. I suspect there are many ways to use lit crit in writing, either during the writing itself or during revision. I do agree you shouldn't hit the reader over the head with stuff...subtlety goes a long way.

Medievalist
01-09-2007, 08:04 PM
Some of us are natural deconstructionists Birol :D

ColoradoGuy
01-09-2007, 08:38 PM
Some of us are natural deconstructionists Birol :D
I seem to be trapped this morning with some natural obstructionists. Ah, committee meetings -- such fun!

Birol
01-09-2007, 08:51 PM
Oh, I forgot deconstruction. That's a fun way of looking at the world. It deserves a thread all by its ownself.

Medievalist
01-09-2007, 09:22 PM
Oh, I forgot deconstruction. That's a fun way of looking at the world. It deserves a thread all by its ownself.

PGN

giftedrhonda
01-09-2007, 09:24 PM
LOL true...deconstructionism is wild. I mean, how would you even go about writing a book with that? Maybe it would constantly unravel itself. haha

Birol
01-09-2007, 09:24 PM
Medievalist: :e2tongue:

Higgins
01-18-2007, 03:35 AM
Apart from using different critical theories to examine other people's work, how can we use it when writing something of our own?

I'm not sure how closely I follow any particular literary method, but reading, Levi-Strauss, V. Propp, Taruskin (music), Freud and so on, has made me tend to do the following:

1) let my narrative go where it wants and be as repetative as seems to be required
2) figure out where elements are building up
3) remove the narrative sections that don't contribute to the thematic drive (at this point I assume the repressed is returning and flowing nicely and the honest BS is hitting the imaginative fan and all things are flying as they should)
4) try a repeat with variations
5) see what the variations are like (often they are worthless...I often miss the real kick behind what I'm writing)
6) pull apart some intriguing but dull things to see if there are good elements in there somewhere

So a little theory lets me let things go and then chop out the dull bits and do variations on the rest.

Cath
01-18-2007, 06:25 AM
I'll have a bash at this.

I believe an understanding of theory can help you make better choices - as a writer or in any other career. I find that an understanding of theory helps me see connections and think laterally, finding new ideas or paths or options. I don't think all this happens at a conscious level either.

Does that make sense? I'm still in the early stages of this theory. :)

ColoradoGuy
01-18-2007, 06:34 AM
I'll have a bash at this.

I believe an understanding of theory can help you make better choices - as a writer or in any other career. I find that an understanding of theory helps me see connections and think laterally, finding new ideas or paths or options. I don't think all this happens at a conscious level either.

Does that make sense? I'm still in the early stages of this theory. :)

I agree with you, Cath. I think of it as reminding me that language is an active thing, not just a passive tool. It does things that are beyond my control. Some of that is reader-respondy things, readers reacting to the words I write in ways I never would have thought. Some of it, though, is as if the language is acting by itself, like a genie let loose.

Many novelists say off-hand things like "the story wrote itself," meaning, I suppose, that they are not completely in control of the language.

MacAllister
01-18-2007, 06:35 AM
I guess where I really start thinking about how things go together, and how the language is working, is on rewrite. When I start tinkering with structure and laying in foreshadowing, and so on.

Cath
01-18-2007, 06:38 AM
Many novelists say off-hand things like "the story wrote itself," meaning, I suppose, that they are not completely in control of the language.

Do you mean that they are not in control because the words choose themselves at a subconscious level? - kind of where I was heading I think.

Or were you saying that writers are not in control, i.e. they don't understand enough to use the right words? (which is how I read that the first time through).

I believe understanding gives you control. It just happens under the surface instead of being a conscious battle all the time (at least, if you're really lucky).

ColoradoGuy
01-18-2007, 06:44 AM
Do you mean that they are not in control because the words choose themselves at a subconscious level? - kind of where I was heading I think.
That's what I meant. I'm too oblique some times. Opaque, too. I do opaque


Or were you saying that writers are not in control, i.e. they don't understand enough to use the right words? (which is how I read that the first time through).
I mean that a little, too; some writers are not in control, but that's because they're bad writers.


I believe understanding gives you control. It just happens under the surface instead of being a conscious battle all the time (at least, if you're really lucky).
I'm with you on that. I just want to understand the whole process as best I can.

Higgins
01-18-2007, 08:17 AM
Many novelists say off-hand things like "the story wrote itself," meaning, I suppose, that they are not completely in control of the language.

In some ways it is simpler. You don't know what you are writing until you have written it and at that point you can toss it because it is not what you wanted or look at it to see what is going on in what you have written.

I think people with more theoretical training are less inclined to leap to judgement about whether their writing is going somewhere or not, less inclined to imagine there is some universal standard they can place next to their writing and more inclined to sit back a little and see what is coming along or not in their work.