Introduction to Literary Studies

Cultural Studies

Aristotelian Criticism
Psychological Approach
Marxist Approach
Cultural Studies
Myths and Archetypes
Lit Terms

Cultural Sudies Criticism

What is cultural studies?


Definition: Cultural studies is a broad analysis that covers many different things:

  • Every day life
  • Analysis of meaning and practices
  • Raises the question of why people do particular things in any given culture
  • Shared knowledge and values of society
  • Feminism
  • Gender studies
  • Ethnicities and race
  • Sociology—the study of human social behavior/development of human society
  • Anthropology—scientific study of origin, behavior, physical, social, and development of humans
  • Pop culture and urban studies
  • Marxism—the philosophy that states people’s actions are due to their socio-economic status
  • Media studies
  • Postcolonial studies

 Four Goals of Cultural Studies:

  1. Transcends the confines of a particular discipline such as literary criticism or history
  2. Is politically engaging
  3. Denies the separation of “high” and “low” or elite and popular culture
  4. Analyzes not only the cultural work that is produced but also the means of production.

Three Ways to Study Culture:

    • British Cultural Materialism:  Defines as culture or civilization, taken in its widest ethnographic sense, is a complex whole including knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society
    • The New Historicism:  Seek “surprising coincidences” that may cross generic, historical, and cultural lines previously maintained, emphasizing an unsuspecting lending and borrowing of metaphor, ceremony, dance, dress, or popular culture.  Example: third island in Gulliver’s Travels called “the whore.”
    • American Multiculturalism:  Cultural Studies in the United States engages a transplanted British model and its hybrid American forms against long standing models practiced in U.S. ethnic studies.  Multiculturalism literature in American includes:

                                                               i.      African American Writers

                                                             ii.      Latina/o Writers

                                                            iii.      American Indian Literature

                                                           iv.      Asian American Writers


Taken from A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, fourth ed. Guerin, et al.

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