Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Notes on Literary Criticism

Literary Criticism: Defined

* a reaction against Historical Critical method, but not at all NEW.
Robert Altar, The Art of Biblical Narrative, gets a lot of his exegesis from ancient Rabbis; “Wit and Wisdom of the Bible: A Literary Study” was published in 1892.

Features of Literary Criticism
1) Attend to whole text (read books as a whole)
2) Attends to surface of text (not history of composition, fragments ‘beneath’)
pg. 566: (Intro): Not interested in redaction, but in, “the relationship between text, reader, and meaning.”
3) Assumes (proceeds as if) there is unity in a text
4) Assumes there is some coherent narrative authority: “reliable narrator.”
5) Attend – contra Historical Criticism – for literary criticism this is important -- arduously to artistry; the HOW.
pg. 570, Altar and Sternberg: concerned with mechanics – the how – of narrative composition, and, “the discipline involved in moving from mechanics to meaning.”
*Similar to how romanticism followed and reacted against rationalism; a swing in polar opposite direction; thus, you see literary critics constructing fanciful chiasms over whole books, and reading modern literary conventions into the Apostle Paul.
ex. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled… = a chiasm.
6) Assume, along with “New Criticism/Structuralism” there is normative meaning IN THE TEXT.[1]
*MEANING is much more at the heart of the issue, (though not the heart of the heart) and Gunn is right in going right after this.[2]

[1] See Kevin VanHoozer, Is There A Meaning In This Text, for a comprehensive survey of literary movements, and an excellent appraisal of the strengths of each. As Christians we can appreciate the perspectives of each movement, but they all fail in that the take a PORTION of truth and make it the WHOLE truth about reading. The various movements have tunnel vision.
[2] Luther to Erasmus:  I give you [Erasmus] hearty praise and commendation on this further account—that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous’ issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like—trifles, rather than issues—in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot. For that I heartily thank you; for it is more gratifying to me to deal with this issue [free-will], insofar as time and leisure permit me to do so.”

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