Are characters and incidents in the work versions of the writer’s own experiences? Are they treated factually or imaginatively?

Step 1: Choose one of the following poets and read the chapter associated with them. Then choose one of the Literary Criticism strategies below and use that strategy to analyze two poems from the poet you have chosen.

Poet: Robert Frost

Mending Wall 1914 Poem
Birches 1916 Poem

Choose one of the following Literary Criticism strategies and use the questions to construct a paper where you analyze two of the poems from the poet you chose.

Formalist questions

How do various elements of the work — plot, character, point of view, setting, tone, diction, images, symbol, and so on — reinforce its meanings?
How are the elements related to the whole?
What is the work’s major organizing principle? How is its structure unified?
What issues does the work raise? How does the work’s structure resolve those issues?
Biographical questions

Are facts about the writer’s life relevant to your understanding of the work?
Are characters and incidents in the work versions of the writer’s own experiences? Are they treated factually or imaginatively?
How do you think the writer’s values are reflected in the work?
Psychological questions

How does the work reflect the author’s personal psychology?
What do the characters’ emotions and behavior reveal about their psychological states? What types of personalities are they?
Are psychological matters such as repression, dreams, and desire presented consciously or unconsciously by the author?
Historical questions

How does the work reflect the period in which it is written?
What literary or historical influences helped to shape the form and content of the work?
How important is the historical context to interpreting the work?
Marxist questions

How are class differences presented in the work? Are characters aware or unaware of the economic and social forces that affect their lives?
How do economic conditions determine the characters’ lives?
What ideological values are explicit or implicit?
Does the work challenge or affirm the social order it describes?
New historicist questions

What kinds of documents outside the work seem especially relevant for shedding light on the work?
How are social values contemporary to the work reflected or refuted in the work?
How does your own historical moment affect your reading of the work and its historical reconstruction?
Cultural studies questions

What does the work reveal about the cultural behavior contemporary to it?
How does popular culture contemporary to the work reflect or challenge the values implicit or explicit in the work?
What kinds of cultural documents contemporary to the work add to your reading of it?
How do your own cultural assumptions affect your reading of the work and the culture contemporary to it?
Gender studies questions

How are the lives of men and women portrayed in the work? Do the men and women in the work accept or reject these roles?
Are the form and content of the work influenced by the author’s gender?
What attitudes are explicit or implicit concerning sexual relationships? Are these relationships sources of conflict? Do they provide resolutions to conflicts?
Does the work challenge or affirm traditional ideas about men and women and same-sex relationships?
Are gender and/or sexuality presented as fixed or fluid?
Mythological questions

How does the story resemble other stories in plot, character, setting, or use of symbols?
Are archetypes presented, such as quests, initiations, scapegoats, or withdrawals and returns?
Does the protagonist undergo any kind of transformation such as a movement from innocence to experience that seems archetypal?
Do any specific allusions to myths shed light on the text?
Reader-response questions

What is your initial reaction to the work?
How do your own experiences and expectations affect your reading and interpretation?
What is the work’s original or intended audience? To what extent are you similar to or different from that audience?
Do you respond in the same way to the work after more than one reading?
What kind of interpretive community are you a part of? Is your reading of a text conditioned by the readings offered by your peers, by professional literary critics, by your instructor, and so on?
Deconstructionist questions

How are contradictory and opposing meanings expressed in the work?
How does meaning break down or deconstruct itself in the language of the text?
Would you say that ultimate definitive meanings are impossible to determine and establish in the text? Why? How does that affect your interpretation?
How are implicit ideological values revealed in the work?

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