I would have to argue that a critical theory course is a necessary part of undergraduate studies. I have learned a lot from this course that I can use when I read texts. It allows a reader to build a better appreciation for a text. For example, biographical criticism allows you to understand the author’s background and how it applies to their text. Historical criticism allows a reader to understand the historical events that went on during the time period of the text that helped shaped the author’s writing. New Criticism allows a reader to analyze text to find its hidden meaning. Looking at symbolism, metaphors, signifcant themes etc. Overall, a Critical Theory course broadens one’s horizons to world of literature that surrounds us. Now that I have taken this course I am able to apply these theories to any texts I read. Critical theory is important because it applies to all works of art from artwork, movies, television and books. A person who does not take a Critical theory course in undergraduate studies misses out on the chance to appreciate the text they have been reading. Further, I am really glad to have taken this course because when I take Theory and Criticism next year I feel confident in my abilities to understand the many theories because Critical Approaches has given me the neccessary background to use these theories correctly.
I recently watched the movie ” I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Jessica Biel. A comedy movie that tells the story of two male firefighters in New York City that get married for financial benefits. The reason is one characther (Kevin Jame’s) wife dies and risks losing the house. So both Chuck and Larry get married as gay firefighters. This results in other colleagues coming forward coming out and becoming a team.
This movie is a great example of Queer theory. Both Chuck and Larry are faced with discrimination and othering when they decide to marry and live together. Two males living together is considered unacceptable at the time of this movie in 2006. Discrimination against gay people is still prevalent in today’s society but more awareness is being raised about the issue. If man and woman can live together in harmony, if two women or two men should be allowed as well. Two male firefighters that are gay is rare and people are not used to this. This movie attempts to raise awareness about the issue of gay rights, at the same time doing it in a humourous way. Obviously, any Adam Sandler movie is going to be comedy.
The other theory that applies this movie is Post-feminism. This is evident in the portrayal of Jessica Biel throughout the movie. She is portrayed as a sexual object but she stands up for herself. This is evident in the scene where Chuck, Larry and Jessica Biel are at a costume party and people are outside the club protesting against gay people. Jessica Biel stands up and tells them off. This is great for women because female equality is important. Although she is portrayed as a sexual object with her skimpy cat costume, she is not afraid to speak up and let her voice heard. She is Chuck and Larry’s lawyer in the movie, so having a voice and the courage to speak up is very important.
I would recommend this movie to anyone looking for a good laugh!
I understand post theories as something that attempts to modify a pre-existing theory and bring it into current time. For example, in Post-Structuralism there is no definite meaning in language. So we can keep questioning ideas and language and turn words against each other to create deeper meanings. Ultimately, post-theories attempt to make a text meaningless and question our analytical skills. How far can we really break down something before the whole thought is ruined. Therefore, post-theories equal instability and question how much we really understand something. How do we know what we know? Post-theories are influenced by their counterparts. Post-Structuralism is influenced by structuralism and deconstructionism. Post-Colonial theory is influenced by colonial theory. Post-Modernism is influenced by modernism. Without the influence of other theories, there would be no post-theories.
If post theories are about questioning our ability to understand something creating an unstable text, then how far can we really analyze something before the complete text is ruined? Does this encourage us to read too far into texts?
In my theoretical summary I chose to talk about feminist theory and how it applies to Heart of Darkness. I think it is a very important theory to consider when talking about this book because of the absence of women. Feminist criticism is all about writing women back into society and giving them the voice they deserve as a valuable member of society. Feminist criticism represents women’s struggle for identity and power in a patriarchal society. I would argue then that in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. the lack of women shows the power of men in the Congo.
The first wave of feminism looks at “equality for women” (Lynn 221). A famous first wave feminist is Simone De Beauvoir. She says, “Civiliation forms a person’s gender. It is because of male intervention in society that women are othered. She sees a woman’s body as something worthy of appreciation. The only thing seperating men and women from each other is their biological differences” (Selden 210). The example of first wave feminism in Heart of Darkness is the way that Kurtz talks to his aunt showing his attitude towards women. Kurtz is objectifying his aunt and other women by saying they are in their own world and it will fall apart without men. Therefore, first wave feminism says that women are human beings that belong in society and not “othered” because they deserve political, social, economic and social equality and the right to their own body.
The second-wave of feminism is about “the necessities of survival for women” (Lynn 221). Second wave feminism focuses on the biological issues that come with being a women and what needs arise as they become a mother. You cannot talk about second-wave feminism without looking at Betty Frieden’s book , The Feminine Mystique. Feminist criticism is, “the problem that has no name” (113). An example of second-wave feminism in Heart of Darkness, is when Kurtz’s aunt offers to take care of him. Kurtz’s aunt wants to be his mother figure even though she is not his mother. Therefore, the second-wave feminism is about the biological issues of reproduction, menstruation and needs and the right to be responsible for the control of their body because they are human beings who deserve to have rights of their own.
The third-wave of feminism or post-feminism is according to Lynn ” a way of reaffirming the feminist problems of the past and exploring how to permanently eradicate them” (222). As a twenty-first century idea, the work to eliminate the patriarchal society means women can experience life in ways they never could of before because of their lack of rights. The only part of Heart of Darkness that demonstrates post-feminism is when Kurtz tries to teach the native women about working at the station. This offers native women work outside of their household which is a step towards eradicating a patriarchal society. Therefore, post-feminism or third wave feminist criticism means progression in the twenty first century towards eradicating a patriarchal society to the achieving equal rights for all women.
Overall, feminist criticism is about the reworking of women into society so that they are treated as human beings that belong in this world being given equal rights.
I will be applying First-wave and Second-wave feminist criticism to Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants in the final research paper. Do you have any suggestions about feminist theory that might further my discussion in relation to this novel? What do you guys believe is the motive behind Joseph Conrad absence of women in Heart of Darkness? I look forward to hearing everyone’s opinions!