Showing posts with label computer technology and literary theory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computer technology and literary theory. Show all posts

Tuesday 31 January 2023

Modern Theories of Criticism: An Overview

Modern Theories of Criticism: An Overview

[Note: This presentation and video recording are of Prof. Dilip Barad's session in the Refresher Course for College / University teachers. The Refresher Course was organised by UGC-HRDC, University of Mumbai.]

Modern Literary Theory and Criticism refers to the examination and interpretation of literature using various theoretical frameworks that emerged in the 20th century. This approach encompasses diverse schools of thought such as Marxist, Feminist, Psychoanalytic, and Deconstructionist theory that offer a critical lens to analyze literary texts and reveal their deeper meanings and societal impact. The purpose of this introduction is to provide a comprehensive overview of the key concepts, influential figures, and historical developments in Modern Literary Theory and Criticism, highlighting its significance and impact in the field of literary studies.

Literary criticism, the evaluation and interpretation of literature, is an important aspect of literary studies. Over the years, various theories of criticism have emerged, each offering a unique perspective on the reading and interpretation of literature. This presentation outlines some of the major theories of criticism, starting from Matthew Arnold’s “A Study of Poetry” (1888) and T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and Individual Talent” (1919) to the latest theories of digital humanities.

The earliest theories of criticism include the works of I.A. Richards, who presented the practical criticism approach in his book “Practical Criticism” (1929). William Empson’s “Seven Types of Ambiguity” (1930) also played a significant role in the development of criticism. Later, William K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley introduced the concepts of intentional and affective fallacies in their work.

In the 1930s, Allen Tate introduced the theory of “tension” in poetry, which dealt with the extension (literal meaning) and intension (metaphorical meaning) of a text. Cleanth Brooks, in his works “The Language of Paradox, The Well Wrought Urn” (1947) and “Modern Poetry and the Tradition” (1939), focused on the language of paradox in poetry.

Archetypal criticism, which is concerned with the study of archetypes and symbols in literature, was developed by Maud Bodkin (1934) and Northrop Frye (1940-50). Frye’s theory of the mythos grid, which outlines the universal themes and patterns in literature, is an important contribution to the field of archetypal criticism.

In the latter half of the 20th century, structuralism and semiotics gave rise to stylistics, which deals with the study of style in literature. Deconstruction and poststructuralism, as propounded by Jacques Derrida, also had a major impact on the field of criticism. 

Eco-criticism, which looks at the relationship between literature and the environment, and eco-feminism, which critiques the patriarchal values embedded in society, also gained prominence.

Postcolonialism, which deals with the study of the cultural, political and economic effects of colonialism, was developed by thinkers like Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi Bhabha. In recent times, the focus has shifted to globalization and climate change, which has given rise to contemporary theories of cultural studies.

Digital Humanities, a field that uses technology to analyze and process literary texts, has also emerged as a significant area of study. The rise of generative literature, where texts are produced by computers, has raised new challenges for critics. The principles and processes of generative literature have been outlined by Jean-Pierre Balpe. The use of AI in digital humanities has raised questions about unconscious bias and the morality of robots, which require further study.

In conclusion, the field of criticism has undergone several transformations over the years, each adding to our understanding of literature. From the earliest works of Arnold and Eliot to the latest theories of digital humanities, the field has constantly evolved to keep pace with changing times. The new challenges posed by AI and the increasing influence of technology on the field only serve to emphasize the ongoing relevance of criticism in our rapidly changing world.


Video Recording of the Session:

Tuesday 21 March 2017

What if Machines Write Poems

What if Machines write poems?

What if Machines write better poems than humans?

Let us ponder over it on this World Poetry Day!

In the seventeenth year of the digital era, it sounds stupid to ask whether machines / computers can write poems or not. We face ever graver and frightening question. What if machines write better poems than humans?
What if human poems sounds mechanical and machine's, humane?

However, if you still have doubt about whether computers can write poems or not, give your 10 minutes to watch this video to change your perception. Oscar Schwartz has some very provoking questions:

Now, if you want to try some poems written by computer, click here:
Type first line of your poem and a short poem will be generated by computer!
How easy it is to be a poet!

Such poems are known as Computer Poetry. Want to know more about it? Click here:

These days, there are interesting and unbelievable poems written by computer. If you think that computers cannot write poems like humans, check this. Take a test:

Was this poem written by a human or a computer?

In coming days, it will no longer surprise, if people will have to differentiate between their favorite 'human' and 'computer' poets!

Be a poet with the help of auto poem generators. Here are some links where computers generate poems for us:

Generative Literature

The poems 'generated' with the help of algorithm are known as generative literature. Want to know more about generative literature?

Monday 13 December 2010

Literary Criticism in the age of information: Digital Humanities

Literary Criticism in the age of information: Digital Humanities

Dilip Barad

The literary theories and criticism has witnessed several shifts in 20th Century. Beginning with 'New Criticism', it ran through 'Reception Theory', 'Stylistics', 'Russian Formalism', 'Structuralism', 'Marxism', 'Psycho-analytical school', post-structuralism', 'Feminism'; along with voices of Modernism, Post-modernism, post-colonialism, cultural studies, new historicism . . . and what not.

All these glasses (spectacles for some) gave us varied ways - colourful most of the times, 'cleared our vision if we have cataract' at times and also concave or convex on several occasions or a rainbow kind of spectrum passing through the prism glass. All these glasses transforms into mirror and we see our own self projected in your reading of literature.

However, it is important to inquire, what is the reason of such turns and twists in the 'studies' of the study of literatures?

Well, what John Wain (though said in some other context) wrote in 'Strength and Isolation: Pessimistic Notes of a Miltonolater' in Frank Kermod's The Living Milton (1960: Routledge) may have some answer to this shifting paradigms of 20th century.
He wrote: "The modern sensibility works in naturally with a medium like the cinema, with its endless fading in and fading out, its tracking, panning and all the rest of the devies for keeping dimension and angle in a continually shifting state . . . Symbolism on the one hand, the cinema on the other; concentration and discontinuity ..."

How far can we blame cinematic habit to these scenario is a debatable issue. But if it has a grain of truth, then what can we think about the sensibility of the man in the age of information - in an era of internet - the digital age - amidst flood of information and constantly changing world/reality? And what sort of theories and critical practices are we to confront in the 21st century?

The reading of these articles can help us make our position more sound and significant in the making and reading of 21st century literature:

  • What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments? Matthew G. Kirschenbaum.

  • A New Computer-Assisted Literary Criticism? Raymond G. Siemens
  • Research Prospects in Digital Humanities
  • Matthew Jockers's Macroanalysis: (Down load chapters from the book)
  • Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture
  • Humanities in the Digital Age

  • Marie-Laure Ryan quite categorically argues in ‘Introduction’ Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory: “Computers were once thought of as number-crunching machines; but for most of us it is their ability to create worlds and process words that have made them into a nearly indispensable part of life. If computers are everywhere, it is because they have grown into ‘poetry machines’. The digital revolution of the last decade has let words on the loose, not just by liberating their semantic potential, as most avant-garde movements of the past hundred years have done, but in a physical, quite literal sense as well.” (Ryan). She further remarks which opens up the floodgates for those who wants to research on language on the screen: “Sometimes the words on the loose become malleable substance in our hands, as we grab them with a hand-shaped cursor, move them, erase them, banish and recall them, pull more words form under words, cut them out and paste them into a new context; sometimes they become actors and dancers on the stage of the computer screen, animated by the scropt of an invisible program; sometimes they fail to regroup at the end of their trip, and the screen fills up with garbage, dismembered text, visual nonsense, or surrealistic graphics. Whether we play with them or watch them perform for us, whether we control them or they rebel against us, electronic words never stand still for long, never settle down on a page, even when a copy is sent to the printer; for the printer merely outputs a lifeless replica, as still photograph of objects in motion.” (Ryan).

    Any idea? Please share in comments . . .

    Digital Humanities and Computer Assisted Literary Criticism from Dilip Barad

    Check your progress:

    Click here to appear in online test 

    Activity: (Give your response in the 'Comment' section below this post)

    Works Cited

    Aarseth, Espen. "Aporia and Epiphany in Doom and Speaking Clock: The Temporality of Ergodic Art." Ryan, Marie-Laure. Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999. 285.
    Aiden, Erez and Jean-Baptiste Michel. Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens of Human Culture. Global: Penguine, 2013.
    Arnold, Matthew. "The Study of Poetry(1880)." 1909-14. > TheHarvard Classics. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Coldewey, Devin. "Data mining the classics makes for beautiful science." 20 Aug 2012. NBC News Technology. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Deresiewicz, William. "Professing Literature in 2008." The Nation (11 March 2008).
    Dryden, John. "Of Drammatick Poesy." 1668.
    English, James F. The Global Future of English Studies. First. UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
    Frye, Northrop. "New Directions from Old." Frye, Northrop. Fables of Identity: Studies in Poetic Mythology. New York: A Harbinger Book, 1963. 264.
    Frye, Northrop. "The Archetypes of Literature." Frye, Northrop. Fables of Identity: Studies in Poetic Mythology. USA: A Harbinger Book, 1963. 264.
    Jockers, Matthew. "Characterization in Literature and the Macroanalysis Lab." 8 Jan 2014. Matthew L. Jockers. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    —. "Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History." 2013. University of Illinois Press. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Kermod, Frank. 'Strength and Isolation: Pessimistic Notes of a Miltonolater' in The Living Milton (1960: Routledge)
    Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. "What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?" ADE Bulletin (2010): 7.
    Levy, Pierre and Rikka (Tr. from French) Stewen. "Toward Superlanguage." SOH University of California-Irvine. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    McLemee, Scott. "Crunching Literature." 1 May 2013. Inside Higher Ed. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Peacock, Thomas Love. "The Four Ages of Poetry." Literary Miscellany 1820.
    Popova, Maria. "From Galileo to Google: How Big Data Illuminates Human Culture." 17 Jan 2014. 21 Jan 2014 <>.
    Ricoeur, Paul. "Time and Narrative." Chicaco and London VOl III (1988).
    Rockwell, Geoffrey, Peter Organisciak, Megan Meredith-Lobay, Kamal Ranaweera, Stan Ruecker, Julianne Nyhan. "The Design of an International Social Media Event: A Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities." digital humanities quarterly (2012):
    Ryan, Marie-Laure. Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory. Ed. Marie-Laure Ryan. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
    Wikipedia, Contributors. Digital Humanities. 10 Jan 2014. Wikipedia. 21 Jan 2014 <>.