Practical Criticism Advice For Beginners
Practical Criticism is not a term that we often hear about in the education sector, let alone in its various disciplines. Practical criticism is usually associated with Arts subjects like English Literature. It involves the examination of text or poetry and underlies everything English students do.
Conducting a practical criticism involves the reading of text closely and having a grasp of the larger issues related.
It helps the student gain a sense of what a poem or a passage of prose or drama is about, how to analyse it and how to write an essay successfully.
The first time I was given an assignment to write a practical criticism of a book extract was the time I was at school studying my ‘A’ Levels.
Practical Criticism - What Are The Benefits?
Doing a practical criticism is a way of developing a skill in doing a critical analysis of texts, mostly poetry.
This involves focused and intensive close reading of a given text under artificial conditions. Artificial in the sense that the text is often presented without the background information.
Information about the author, date of composition or the place of the passage for the analysis to be done within the work from which it was excerpted.
Practical criticism is also a method of teaching, assessing skills and developing insights.
Such insights would enhance deeper and more alert understanding of literary works through detailed analysis of short text passages.
4 Steps To Writing A Practical Criticism
These days its getting increasingly common to have ‘5 ways of doing this or 6 ways of doing that.The same applies to a practical criticism exercise.
Usually, you are presented with a piece of text. Maybe an extract from a book or a poem. You are then asked to write a practical criticism of that extract without being given some background information.
This involves taking a thorough look at the text in order to understand its meaning or the message behind.
Doing a practical criticism requires you to demonstrate what you think is the author’s intention through that piece of writing.
Lastly, you need to give evidence of how the piece of work makes you feel and what is the author’s tone.
My former English literature teacher taught me the 4 steps for doing a thorough practical criticism. These steps are summed up in an acronym called SIFT.
STEP 1 - SENSE
You need to summarise the text or poem using your own words to demonstrate that you have understood its meaning or the message behind. You must explain the meaning of each of the words or phrases you extract. Try to use synonyms when explaining the meaning rather than repeating the words from the original text.
The skills you need to be able to do this is the ability to recognise, understand and explain the meaning of a range of vocabulary. You also need to demonstrate an awareness of words, that they have layers of meaning rather than just a literal meaning. Also, to be able to articulate how language choices can purposefully impact the interpretation of a text.
STEP 2 - THE INTENTION
Here you need to focus on the author’s intention. This is what the author is trying to portray to the audience and the purpose of what they are portraying. You should also demonstrate an awareness of the writer’s intention across the entire passage and how your selections reflect this stance.
STEP 3 - FEELING
You must explain the effect of each of the words or phrases you extract. You can look for the writer’s effects through his vocabulary choices, figurative language and contrasting details.
Also, the writer’s use of a narrative perspective, his striking use of punctuation, sentence length, dialect and rhetorical devices. Avoid making generalised or vague comments that fail to give precise comment on the writer’s effect. For example, it’s well written and makes a strong impression on me.
Here, you need to be specific and point to particular things. For instance, the author’s imagery of seeing ‘pots, folks and plates being whirled through the window’ grabbed my attention.
STEP 5 - TONE
What is the tone that comes across? By tone, I mean the quality of the voice that expresses the speaker’s feelings or thoughts. Often towards the person being spoken to.
Is he using a sympathetic tone of voice?
You need to give examples, be it words or figurative speech that conveys the tone of someone who is fuming with anger.
To practice how to do a practical criticism exercise, read this Practical Criticism Example.
Please feel free to leave any questions you may have related to 4 Ways To Writing A Practical Criticism. I will get back to you with a response as soon as possible.