Practical Criticism Advice For Beginners
Practical Criticism is a term we don’t often hear about in the education sector and its many disciplines. Practical criticism is usually associated with Arts subjects like English Literature.
PRACTICAL CRITICISM DEFINITION IN LITERATURE
In literature, Practical Criticism involves the examination of text or poetry and underlies everything English students do.
PRACTICAL CRITICISM ANALYSIS
Carrying out a practical criticism analysis involves:
(1) Reading of text closely
(2) Having a grasp of the larger issues related.
Writing a practical criticism helps the student
(1) To gain a sense of what a poem or a passage of prose or drama is about.
(2) How to analyse the poem
(3) How to successfully write an essay.
The first time I got an assignment to write a practical criticism of a book extract, I was still at school doing my ‘A’ Levels.
BENEFITS OF A PRACTICAL CRITICISM
Practical criticism exercises make you develop the skill of doing a critical analysis of texts, mostly poetry.
It involves focused and intensive close reading of a given text under artificial conditions. Artificial in the sense that the text is often presented without its background information.
Background information about the author, the date for the composition and the place is essential for analysing the passage within context.
Practical criticism is also a method of teaching, assessing skills and developing insights, alert students to a deepened understanding of literary works through detailed analysis of short text passages.
LITERARY ANALYSIS OF A POEM - 4 STEPS
These days people are getting away with 5 ways of doing this or 6 ways of doing that.The same approach equally works for a practical criticism exercise.
Very often, you’re presented with a piece of text that may have been extracted from a book or a poem. Next, you’re asked to write a practical criticism of that extract without being given some its 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 as you read it 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 for this exercise is the ability to recognise, understand and explain the meaning of a wide range of vocabulary.
You also need to demonstrate an awareness of words, that words have layers of meaning rather than just a literal meaning.
Also, you must 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.
For more information on critical appreciation of a poem example exercise, read 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.