Introduction to Literature
or cultural studies, is related to New Historicism but with a
particular and cross-disciplinary emphasis on taking seriously
those works traditionally marginalized by the aesthetic ideology
of white European males. It examines social, economic, and political
conditions that effect institutions and products such as literature
and questions traditional value hierarchies. Thus it scrutinizes
the habitual privileging of race, class, and gender, and also
subverts the standard distinctions between "high art"
and low. Instead of more attention to the canon, cultural studies
examines works by minority ethnic groups and postcolonial writers,
the products of folk, urban, and mass culture. Popular literature,
soap opera, rock and rap music, cartoons, professional wrestling,
food, etc. -- all fall within the domain of cultural criticism.
Obviously the field of cultural criticism is
broad. We will focus on it particularly as it concerns itself
with questioning the ways Western cultural tradition expressed
in literature defines itself partly by stifling the voices of
oppressed groups or even by demonizing those groups. We will focus
on how literary tradition has constructed models of identity for
oppressed groups, how these groups have constructed oppositional
literary identities, and how different communities of readers
might interpret the same text differently due to varied value
Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.
Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.