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Critical Perspectives

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Critical perspectives

1. A Feminist perspective,

Basis: females not given equal status, respect, opportunity, or wages.  Language is embedded with support for the dominant groups, regarding gender

LENS: where society/text is viewed through the lens of gender bias in

  1. language, norms, roles and institutions, where men are unfairly given dominance.  
  2. Basis: gender equality.
  3. e.g. ‘Who wears the pants in your family’  ‘pants’ is traditionally male clothes – showing how language is gender conditioned.

2. A Communist hegemonic perspective,

Basis:  Dominant groups maintain control and equilibrium over subordinate groups, especially for economic domination (Gramsci).  ‘equilibrium’: people don’t even realize they are being controlled, sometimes they are active in their own subordination: ‘Medals of slavery’.  ‘Mind forged manacles’.  Miss World.  Language is embedded with support for dominant groups and repressing subordinate groups.  

LENS: where society or the text is looked at through the lens of

  1. who has the power/dominant economically, socially and how they keep others subordinate, such as through HEGEMONY (Gramsci).  
  2. Hegemony: ‘the system by which the dominant maintain power over and equilibrium with the subordinate classes’ – you are controlled without even realising it, sometimes even actively involved in it, even celebrating it.  
  3. Blake: ‘Mind forged Manacles’.
  4. E.g. in school you are rewarded for working hard ‘merits’.  What ‘badges of slavery’ (‘Animal Farm’) does the school give out?

3. A Post-Colonial perspective,

Basis: where we look at society/text and the issue of identity in how colonisation has affected different generations.  

E.g. Spanish/Incas, British Empire/India. Issues related to post colonialisation, race, religion, integration, clash, citizenship, language, mixed/ ‘half-caste’ (John Agard) cultures/people, identity)

Lens: how does the ethnic past of people influence the causes of actions being seen

4. A Psychoanalytical perspective,

BASIS: past issues  being repressed in our minds and manifesting in present, guilt, sexual desires, streams of consciousness (Virginia Wolf).  Everything is in our mind.  connection to PostModern: everything is a mental construct.

LENS: where we see society/text through:

  1. ‘streams of consciousness’, thinking of many things at the same time, linking the past to the present and the future,
  2. everything is a product of the mind, questioning what is reality,
  3. everything now is a reaction to the past, (especially hidden pasts and traumas that are buried and manifest in indirect ways).  E.g. I was bullied for being fat, now I don’t like round shapes.
  4. pyscho-sexual drives: we are driven by deep sexual drives (‘Oedipal complex’: sexual attraction to mother, etc),
  5. Freudian levels of consciousness (id, ego, superego).
  6. A Johari Window reading, 4 different perceptions: i. self-perception, ii. Presentation to others, iii. How others see me and I don’t see, iv.  the hidden and unknown self (that requires digging up by a psychologist).

5. Postmodern perspective: topics and style.

Basis: Pluralism, relativism [no right or wrong], fusion of categories, very self-conscious, question God and meaning, what is fact/fiction – it all blurs, history is fiction. Avant-garde, breaking rules.


  1. Postmodern period = 1960s to today,
  2. questions meaning, reality, is there a God, who am I?  (especially after World War II – mass deaths)
  3. absolutes v relativism, everything is relative there are no absolutes, no absolute right or wrong, just perspectives and opinions. (terrorists v freedom fighter – what’s the difference)
  4. fact and reality is a construct, there is no ‘normality’, (especially a cultural construct)
  5. challenging authority/norms, breaking categories, history is a construct of the dominant and powerful,
  6. parodying/subverting norms.


  1. hybrid,
  2. rewriting the past ‘history’ from different perspective or outcomes,
  3. avant-garde,
  4. blurring/merging genres,
  5. blurring fact/fiction,
  6. non-linear (not traditional chronology),
  7. parodying/subverting norms.

6. Structuralist:  Language and texts have one set meaning that is intended by the author.  The message must be understood in its entirety, in its original context under the direction of the author.

7. Poststructuralist:  Language and texts have no fixed meaning, audience reception and construction is as valid as authorial intent. Context of production and reception are important. Remember, Saussure’s theory of constructing meaning shows the difference between the Sign (word, symbol) and what is Signified (understood) is not fixed but conditional upon culture, audience, time and place – not fixed.



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