Revisiting Expressive Theory In 21St Century Critical Discourse

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English and Languages


Master of Arts

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The aim of this study was to discover tools for critical examination within an expressive framework, as defined by M. H. Abrams. The study was needed to modernize the expressive notion from Romanticism by creating a framework conducive to the modern paradigm of literary theory and criticism. Based upon a review of the literature in the field, it is fair to conclude that the expressive theory is largely discussed in anthologies and guides of literary criticism, Romantic studies, and author-centered analysis, as well as in Formalist and New-Critic attacks. In order to solve the current problem, the researcher created a framework in which Abrams' definition of the expressive theory could be applied as a practical system. The tools of this proposed system were Extrapolation, Perception, Dalliance, Social Conscience, and Perspective. These tools were applied, accordingly, to William Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," "A Game of Chess" from The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot, Book IV of Gulliver's Travels, Richard Wright's "Ethics of Living Jim Crow" and "Big Boy Leaves Home," and Dylan Thomas' "The Hand That Signed the Paper" and Nasir Jones' "I Gave You Power." In his attempt to discover a framework for the application of the expressive theory, the researcher concluded that, far from being an approach fit to be relegated to historical notation or dismissive debate, the expressive theory remains a productive critical position, apart from the obviously successful and well-developed psychological theories of Freud, Jung, and Lacan. The expressive approach is valuable because it retains the widely acknowledged notion that there is an unavoidable connection between the creator and his/her creation. In other words, even in the modern drift toward regarding the work as an object detachable from the writer, we must not lose sight of Abrams' brilliant recognition that one way of studying a work is to consider its relation to the consciousness that produced it. In retrospect, then, the study reveals that the expressive theory remains useful within the present climate of literary theory and criticism and that the New Critical and Formalist attacks were largely overstated.