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Write an essay on how studying Literary and Practical Criticism has helped you understand your field.
Genre: murder in the cathedral by T.s Eliot (modern drama)
Critical lens: Aristotle theory about tragedy (poetic)
All type of art have their critics .we often read a book review, magazine review ,movies review so on. In literature, literary and practical criticism defines as “The art or practice of judging and commenting on the qualities and character of literary works” In literary criticism we analyze, comment, classify the literature work .Literary criticism may be exam the particular work or the authors’ whole work. Criticism has much importance in through out the history of literature. In literature Criticism gives us a way to how we study and analyze others work .criticism is a proper guideline for understanding literature. Without criticism we cannot go to the depth of the any literary text, with the aid of criticism we can go inside of the text and can understand the written text from different point of views. There are many different ways to assess the literature such as novels, drama, poetry etc T.s Eliot said “criticism is as inevitable as breathing” (Tradition and talent). Its mean criticism is necessary as breathing is. He also said that”Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry” With the assist of criticism we commenting on the written work not on the writer. By studying literary and practical criticism we learn how to read and discus the literature. Few critics concerned about where and when the author was born. Many think that the given information is not relevant.
Practical criticism provides us different theories and lens through which we glance into any piece of literature. We can interpret things in specific dimension using certain theoretical lens. In literature there are many literary theories such as psychoanalytical theory, feminist theory, Marxist theory, aristotal works on theory of literature usually called as poetic etc all these critic theories are guidance for proper understanding of literary subject.
For instance Aristotle’ theory of tragedy can use to analyze modern tragedies. According to aristotal “A tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in appropriate and pleasurable language;… in a dramatic rather than narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions.” (Poetics) He also explains the most important elements of tragedy 1.Plot 2. Character 3. Thought 4. Diction5. Melody 6. Spectacle. He further explains these six elements in detail. By studying Aristotle work we easily understand the literary work of many other writers more, without difficulty such as Oedipus rex by Sophocles,A doll house by henrik ibsen arms and the men by bernad shaw By definition of tragedy given by Aristotle we can also see that how “murder in the cathedral” by t.s Eliot fulfill different conditions of perfect tragedy.
Aristotle argues that, among the six formative elements, the plot is the most important element. He writes in The Poetics.'”The plot is the underlying principle of tragedy”
The plot is the most important part of any tragedy or play.Aristotal said in poetic “plot is the soul of any tradegy” tragedy is nothing without plot,according to him plot of any effective tragedy have complete series of action , must have a beginning, middle, and end.it must also be universal in significance, have a determinate structure, and maintain a unity of theme and purpose.
If we analysed the plot of the Modern tragedy “murder in the cathedral” it fulfill most of the principals of Aristotelian tragedy. As the plot is the series of action,,which in the case of murder in the cathedral is not a story but a series of incidents occure with chain of the action tightly .these action are superior to those that depend primary on the character and personality of the hero that is Thomas Becket.
While analyzing the mueder in the cathedral I would easily recognized the influence of Greek tragedy on the creation of Eliot’s hero thamos becket. Eliot writes his hero just like it was described in the Aristotelian conception of tragedy that a ‘great’ man would brave challenges that attempted to surprise attack him from accepting his providence. Audiences were meant to respond to the courage with which the protagonist in Greek tragedies accepted their deaths. This was complete relativity to Eliot’s protagonist Thomas, and the series of events that his actions cause leading us to the highlighter ultimatum. The Chorus of Canterbury Women worry that Becket’s return could make their lives more complex, by angering the king. Later on, three priests enter the hall and also cry for his absence and debate the effects of his potential return. All of this would lead us to what Aristotle calls Unity.
In the murder in the cathedral there is proper begning with certain foreshadowin in the chorus where we heared the return of archbishops thamos ,middle where the temptations come and ending where knights come ,this is another fulfillment of aristotal principal.
In this play murder in the cathedral there is proper setting and structure. The cathedral is the determined place of the play-the place of various parts of the action. Whole play revolve around one place that is cathedral
The plot of the murder in the cathedral also support the idea of universality what is the plausible is possible we are opposed to believe what has not happened is possible, but it is obvious that what has happened is possible- because it would not have happened if it were not.(famous maxim) Eliot has produced a mixture of theology and tradegy.the universalization in murder in the cathedral lies in controversy between Thomas becket and the king henry II.the four knights killed the Thomas and fulfill the king’s order. The murder in the cathedral highlights the struggle for separation of church/state and conscience/power
The journey of becket in order to change himself would lead us to another fact that is called recognition,which brings the change from ignorance to knowledge. Recognition is best when it occurs simultaneously with a reversal, beckets’ action of reversal proves to be successful at this point.
In the murder in the cathedral not only plot fulfills the Aristotle’s definition of tragedy but we can easily detach many other elements of tragedy. The chorus is an outstanding tragic element, prediction what is going to happen and commenting on what has previously happened. The chorus of the Women of Canterbury separates the action and acts. In the beginning their speech is clarifying of situation. There is foreshadowing on the part of the chorus as to future events. Their second speech, after the appearance of the tempters, shows fear at what they feel is predictably going to happen to the Archbishop and thus to the people.
According to Aristotle’s definition,” the language of tragedy must be sweet and have all the various types of sweet language in the different part of tragedy” (Aristotle poetic). This is one of the reasons why Eliot chose verse instead of prose because verse is allows the writer to look at the different ways of achieving sweet language. Eliot makes use of several types of verse moving from the metre of chorus to the varied length. The good proses in the form of the speeches of the knights are made part of the play.
On the other hand too much similarities that I have found in T.S Eliot play, there are some deviations.
Eliot’s tragic hero is different from that of the Aristotle definition of tragic hero, ” who makes a judgment error that inevitably leads to his/her own destruction called Hamertia (theory about tragedy) In the Eliot’s play the “murder in the cathedral” the protagonist or tradegic hero has no tragic flaw or hamertia. Thomas beckets have full knowledge of the circumstances and consequences. Unlike the Greek hamartia, this hero’s action is not a negative but a positive one dictated by the will of God .We can even feel in his final speech that he is forecast the occurrence of a new death and the birth of a new martyr. His speech is a renewal of the Passion of Christ and he stay on the theme of glory and martyrdom.
Aristotle also gives the idea of tragic catharsis in poetic “the purification or purgation of the emotions especially pity and fear to describe the effect of true tragedy on the spectator” (poetic) in the end of “murder in the cathedral” Thomas Becket accepted as a martyr. Unlike Greek tragedy the priest and the chorus express joy rather than mourn.
Literary and Practical Criticism helped me to interpret the compare and contrast between Greek and modern tragedy. By using the Aristotle theory about tragedy as a literary lens I analyzed the literary work of t.s Eliot. I easily understand the play with many points of view. For instance, I explore the structure of plot, characteristaion, language, universality in the play and many others aspects of the play. May be this literary lens help others in different perspectives because each and every reader has different interest based on his/her background knowledge or critical theory that he/she used to study the work of literature. As literary lenses provides us different frameworks for the discussion of text. Now I can easily interpret and explore not only Eliot’s work but others literary writer’s work more assertively by using literary lens.