Why I Prefer Analysis to Criticism

I’ve been struggling getting back into blogging, I’ll be honest. There are a few posts that feel like a big deal to me because they’re more personal, so I’m avoiding those. Meanwhile, I’ve certainly read a lot of books, but I don’t feel compelled to review them. As I talked about before, I have been reading more, and I can’t keep up if I’m going to review everything. Also, I don’t think that’s what I want to do, because I haven’t read anything that I have strong opinions on that are purely from a critical standpoint. Ideally, I’d come up with some discussions, like how Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda treats coming out, or The Underground Railroad blends historical events throughout America. But those take a lot of time that not only takes away from some other projects but also feels a bit like homework all over again–much as I enjoy that kind of writing–while I’m on summer break. I mean, they’re practically essays.

So that brings me to something I’ve been realizing in my reading and writing habits: I quite prefer analysis to criticism.

Well, I do like criticism that’s centered around representation and the societal implications of stories/characters. I think it’s important and I often learn something. But in terms of character development, story structure, plot, style, whatever else–I often find I don’t have much to say unless I really liked something or really didn’t like something else. The craft elements sometimes feel like a checklist of aspects to evaluate, and I think that’s overall not what I’m the most interested in and get out of reading. Instead, I’ll draw more on connections to my own life and world or what I learned or thought about and how the text accomplishes that. Or the more traditional essay-like topics I mentioned above, but again, those take WORK.

Often when reading for class, I tend not to form many opinions. Some works stand out above others, but overall I think I’m more interested in seeing how certain ideas were accomplished. For instance, I love postmodernism, which can sometimes be fun to read and sometimes tiring, but as I look at it closer and see how the author is challenging the status quo and storytelling and society, it means so much more to me.

Maybe some of that just comes with taking (and loving) a lot of English classes and planning to be an English teacher. But I’m also very interested in personal relationships to media. How myself and others connect to certain characters and storylines, what it means to them, how it has helped us define ourselves. All of that is often fascinating, and often what stories are ultimately for. Without a personal connection, I can look at something and say “well, that was a very well-done story,” but it doesn’t mean much to me. (This is probably why I end up loving things that are a little too ambitious and messy but have fantastic characters and ideas.)

So for me, Personal Analysis > Literary Analysis > Traditional Criticism, I suppose. What about you?


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