Methods of studying literature
One of the key tasks of literature theory is to define and construct a methodology for the study of literature as a phenomenon and object of interest in literary studies; therefore, it is time to start considering methods of studying literature. These methods, which are principles, methods and techniques in the study of their actual subject, are determined by the latter, in the case of each method its own (but not exclusively).Therefore, when talking about the method of studying literature, both in its totality and when considering a particular method, it should be remembered its connection with its research subject. Often, when a method is a collection of its specific subjects within the object or main subject(s) of its science.
The biographical method (created by Charles Sainte-BEUVE) is that the study of the work focuses on the author himself, in particular, on his scientific biography. That is, the essence of the method is to scientifically correlate the facts of the biography and the author’s work;
The artistic method of literary theory studies the influence of the author’s artistic thinking in the works he creates; how the author portrays something through the prism of his artistic perception, subjective understanding, creation in its own way on the basis of the reflected mind. In fact, this method of literary theory studies a method of creative activity that has the same epithet;
The cultural and historical method of studying literature, created by Hippolyte Teng, is more interested in historical and cultural, for example, national characteristics that affect the created literary product. In other words, this approach offers to focus on more systematic, extended in time and large features, criteria, connections and prerequisites, in other words – thorough. It is difficult to deny the influence of his time, culture and processes in the society surrounding the author on his work;
Comparative-historical method, cross-cultural or comparative studies – from the Latin comparo-compare) – a method of studying literature, which consists in a comparative study of all the products of the literary process, regardless of the national, cultural or other affiliation of the author. The advantage is that a large volume of various factors that affect the literary product is studied;
The sociological or socio-historical method is the main approach of the sociology of literature that studies the influence of social groups and classes on literature, as well as the significance and influence of literature in society, as one of its functions – social. The subjects of interest within this method are not only the genera, types, genres of literature or themes, motives, objects depicted, and how the audience and author interact. The latter is often far from being limited to creating a work on the one hand and choosing to read it or not, on the other. It should also be noted that the sociology of literature is an interdisciplinary scientific field;
The method of literary hermeneutics consists in the interpretation of literary works according to a rationally constructed system of scientific knowledge. It can be understood that applying this method with the purpose outlined above to the products of subjective production, you will inevitably face the problem of correlating systematic scientific knowledge, trying to be the most objective, with the private experience and its artistic embodiment of various subjects of the literary process (authors). According to Eric Hirsch, who was a prominent representative of researchers of the recent past who developed this method, it (the method) is finding the original meaning of a literary work. Hirsch said the contents of the three directions in the interpretation of the text: the metaphysical – the search for the meaning of the text, following the concept of historicity (an objective historical study works), descriptive – the description of the meaning of the text as a sign system, and the legal interpretation of the text values based on ethical guidelines of the researcher is inevitable. In view of the latter, Eric Hirsch called for separating the descriptive dimension, which contains the essence of objective research, from the normative dimension, which represents its objective in a subjective form;
The formal method of studying literature focuses on the study of immanent, that is, intrinsic, properties of literature; as stated by Roman Jacobson: the subject of literary theory is not literature itself, but its literativeness, that is, what makes a work literary. What is important here is the verbal art, the text itself, and not the feature of reflecting something (for example, the inner world of the author or era) in the literary product. Formalists insist on the need to clarify the science of literary criticism, focusing its attention on the text and only on it, and not the circumstances and other accompanying its creation. Therefore, this method of studying literature is called this, because it resorts to the study of only the form and techniques of the text, ignoring the rest;
The structural method of literary theory studies the literary product as a system consisting of individual elements connected by connections and through them performing their particular functions; that is, we are talking about a variety of structures of literary works. The previously mentioned Roman Jacobson also contributed to this method; the latter, like the previous one, was formed in linguistics, and only then extended its influence to literary studies. It should be noted that structuralism was transformed into post-structuralism due to the coming to the understanding that the meaning of structures and the elements that make them up can change indefinitely, or not at all, depending on the perceiver; the above means for the scientific discipline unknowability of the subject using a given method.
Not all methods of studying literature are listed and briefly disclosed here, but the largest and most significant of them are. But this is enough to create a picture of the topic stated in the title of the article. And for more detailed and in-depth information, please refer to the relevant literature, with similar sizes of information contained; or to other articles on literary studies at the link below.