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The Scarlet Letter : Literary Criticism  

Last Updated: Mar 4, 2012 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Literary Criticism and You
Understanding The Scarlet Letter, Literary Criticism, and the Library’s Endless Resources



To understand the purpose of literary criticism.

To find new and interesting perspectives on The Scarlet Letter.

To practice finding literary criticism in the library (and understand all of its resources).

To prepare for the kind of research you will do for Junior Theme.


Find one piece of literary criticism on The Scarlet Letter (can be one of the following types, but does not have to be):

a.     Historical Criticism: to forget the modern point of view and reconstruct the intellectual and cultural ideals of the period.

b.     Archetypal Criticism: Underlying characters and themes have been carried out from the beginning of time – based in cultural myths.  Understanding literature through its use of archetypes.

c.      Feminist Criticism: To interpret and study the politics, language, and representation of females in literature.

d.      Make sure you can understand the piece, then print/photocopy the literary criticism.

e.     Read and annotate the literary criticism to develop your understanding of the piece. 

Determine how the literary criticism connects to a larger idea about society and human nature, as presented in The Scarlet Letter

f.     Briefly explain (in a short paragraph) how the literary criticism helps develop a new idea or interpretation of The Scarlet Letter that you had not previously considered.  Basically, you will summarize the literary criticism, and reflect on the new information it provides.

g.    Write a thesis statement that connects the ideas presented in the literary criticism with the larger ideas and themes of The Scarlet Letter (similar to the ones we practiced writing in class – keep it high level!).


Due Tuesday (please type and staple your work):

-       Printed and annotated literary criticism

-       Short summary of new perspective

-       Thesis statement connecting criticism to a larger idea in the novel.


Literary Criticism

"'Literary criticism' is the evaluation, analysis, or interpretation of literary works. It is usually in the form of a critical essay or extended book review. Criticism may examine a particular literary work, or may look at an author’s writings as a whole, or may compare and contrast works by time period or with other authors."

-Chabot College, California


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