Advanced Literary Theory Essay (Critical Writing)

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Dec 3rd, 2019


Literary works including novels, short stories, narratives and poems provides us with lenses through which we can see and understand deeply various cultural, social and political aspects of our society which are critical to our societal well-being. They are a mirror through which a society can attain self realization more so in relation to its desired destiny in terms of development.

Academically, they are usually a creative and constructive way of criticizing evils such as corruption, impunity, gender violence, and discrimination among others which are understandably a stumbling block to realization of societal dreams in the eyes of the wise people and intellectuals, as well as, political leaders of good will. Due to their critical contribution towards progress of a society authors should strive to be clear in their writings so that readers of different intellectual and educational calibre can understand what they are trying to put across through their works.

They are however professionally expected to maintain high levels of creativity and linguistic masterly. This expectation together with other factors leads to difficulties of communication between an author or a poet and his or her target audience.

These reading difficulties have been categorized as tactical, contingent, modal and ontological difficulties. The purpose of this paper is to discuss ontological difficulty in Barbara Johnson’s reader response essay titled “Apostrophe, Animation, and Abortion” and Louis Marin’s structuralist essay titled “Disney: A Degenerate Utopia.”

“Apostrophe, Animation, and Abortion” by Barbara Johnson

A difficulty in literary criticism in negative terms refers to an element of writing that points to or indicative of a rift between a poet or an author and the reader (Shetley 1932).However, it is important to note that just like conflict is a way of sociation, so difficulty which in literary studies connotes lack or breakdown of communication is itself a form of communication (Shetley 1932). In other words, difficulty itself communicates if nothing else in a poem or another piece of literary work.

Difficulty also serves as a deliberate instrument used by writers and poets in choosing readers with whom the poet have something in common out of a vague reading public. It also functioned to educate and instruct the public in the kinds of demands that the work of a poet is made of (Shetley 1932).Ontological difficulty of content refers to a cultural gap between author and reader.

A poet or an author may be from or might represent a culture that is absolutely strange to the audience. Consequently, the reader must strive to make all types of imaginative hurdles and learn many things in order to be at home with and in the literary piece be it a narrative or a poem or even an essay.

Barbara uses her reader response essay to explain effects of rhetoric in literary works by analyzing different poems written by different poets at different times. Unlike other literary theories reader response school of thought empowers and allows the reader or the audience to be the source of meaning of a literary work.

Reader response theory acknowledges the reader as an active agent who passes on actual existence to a literary work and finishes its meaning through interpretation. Reader response school of thought sets the reader free from the uninteresting undertaking of attempting to discover what the author had in mind (Lorimer & Scannell, 189).

Consequently, the audience or the reader is understood as being at liberty to construct his or her own sense and to open up instead of close down the meaning of a piece of literary work (Lorimer & Scannell 189).Proponents of this school of thought hold that the source of meaning in any text can only be the reader because the content derives an important effect in the act of consumption.

In her attempts to demonstrate effects of style and language on the meaning of a piece of literary work, Barbara Johnson uses examples of poems from particular socio-cultural set ups. This choice of poems may compel the reader or the audiences from different socio-cultural settings require more information about the poems used by Barbara in her essay.

Failure to access necessary information to fill in any existing gap on the side of the audience who certainly possess diverse intellectual abilities may obscure communication. It may also deny him the interpretive power he or she has already been granted by those who espouse literary criticism theory. Ontological difficulty in her essay can arise from differences between the kinds of culture through which she presents her essay which may be strange to the reader as well as from the information the reader gathers regarding the literary works analysed by her.

The kind of language which also derives from her culture can also pose ontological difficulties to readers who are not accustomed to it. Above anything else this can easily make effective communication between her and the reader more difficult. In other words, her essay just like the poems being analysed has a potential of determining the kind of readers who can be at home with the essay out of an amorphous public readership.

“Disney: A Degenerate Utopia” By Louis Marin’s

Structuralism is a famous approach to the study of text in literary studies. Structuralism is an overall word for particular way of examining anything from a film, a TV play, a fairy story and even language itself (Lorimer & Scannell, 193).The target of structuralism is to find out the fundamental model both of single texts and different kinds of literary works.

Through structuralism literary scholars and communication researchers’ attempts to see beneath the superficial meaning of the text and get to the concealed core skeletal organization that holds the body of the story together (Lorimer & Scannell 193).Structuralism enables communication researchers to undo evident complexities of content in a text such as a story into a simple set of essential story features that can be joined into rigorously restricted number of ways (Lorimer & Scannell 193).

Ontological difficulty in Louis Marin’s structuralist essay is manifest in a number of ways. There are possibilities of a big rift between the author and the target audience. First and foremost, his language is extremely philosophical. This aspect of his language poses the danger of obstructing the audience from deriving the intended meaning especially for those who are not accustomed to professional philosophical language as well as philosophizing about life issues of a society.

It can also lead to a complete breakdown of communication in a situation whereby the audience comes from a socio-cultural background different from that of the author. Apart from language, ontological difficulty may arise where the reader is not conversant with the American society in terms of its history, psychology, values, morality, intellectualism as well as levels of development because it is certainly the gist of his essay.

Any existing gap on knowledge concerning those aspects of the American society would force any reader who is committed to understanding the message that he is trying to put across seek more information on the same so that he or she can be at home with and in the essay (Shetley 1932).Failure to access such knowledge can lead the reader into deriving distorted meaning from the essay and further complicate communication between the readers and the author.

In addition to being conversant with American society’s history, values, morality and psychology, a reader of the essay should be relatively familiar with American physical geography and technological progress in order for him or her to make a good sense of the essay. Furthermore, a reader needs to be able to understand symbolic language so that he or she can comprehend how the author uses symbolic language to philosophically analyze the American society.

In a nutshell, Louis Marin’s essay presents in an extremely philosophical language a way of life which may be different from a reader’s culture thereby bringing forth ontological difficulty in communication. Therefore, even though the audience may be at liberty to interpret the essay without necessarily establishing what Louis Marin had in his mind when he wrote this essay the possible cultural separation may be his or her undoing in an attempt to make sense of the essay (Shetley 1932).


Communication is a process that requires that an author, a poet or a sender of a piece of information share a common platform though which information can be exchanged. Absence of the necessary requisites together with other linguistic and socio-cultural factors leads to difficulties in communication particularly on the side of the reader or the target audience. In literary theory these difficulties are categorized as tactical, contingent, modal or ontological difficulties.

Works Cited

Lorimer, Rowland and Scannell, Paddy. Mass communications: a comparative introduction. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003. Print.

Shetley, Vermon. After the death of poetry: poet and audience in contemporary American Author. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

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