VARIETIES OF CRITICISM
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1. to censure or find fault with.
2. to judge or discuss the merits and faults of.
of or for judging, able to discern
1. to find fault (with something)
2. to evaluate (something), and judge its merits and faults
criticize - Wiktionary
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Criticism is the judgement of the merits
and faults of the work or actions of an
individual or group by another (the critic).
To criticize does not necessarily imply to
find fault, but the word is often taken to
mean the simple expression of an objection
against prejudice, or a disapproval.
Another meaning of criticism is the study,
evaluation, and interpretation of literature,
social movements, film, arts, and similar
objects and events. The goal of this type of
criticism is to understand the work or event
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In a logical criticism, an objection is
raised about an idea, argument, action
or situation on the ground that it does
not make rational sense (there is
something wrong with it because it is
illogical, it does not follow, or it
violates basic conventions of meaning.
Such an objection usually refers to
assumptions, coherence, implications
and intent. Thus, the illogicality may
Something is being assumed or inferred
improperly, without reasonable ground.
Something is internally inconsistent or
self-contradictory, it is impossible to
maintain all of its contents at one and
the same time (because it would imply
affirming and negating the same thing).
Something has implications or effects
contrary to itself or negating it.
Something has effects contrary to its
own purpose or intent, or contrary to
the purpose or intent of someone
concerned with it.
Something involves a language which
superficially seems to make sense,
but turns out to defy logical sense
when examined more closely.
In a factual (empirical) criticism, an
objection is raised about an idea,
argument, action or situation on the
ground that there is something wrong
with the evidence of the known experience
relevant to it.
Relevant purported facts are claimed to be
false or implausible, i.e. not facts at all.
Relevant facts are said not to have been
definitely established as true, or the
likelihood that they are true, has not
Relevant facts mentioned imply different
stories which cannot be reconciled; accepting
a fact would imply another fact which
contradicts it in some way (there is overlap
here with logical criticism).
The presentation of facts is biased; important
relevant facts are left out of the story, or
the total factual context is ignored.
Other relevant facts, which have not been
mentioned, shed a different light on the
Facts focused upon are not relevant to the
purpose of those concerned.
Logical and factual criticism is generally
considered important to ensure the
consistency, authenticity and predictability
of behaviour of any kind. Without the presence
of the relevant consistency, authenticity and
predictability, one cannot make appropriate
sense of behaviour, which becomes disorienting
and creates confusion, and therefore cannot
guide behavioural choices effectively.
A positive criticism draws attention to a
good or positive aspect of something which
is being ignored, disregarded or overlooked.
People may be able to see only the negative
side of something, so that it becomes necessary
to highlight the positive side. A positive
criticism may also be a type of self-justification
The term "positive criticism" is also used in
the sense that the criticism is "well-meant" or
"well-intentioned" ("I mean it in a positive way")
- here, it is emphasized the criticism is intended
to serve a purpose which is constructive, or which
the targeted person would approve of.
Negative criticism means voicing an objection
to something only with the purpose of showing
that it is simply wrong, false, mistaken,
nonsensical, objectionable, disreputable.
Negative criticism is also often interpreted
as an attack against a person (ad hominem).
Negative criticism can have the effect that
the people criticized feel attacked or
insulted by it, so that they do not take it
Constructive criticism aims to show that
the intent or purpose of something is
better served by an alternative approach.
In this case, making the criticism is not
necessarily deemed wrong, and its purpose
is respected; rather, it is claimed that
the same goal could be better achieved via
a different route.
Both negative and constructive criticism
have their appropriate uses, but often it
is considered a requirement of criticism
that they are combined. Thus, it is often
considered that those who find fault with
something should also offer an option for
putting it right.
Destructive criticism aims to destroy the
target of criticism by making the criticism
("People should shut up and follow the
program"). In some contexts, destructive
criticism is regarded as an undesirable
nuisance, a threat, or as completely
unjustifiable, especially if it involves
personal attacks on people. However, in
political and military contexts, destructive
criticisms may be essential to save resources,
or save lives. An idea in itself is not
dangerous, but an idea proposed in a particular
context can be very dangerous, so that people
feel that it should be disarmed by mercilessly
Practical criticism is an objection or
appraisal of the type, that something
"does or does not work" in practical
reality, due to some reason or cause.
Often people will say, "that might be
fine in theory, but in practice it does
not work". Inversely, they might show
with experiment that something works
well in practice, even although the
theory says this is not possible - so
that the theory ought to be adjusted.
Practical criticism usually refers to
relevant practical experience, to reveal
why an action is wrongheaded, or under
what conditions it would succeed. When
an idea is proposed, people might first
consider if it makes sense. But usually
they will also weigh up if it is practical
to do something about it, in terms of the
consequences it has - for example, would
relevant people or organizations be better
off or worse off? Does it get in the way of
other things? Can it be sustained? Can we
live with that?
Theoretical criticism is concerned with
the meaning of ideas, including ideas on
which a practice is based. It is concerned
with the coherence or meaningfulness of a
theory, its correspondence to reality, the
validity of its purpose, and the limitations
of the viewpoint it offers.
Theories can be criticized from the point of
view of other theories, or internally "in
their own terms".
At issue is not simply whether an idea makes
sense or is consistent, but whether it makes
sense and is consistent in terms of the
theoretical framework of which it is a part.
In other words, at issue is the relationship
between many linked ideas - what effect does
the adoption of one idea have for a lot of
ideas which are related to it.
Moral criticism is basically concerned
with the rights and wrongs of values,
ethics or norms which people uphold, or
of the conditions which people face.
Morality is concerned with what is good
and bad for people, and how we know that.
There are many forms of moral criticism,
Showing that actions taken are inconsistent
or incompatible with certain values being
upheld, or values deemed desirable.
Counterposing one set of values to another,
with the claim that the one set is better
than the other.
Arguing that certain values are intrinsically
objectionable, regardless of any other values
that may be relevant.
Arguing that certain values ought to be adopted,
or rejected, for some reason.
Showing that somebody ought, or ought not to do
something for the sake of integrity.
Scientific criticism is not primarily
concerned with moral values, but more
with quantitative or categorical values.
It focuses on whether something can be
proved to be true or false, or what the
limits of its valid application are,
quite irrespective of whether people
like that or not, or what the moral
implications are. For this purpose, the
scientist employs logic and relevant
evidence offered by experience, as well
as experimentation, and gives attention
to the intent and purpose of relevant
Obviously a scientist is also a moral
being with moral biases, but science
aims to ensure that moral biases do not
prejudice scientific findings (the
requirement of objectivity).
A scientist can also criticize a certain
morality on scientific grounds, but in a
scientific capacity he or she does not
do so on the ground that the morality
itself is intrinsically objectionable,
but rather that "it flies in the face of
the facts", i.e. it involves assumptions
or valuations which are contrary to the
known logical and factual evidence that
Religious criticism is primarily concerned
with judging actions and ideas according to
whether God (or the Gods) would regard them
as good or bad for human beings (or for the
Normally a religion has some sacred or holy
texts, which serve as an authorative guide
to interpreting actions and ideas as either
good or bad.
From these, religious authorities derive norms
for how people ought to live. However, the
sacred texts may not always be clear, and they
may require interpretation.
Thus, theologians ask critical questions such
as, "how do we know what God wants for human
beings?". They try to answer these questions
by forms of reasoning which are based on
religious principles, rules and laws, and by
divine inspiration granted through prayer and
Religious authorities such as the Pope may
voice criticisms of how people are behaving,
because people's behaviour conflicts with
the doctrines of the church. In religious
criticism, the motive or intention of the
criticism (why somebody is criticizing) is
always very important.
Criticism has to be offered in the right
spirit so that it has a good effect. Religious
criticism is successful if it clarifies exactly
what is good and bad, and why that is, in such
a way that people are convinced to do what
religion says is the "right thing" to do.
Criticism is considered "scholarly" only
if it conforms to scholarly standards. A
scholarly critic probes deeply into a
problem, looking at all the relevant evidence,
the quality of reasoning involved, and the
uses or purposes which are at stake.
When he considers a problem, a scholar usually
familiarizes himself thoroughly with the
relevant background literature on the subject.
He tries to make sure that he cannot be accused
of inconsistent reasoning, that his argument is
free from factual error, and that all the
relevant aims, motives and purposes are made
A scholar also conscientiously documents "who
said what and when" so that the sources of all
the arguments are made clear. Thus, the scholar
tries to be as objective or evenhanded as he can
in making a criticism, and makes sure he has
"done his homework". In this way, his criticism
is much more difficult to ignore or to refute.
The psychology of criticism is primarily
the motivation or intent which people have
for making criticisms, good or bad.
the effect which it has on other people,
good or bad.
The motivation as well as the effect may
be rational, or it may be non-rational or
arbitrary; it may be healthy or unhealthy.
Self-criticism (or auto-critique) refers
to the pointing out of things critical/
important to one's own beliefs, thoughts,
actions, behaviour or results; it can form
part of private, personal reflection or a
Most people regard self-criticism as healthy
and necessary for learning, but excessive or
enforced self-criticism as unhealthy.
Constructive criticism is criticism in
which the focus is on improving the content
of a work or behavior of a person while
consciously avoiding attacking the source
of the work or behavior. Such criticism is
carefully framed in politically sensitive
language, often acknowledging that the critic
themselves may have a fully or partially
As such, insults and openly hostile language
are avoided, and ideal constructive criticism
is peppered with phrases like "I feel..." and
"It's my understanding that..." and so on.
Also, critics should strive to put themselves
in the position of the person being criticized.
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Feminist criticism is concerned with "...the
ways in which literature (and other cultural
productions) reinforce or undermine the
economic, political, social, and psychological
oppression of women".
This school of theory looks at how aspects of
our culture are inherently patriarchal (male
dominated) and "...this critique strives to
expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in
male writing about women" (Richter 1346).
This misogyny, Tyson reminds us, can extend
into diverse areas of our culture: "Perhaps
the most chilling example...is found in the
world of modern medicine, where drugs
prescribed for both sexes often have been
tested on male subjects only".
Feminist criticism is also concerned with
less obvious forms of marginalization such
as the exclusion of women writers from the
traditional literary canon: "...unless the
critical or historical point of view is
feminist, there is a tendency to under-
represent the contribution of women writers".
Though a number of different approaches exist
in feminist criticism, there exist some areas
1. Women are oppressed by patriarchy
economically, politically, socially,
and psychologically; patriarchal
ideology is the primary means by
which they are kept so.
2. In every domain where patriarchy
reigns, woman is other: she is
marginalized, defined only by her
difference from male norms and
3. All of western (Anglo-European)
civilization is deeply rooted in
patriarchal ideology, for example,
in the biblical portrayal of Eve
as the origin of sin and death in
4. While biology determines our sex
(male or female), culture determines
our gender (masculine or feminine).
5. All feminist activity, including
feminist theory and literary
criticism, has as its ultimate goal
to change the world by prompting
6. Gender issues play a part in every
aspect of human production and
experience, including the production
and experience of literature, whether
we are consciously aware of these
issues or not.
Feminist criticism has, in many ways,
followed what some theorists call the
three waves of feminism:
1. First Wave Feminism
- late 1700s-early 1900's: writers like
Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the
Rights of Women, 1792) highlight the
inequalities between the sexes.
Activists like Susan B. Anthony and Victoria
Woodhull contribute to the women's suffrage
movement, which leads to National Universal
Suffrage in 1920 with the passing of the
2. Second Wave Feminism
- early 1960s-late 1970s: building on more
equal working conditions necessary in America
during World War II, movements such as the
National Organization for Women (NOW), formed
in 1966, cohere feminist political activism.
Writers like Simone de Beauvoir (Le deuxième
sexe, 1972) and Elaine Showalter established
the groundwork for the dissemination of
feminist theories dove-tailed with the American
Civil Rights movement.
3. Third Wave Feminism
- early 1990s-present: resisting the perceived
essentialist (over generalized, over simplified)
ideologies and a white, heterosexual, middle
class focus of second wave feminism, third wave
feminism borrows from post-structural and
contemporary gender and race theories tp expand
on marginalized populations' experiences.
Writers like Alice Walker work to "...reconcile it
[feminism] with the concerns of the black community
...[and] the survival and wholeness of her people,
men and women both, and for the promotion of dialog
and community as well as for the valorization of
women and of all the varieties of work women perform".
•How is the relationship between men and
• What are the power relationships between
men and women (or characters assuming
• How are male and female roles defined?
• What constitutes masculinity and femininity?
• How do characters embody these traits?
• Do characters take on traits from opposite
genders? How so? How does this change others’
reactions to them?
• What does the work reveal about the operations
(economically, politically, socially, or
psychologically) of patriarchy?
• What does the work imply about the possibilities
of sisterhood as a mode of resisting patriarchy?
• What does the work say about women's creativity?
• What does the history of the work's reception by
the public and by the critics tell us about the
operation of patriarchy?
• What role the work play in terms of women's
literary history and literary tradition?
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When others tell you how they think you
can improve, they give you criticism.
To accept criticism appropriately:
1. Look at the person. Don’t use negative
2. Stay calm and quiet while the person
3. Show you understand. (Say, “Okay” or
4. Try to correct the problem. If you
are asked to do something differently,
do it. If you are asked to stop doing
something, stop it.
If you can’t give a positive response,
at least give one that will not get
you into trouble. (Say, “Okay,” “I
understand,” or “Thanks.”)
Reasons for using the skill,
Accepting Criticism: Being able to
accept criticism shows that you can
accept responsibility for what you
do and accept advice from others.
It also prevents having problems
with people in authority. If you can
control yourself and listen to what
others have to say about how you can
improve, you’ll have fewer problems.
And, the criticism may really help you!
It is most important that you stay calm.
Take a deep breath, if necessary.
Getting angry or making negative facial
expressions will only get you into
When you respond to the person who is
giving you criticism, use as pleasant
a voice tone as possible. You will
receive criticism for the rest of your
life – all people do. The way you
handle it determines how you are
treated by others.
Most criticism is designed to help you;
however, it is sometimes hard to accept.
If you don’t agree with the criticism,
ask mom, dad or another trusted adult.
Always ask questions if you don’t understand.
(But don’t play games by asking questions
when you do understand and are just being
stubborn.) Give yourself a chance to improve!
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7 Effective Ways to Deal With Criticism
9 tips for giving and receiving criticism
Social Criticism Review
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Critical theory (Frankfurt School)
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