Literary criticism should be utilized “in order to make what is implicit in a book finely explicit” (Bloom, 2000, p. 19). Readers, students and teachers, should use the tools of critical literary theory and not be used by them. Literary criticism is a method of understanding, but the theory relies on developing self-understanding as well, and it is that desire to understand ourselves and the world that pushes me and my students to read.
I created this model of using critical literary theory lens applied to a fairy tale as a way to aid my students in understanding how to apply critical theory. I use this example to demonstrate to students how to look at a text pre-critically and through the lens of formalist, mythological/ archetypal, feminist, psychological, historical, and reader response approaches. By using the familiar format of a fairy tale, these difficult concepts become more manageable with simple text and the support of images found in a picturebook. Students then, working in groups, take a picturebook of a different fairy tale and attempt to analyze it in a similar way, trying out the skills they are attempting to master through a less threatening text.