Ideological CriticismThis is a featured page


"An ideology is a complex system of values, ideas, pictures, images, and perceptions that motivate men and women to see their particular place in the social order as natural, inevitable, and necessary (Gayle Yee)."

All texts, as well as readers, carry conscious and unconscious ideologies. These ideologies, or worldviews, work actively to conform, or naturalize, the text or reader to her/his ideology. For example, a Biblical text can't help but present a certain worldview based on its historical and social context. Furthermore, the very act of writing implies that something was spurring the author to write; therefore, we can assume an agenda, or a persuasive element, at work in the writing. Thus we must be aware the text that we read is actively attempting to reshape our own ideology to its own, to convince us that its worldview and argument are natural, universal and self-evidently correct.

Unfortunately, ancient texts often represent only the ideologies of those with access to educated scribes and the time and means to produce texts. Since those texts are presenting their ideologies as universally held, we must also seek to uncover, perhaps 'between the lines,' or in other comparable texts, the voices of those marginalized. Since the text presents an argument, we can also reconstruct the opposing side of the issue.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aspects of Ideological Criticism

Social Scientific Criticism (Extrinsic) - Historical criticism that seeks to understand ancient socioeconomic institutions and relationships in order to better understand the text.
Examples: setting and function, practices of a certain tribe, archaeological evidence, contemporaneous writings from the Levant and Mesopotamia

New Literary (Rhetoric) Criticism (Intrinsic) - Influenced by literary marxism, this approach contends that a text "produces" readers by shaping their views into the ideology of the text. The literary text elements at hand work together to try to persuade, inform, influence, and entertain the reader in order to have the reader assent to the writer's worldview, touch the reader's heart, and seize the attention of the reader. (eg. myth or narrative) structures.

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