Bibliography Literary Theory Examples

I’ll define biographical criticism as a critical approach that uses the events of an author’s life to explain meaning in the author’s work. Examples are ubiquitous and familiar: Samuel Clemens piloted a riverboat in the Antebellum Era, John Steinbeck researched migrant workers and families in California before publishing Grapes of Wrath, and Joseph Conrad captained a steamboat in the Congo. Chaucer’s grandmother, according to my AP English teacher, served as his inspiration for the Wife of Bath. Even as early as my 7th grade English class, I learned that Shakespeare had a son named Hamnet who died around the time the Bard wrote Hamlet.

According to Benson, a biographical approach considers a work’s first-order context – the author’s life – and recognizes literary study as being an art not a science (110). He places it at odds with New Criticism, so a work takes on a different meaning when viewed through the lens of an author’s life.

Let’s attempt a biographical critique of Frost’s “Home Burial.” We read it in class and know already that Frost and his wife Elinor, just like the poem’s couple, lost their first-born son soon after his birth. Because the poem is long, I suggest a new tab for this link to follow along at home.

Imagine the author of "Stopping by Woods..." threatening his sister from this porch

Frost’s poems are often in first person, so it seems ironic that this poem is written not only in dialogue but also in third-person. A way of pushing away a poem that Frost called “sad” and never read aloud in public (Thompson 598)? Perhaps, but Thompson gives several more details about the poem’s background. Frost admitted the emotional parallels between him and his wife after their child’s death and Amy’s and her husband’s after theirs. Amy’s declamation that “the world’s evil” in Line 110 is a verbatim quote from Elinor Frost following her own child’s death.

The true subject of the poem – from a biographical perspective – is the death of Frost’s nephew, child of his sister-in-law Leona White Harvey, in 1895. It was her relationship with her husband that inspired the poem. Thompson implies yet another connection to Frost’s life, this time to his childhood in San Francisco. In the index under “Home Burial,” he lists page 10. While no reference to the poem exists on that page, it does describe how Frost’s mother would at times leave the house when his and flee to a neighbor’s when his father was drunk. If I may posit my own connection, a fight with his sister Jeannie (Thompson 340) in which he used a loaded pistol to force her back into the house may have inspired the force alluded to at the poem’s closing. Also, the poem was written in England at a time when Frost was homesick.

Those life events are the personal context for “Home Burial.” Rather than adding meaning to the poem, whose text remains unchanged, these revelations about Frost’s life and the poem’s possible inspirations change the interpretation of Frost’s life. Biographical criticism may explain the personal context of the poem, but it does not explain the poem’s meaning, its significance.

Rather, as we discussed today in class, it limits the interpretations. Because we know Frost’s and Harvey’s firstborn children died, we assume also that Amy and her husband lost their firstborn. No mention is made of other children, but they might be there (lack of evidence is not evidence of absence). The attendant implications for Amy and her husband’s relationship are enormous; “Newlyweds” weathering a crisis from their first child’s death is more tragic and dangerous than parents struggling with the death of their third.

I argue biographical criticism casts the choices inherent in writing as clues to the author’s personality – not the poem’s meaning. In this way, Frost’s oeuvre is the leading witness in finding meaning in Frost. We can see him taking different strategies when dealing with an emotional Elinor, progressing from belittling, to consolation, to denunciation, to confrontation. In this way biographical criticism creates an interpretation of the author, as Foucault suggests, and can reveal much about the times and culture of when the work was written.



*** on this last link, click “ok” – it will take you to the search terms in the catalog

Useful Linkage:

Posted inBiographical Criticism | TaggedElinor White Frost, Foucault, Frost Biographical Criticism, Home Burial, Jeanie Florence Frost, Robert Frost |


Literary and Critical Theory

Editor in Chief | Editorial Board | Forthcoming Articles

Literary theory has become the hegemonic methodology for the study of text and is often regarded both as a sub-discipline in itself and as a critical tool through which to liberate deeper and more complex meanings from texts. It encompasses a massive range of topics, including periods, movements, themes and works that make it a dynamic field of study. It is constantly evolving as writers from different areas make connections with what might be termed mainstream literary theory and these writers, in turn, become part of the theoretical enterprise. While this presents problems for the classifier and the bibliographer, it is an example of the dynamic and constantly-developing aspects of the field that have made it such an indispensable tool in the area of reading texts, be these texts written, iconic or socio-cultural. As such, this area invites trans-disciplinary collaboration with fields as varied as literature, history, cultural studies, and philosophy making it challenging for students and scholars to stay informed about every applicable area. Given that literary theory draws from other disciplines such as linguistics, philosophy, psychoanalysis, sociology, the social sciences and work from non-Anglophone cultures and traditions, the very scope which makes it a necessary tool for contemporary academics and intellectuals can be off-putting in terms of locating a starting point for any specific inquiry. Oxford Bibliographies in Literary and Critical Theory will offer clearly-signposted pathways through the different areas, and will make clear references to the other disciplines which feed in to, and are often transformed by, literary theory.

Editor in Chief

Eugene O’Brien is Senior lecturer and Head of the Department of English Language and Literature in Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland. He is also the director of the Mary Immaculate Institute for Irish Studies. His publications include: Seamus Heaney – Creating Irelands of the Mind; Seamus Heaney and the Place of Writing; Seamus Heaney: Searches for Answers and Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse – Negotiating Texts and Contexts in Contemporary Irish Studies. His latest book, From Prosperity to Austerity: A Socio-Cultural Critique of the Celtic Tiger and its Aftermath, co-edited with Eamon Maher, was published in 2014 by Manchester University Press, and his forthcoming book on Seamus Heaney as an aesthetic thinker will be published by Syracuse University Press. He is currently working on an edited book on the Later Poetry of Seamus Heaney with Notre Dame University Press.



* = recently published

Concepts, Genres and Approaches


Ankhi Mukherjee

University of Oxford

Global South

Anne Garland Mahler

University of Virginia

*Hemispheric Studies

Renee Hudson

University of Massachusetts Boston

Holocaust Literature

Matthew Boswell

University of Leeds

Imperial Masculinity

Praseeda Gopinath

Binghamton University, State University of New York

Neo-Slave Narratives

Raquel Kennon

California State University at Northridge

Partition Literature

Charlotta Salmi

University of Birmingham

Post-Soul Aesthetics

Emily Lordi

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Race and Disability

Dennis Tyler Jr.

Fordham University

Settler Colonialism

Alicia Cox

University of California, Irvine

World Literature

Sowon Park

University of California, Santa Barbara

Jernej Habjan

Institute of Slovenian Literature and Literary Studies, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Literary Critics and Theorists

*Algirdas Julien Greimas

James Carney

Lancaster University

Avital Ronell

Diane Davis

The University of Texas at Austin

Bernard Stiegler

Patrick Crogan

University of the West of England, Bristol

Chinua Achebe

Madhu Krishnan

University of Bristol

Claude Levi-Strauss

Robert Deliège

Catholic Univesity of Louvain

*Edward Said

Ned Curthoys

The University of Western Australia

F. R. Leavis

Richard Storer

Leeds Trinity University

Félix Guattari

Andrew Goffey

The University of Nottingham

Frantz Fanon

Anthony Alessandrini

Kingsborough Community College

Fredric Jameson

Sean Homer

American University in Bulgaria

Geoffrey Hartman

Gina MacKenzie

Holy Family University

Giorgio Agamben

Daniel McLoughlin

University of New South Wales

Harold Bloom

Graham Allen

University College Cork

Roy Sellars

University of St. Gallen

*Homi K. Bhabha

David Huddart

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

J. Hillis-Miller

Éamonn Dunne

Trinity College

Jacques Derrida

Darin Tenev

University of Sofia “St. Kliment Ohridski”

Jacques Lacan

Eugene O'Brien

University of Limerick, Ireland

Jacques Rancière

Oliver Davis

University of Warwick

Jean-François Lyotard

Keith Crome

Manchester Metropolitan University

Jean-Luc Nancy

Ian James

University of Cambridge

Jürgen Habermas

Andrew Edgar

Cardiff University

Luce Irigaray

Claire Colebrook

Penn State

*Maurice Blanchot

Adam Potts

Newcastle University

Michel de Certeau

Inigo Bocken

Radboud University Nijmegen

Michel Foucault

Mark Kelly

Western Sydney University

Monique Wittig

Kayte Stokoe

University of Warwick

Northrop Frye

Diane Dubois

University of Lincoln

Paul de Man

Martin McQuillan

Kingston University London

Paul Virilio

Jason Adams

Ferris State University

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe

John McKeane

University of Reading

Pierre Bourdieu

Jen Webb

University of Canberra

*Sigmund Freud

Benjamin Poore

University of London

Terry Eagleton

James Smith

Durham University

Toni Morrison

Tessa Roynon

Rothermere American Institute

W.E.B. Du Bois

James Ford

Occidental College

Walter Benjamin

Alison Ross

Monash University

Major Schools of Criticism


Daylanne K. English

Macalester College


Joshua Kates

Indiana university Bloomington


Derek Gladwin

University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Frankfurt School

Douglas Kellner

University of California, Los Angeles


Wendy Lynne Lee

Bloomsburg University

New Historicism

Neema Parvini

University of Surrey

New Materialism

Susan Yi Sencindiver

Aarhus Universitet


Andrea Hurst

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

Psychoanalytic Theory

Matthew Sharpe

Deakin University

Andrew Sims

Université catholique de Louvain


Stéphanie Walsh Matthews

Ryerson University


Sean Homer

American University in Bulgaria


Lesley Jeffries

University of Huddersfield

Transnational Feminism

Asha Nadkarni

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Transnationalism in Postcolonial and Subaltern Studies

Edward Piñuelas

California State University at Fullerton


Adrienne Rich

Carmen Birkle

Aesthetic Theory

Asha Varadharajan

Benita Parry

Sharae Deckard

Black Atlantic

Yogita Goyal

Edward Said

Ned Curthoys

Ernesto Laclau

David Howarth


Verena Theile

Georg Lukács

Michael J. Thompson

Gilles Deleuze

Ian Buchanan

Hayden White

Karyn Ball


Nick Lawrence

Maurice Blanchot

Adam Potts

Paul Gilroy

Rebecka Rutledge Fisher

Paul Ricoeur

Karl Simms

Prague School

Frantisek Podhajsky

Roland Barthes

Adrienne Ghaly

Sigmund Freud

Benjamin Poore

We want to hear from you.
Oxford Bibliographies is a partnership between the publisher and the academic community, and we invite your questions about the content. Please feel welcome to email Julia Kostova, our subject editor, with comments, suggestions, or questions.

One thought on “Bibliography Literary Theory Examples

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *