Imagining Me

Liberal Humanism

Liberal humanism is a form of study that came before criticism. This approach is used to analyze literary work before the time when there is a theory to be used. Liberal humanism is the traditional approach to English studies. In the early 19th century, there is so much limitation of learning in England that can make the first quarter of the 19th century education in England is a Church of England monopoly. Those who can attend to universities are only men of white Anglo-Saxon protestant. For women and other men with different religious belief in England were banned to attend any class at that time. Later on in middle of 19th century other university opened and accepts men and women of all religion or none. This is the roots of the liberal humanism approach.

In this approach there are some aspects that have been made, these aspects called the ten tenets. These are the ten tenets; first, good literature is timeless. Literary works will transcend the limitation there is at the time that works is written, and will always be news to someone who reads it in the future. In James Joyce’s novel Dubliners, the first tenet is found in the themes used in the book, which is the prison of routine. This tenet is found in the character Eveline which shows that the first tenet is true. Eveline as a character is reliant on routine, she had a simple life before she given the opportunity to break free from routine and find a new one with her lover, Frank, but at the last moment she is struck with fear of the unknown and is not able to leave her old life.

Second, literary text contains its own meaning. Regarding any event that happened at the time the work is written, or any event that happens as aspired by the work, literary works will always has it own meaning and do not have any influence by anything.  Third, the text is therefore studied in isolation without ideological assumption or political condition—as the goal of close verbal analysis is to see the object as itself. Following the second tenet, this one is done to isolate any influence from outside. Fourth, human nature is unchanging, the same passions, emotions, or even situations are seen again and again throughout human history. This is just like when Samuel Johnson famously denigrated Sterne’s novel Tristram Shady on the ground of its originality. The fifth tenets, is individuality as an essence securely possessed by each transcendent subject, distinct from force of society, experience, and language. This means that someone from different society, language and experience will look at the work differently than other with the distinction from the place they are from. Sixth, the purpose of literature is to enhance life and humane value in non-programmatic (non-propagandistic) way. Seventh, form and content are fused organically in literature.

Eighth, sincerity is the quality that resides within the language of literature, noted by the avoidance of cliché of inflated style so that the distance/difference between words and things is abolished. Ninth, what is valued in literature is the ‘silent’ showing and demonstrating of something, rather than the explaining, or saying, of it. The last one is the job of criticism is to mediate between it and the reader.

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