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Reading Articles in the Humanities
What is a Critic?
Critics are considered experts in their field. In this case, the field is theology. Here are a few guidelines that qualifies someone as an expert:
- A person that has a degree in their field (in most cases this will be a Ph.D.)
- A person that continually studies and publishes about aspects in their field
- Opinions and ideas expressed in publications are supported by research or evidence
- Publications by this person are published scholarly articles and are peer-reviewed (checked for accuracy by other members in their field)
So then, what is criticism?
- Who: Articles written by critics or experts in the field
- What: Articles examine a topic very closely. They often attempt to interpret or find meaning in a text, work of art, piece of music, etc.
- How: Critics use examples from primary sources to prove their argument. They often use secondary sources (articles by other critics) to further support their argument or thesis.
- Why: Stories, art, music, etc. rarely has one concrete meaning. There can be several ways to consider a topic. Criticism then, is articles that are proposing new ways to interpret a topic. This interpretation could use historical events, specific ideas in their discipline, biographical information about the creator, new evidence uncovered about a topic (a painting for example), etc. Because there are so many outside events that influence a creation of art, there can be lots of articles on one particular topic.
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Primary Sources: The artifact/object of study (the actual text of the play, hat that someone wore in the 1940s, the painting that sits in the museum). Think of primary sources as objects that sit on those pedestals in museums or behind display cases.
The stories, ideas, people, events (the actual text of the bible) is the primary source.
Secondary Sources: Sources that critique, interpret, or try to understand the primary source (scholarly articles, books, interpretations). Think of secondary sources as those experts that sit in the room and explain the item on the pedestal.
Here is an example of a secondary source. The author is using historical events to find meaning in the books of Genesis and Exodus (click on image to enlarge).