(Or, as I like to call it, the warm and fuzzy place where you can feed your heart and mind.)
Tips for Class Discussions
Remember, each day is worth 5 points.Be attentive. If there is something you don’t understand,ask.Speak up. Be articulate and don’t be afraid if I ask clarifying questions.Be courteous. Listen to other people’s opinions and don’t dominate the discussion. (Leave that to me.)Take notes. Moments of brilliance occur during class time. It’s not cheating; it’s called using every available resource.
Learning How to Critically Read a Text:
The Basic Building Blocks
The Librarian Lied . . .
Read the text once through without making any marks, notations, or comments. Then walk away for 24 hours.Read the text for the second time making the text yours. Then walk away for another 24 hours.Read the text again for the third time on the same day as class discussion.Read it for the forth time for your journals.
. . . You will not go to Hades
Making the text yours:Mark up the textUnderline phrases and key words that are important. (Don’t highlight everything or nothing will stand out.)Flag key sentencesCreate your own short hand system in the margins.Talk back to the textWrite questions and comments in the margins.Look it upCircle the unfamiliar words and write the definitions in the margins.
WhenMiss EmilyGriersondied, our whole town went to her funeral:the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument,thewomen mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years.It was a big,squarishframe house that hadonce been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what hadonce been our most select street.But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps—an eyesore among eyesores. And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of thoseaugust nameswhere they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.
Reading is asense-makingactivity.It is a three-way transaction between the author, the text, and the writer.The writer is a person with knowledge, attitudes, assumptions, values, and a moral code.Sometimes the author deliberately tries to hide these positions and sometimes he doesn’t.
We, too, have our own knowledge, attitudes, assumptions, values, and a moral code.These twopositionalitiesinteract with each other when we read texts.
Lenses, Windows, and Microscopes
Lenses. A metaphor for “putting on” a specific POV to view a text in a different light.This is the first step.We will almost always start with a biographicallense.You are required to do a simple search on the author.Holiday Wish List:Benét’sReader’s Encyclopedia
Windows. A way of looking at something from a particular perspective.This is the second stepThe text is a window looking into a specific time, place, or culture.
Microscopes. Beginning to examine the text closely, paying attention to specific words and phrases.This is the third step.Unlike the other two which approaches the text holistically, here we begin to break down the text into it’s parts.
What to Look for
Watch for what’s happeningAs in movies, some stories are filled with action and excitement. Others, often ones that deal with inner struggles, move more deliberately and with less external action.Watch for who it is happening toPay attention to the characters – their appearances, personalities, values, attitudes, struggles, weaknesses, strengths, and so forth.Watch for “why”What happens that leads to the situations and actions? What causes the action? What motivates the characters?
The Reading Experience:
Breaking Down Plot
The term “story” is an account of a related series of events in sequential order.“Short Stories” are brief fictional narratives in prose that often focus on the essential aspects of a character and on a single event or episode – often a life-changing circumstance.Both provide the materials (the events, the characters, the outcome) from which a plot is constructed.
At it’s most basic, plot simply means somebody doing something.It is the action or actions that he or she sets out to do, which may or may not actually occur, that provides the structure of a story.With plot, we focus onnotwhat happens, butwhyit happens and theimplicationsor results of what happens.As a story is converted to a plot, some things are left out, rearranged, and causal connections between key events are brought forward.
Plot: In Medias Res
Means “into the middle of things”A plot usually starts at a point that directly and significantly relates to the series of events being recorded.Background events and information are filled in later as needed with flashbacks or exposition.
Flashbacks vs. Exposition
FlashbackPrior events are presented as an inserted narrative. Usually written as a character remembering earlier times.ExpositionPrior events are presented as a speech, usually by the narrator.
Plot: The Conflict
Conflictis defined about as you would expect. It is a struggle or confrontation between opposing characters or between characters and opposing forces. The range of possible opposing forces is large, but ordinarily they fall into three broadcatagories:
Physical ConflictThis is the most basic kind of conflict.Usually occurs as a physical struggle or confrontation between a character or group of characters.Can also involve humans struggling against nature.
Social conflictA common motif in modern fiction.Involves personal or societal relationships or values.
Internal or Psychological ConflictHere we see the struggles within a character as s/he wrestles with competing moral claims or a difficult decision.Often appear at crucial moments in a person’s life: death, identity crisis, or self-awareness.Equally important is a lack of inner conflict.Belief Crisisreexamines the foundations of what s/her puts faith or trust in.Value Crisissomething forces a person to decide how to make a moral or ethical decision.
Plot: Structural Techniques
SuspenseHas fallen out of favor with modern lit in lieu of conflict.Holds the reader’s interest with uncertainty or concern about how things will turn out.ForeshadowingUsually found in both the beginning and the middle of the plot.Defined as anticipations of things to come – usually references death.
RepetitionDraws our attention to especially important aspects of the plot.ClimaxSometimes referred to as rising action of complication.Usually found in the middle of the plot.Terminology originated from action-based plots where the most intense moment is the peak of the conflict.
EpiphanyA type of climax identifying the moment when a character experiences a sudden moment of illumination or revelation, especially as result of perceiving a commonplace object in a new way or through a new context.DénouementLiterally means “unknotting” or the untying of the threads that are tangled and knotted, the solution of the mysteries, and the explanation of the secrets and misunderstandings.
The Reading Experience:
What’s a Narrator and What Does he Do?
A Narrator’s Duty
A narrator is a person or the voice who tells us the “facts.” These facts are typically told in one of two ways:By someone involved in the action;By someone wholly outside of the action.There are two POVs:Physical POV – is the actual action taking place;Psychological POV – the narrator’s prejudices cannot be discounted. “lively vs. garish”
The Types of Narrators
1stPerson NarrativeUsually writes in the “I” form.Conventions:Limited to what s/he thinks, feels, saw, & heard.Reasonable assumptions can be made concerning others but must hedge bets.Good News:Brings the reader closer to the action.Bad News:Lacks both flexibility and objectivity.
3rdPerson NarrativeUsually referred to as “omniscient.”Conventions:Can tell the reader anything pertinent to the story, no matter when and where it occurred and who it occurred to.Can enter the minds of all the characters and explain what they saw, thought, & felt.Good News:More flexible.Bad News:Seems colder and more distant.
Limited 3rdPerson NarrativeConvention:Speaks of the action from a POV outside of the events – thus gaining objectivity and distance – but is limited to only one character’s perspective.Good News:The most reliable of all narrators; we tend to trust the info as truth.Bad News:It’s usually the author and he or she haspositionalitythat we must contend with.
A Narrator’s Credibility
Just like when a jury hears a case, readers have to determine whether the narrator is unreliable.Does s/he have something to gain by lying?Is s/he confused or disorientated?Is s/he emotionally unstable?Unreliable narrators create an ironic relationship between the narrator’s POV and our POV
The Reading Experience:
Characters: Flat, Round, Major, and Minor
It is said that the characters are what make a story come alive – not the plot, theme, imagery, or the twists.It is the characters that we remember long after we have read a story that speaks to us. We may forget the author and the title, but we never forget that character who laid claim to our hearts.
ProtagonistThe person whom the plot revolves aroundAntagonistThe person in conflict with the protagonistMajor CharactersThose characters who are central to the plotMinor CharactersThose characters who flavor the plotFlat CharactersEmbodies a single trait or stereotyped group of behaviorsRound CharactersHas psychological depth to them and they can surprise us
Two Types of Round Characters:
Static Character:This character’s perception of the world and him/herself never changed.Developing Character:This character’s perception of the world and him/herself changes somehow – either positively or negatively – by the end of the text.
And Just When you hadit Figured Out . . .
Enter Stream of Consciousness . . .In 1890, William James wrotePrinciples of Psychologyto describe the unbroken flow of perceptions, thoughts, and feeling of the waking mind. In Psychology, this was a breakthrough . . . In literature? This was a nightmarish hell for future students.
It is a technique that, when used describe the unspoken thoughts and feelings of the characters without resorting toobjectivedescription or conventional dialogue.It is usually written in flux of a character’s thought, impressions, emotions, or memories without logical sequence or syntax – and exact presentation of thought.Please refer back to 1stPerson Narrative and why we can’t trust them. They lie. They lie to themselves. They lie to us.If you liked T.J.O.G.W., try Joyce, Woolf, and Proust.
The Jilting of GrannyWeatherall
The Reading Experience:
The setting suggests the actions that take place within it. A story must be carefully placed in an appropriate and effective time and location.We know, in part, how to “read” settings from actual experience.You’re at restaurant. How do you identify 1stdates? Last dates?Setting is frequently used as an indicator of social status and mirror the character’s mood.
Juxtaposed vs. Dichotomy
Sometimes the setting deliberately doesn’t match:Tone;Character;Positionality.We always need to figure out why.
Ruling Power/Order/Hegemony/PatriarchalMain StreetCenter of TownPost OfficeBankFaith/Belief/ Good Reins Over EvilChurchGardensDestiny Isn’t set in StonePathwaysRoads
“A Rose for Emily”
Our perspective: we, like the townspeople, see Miss Emily's house from the outside looking in until the very end.Symbolizes:emblem of money probably earned in large part through the labors of slaves, or emancipated slaves. Is the fact that it was allowed to decay and disintegrate, a judgment on the author’s part?Isolation. Like most of us, Emily wanted a house she could love someone in, and a house where she could be free. But something went terribly wrong. This something turned her house into a virtual prison – she had nowhere else to go but home, and this home, could never be shared with others.
“A Rose for Emily” Cont.
Setting isn’t always an object; it can be a concept. That concept is TIME.The pocket watchWhen members of the Board of Aldermen visit Emily to see about the taxes a decade before her death, they hear her pocket watch ticking, hidden somewhere in the folds of her clothing and her body. This is a signal to us that for Miss Emily time is both a mysterious "invisible" force, and one of which she has always been acutely aware. With each tick of the clock, her chance for happiness dwindles .
HairWhen Emily no longer leaves the house, the town uses the oldmanservent'shair to tell time, watching as it too turns grayThe narrator tells us that Homer's final resting place hadn't been opened in 40 years, which is exactly how long Homer Barron has been missing. But, Emily's hair didn't turn "iron-gray" until several years after Homer's death.
StationeryThe stationery points back to the tensions between the past, the present, and the future, which this story explores.
The Reading Experience:
Style and Tone
The way a writer chooses words and arranges them determines his or her style.This voice conveys a tremendous amount of meaning and inflection should we choose to listen.We can determine the characters’ gender, age, socio-economic position, the prejudices, and sometimes, where they grew up.We do that by studying the author’s diction and syntax.This is commonly referred to as “Deconstruction.”
attempts to dismantle the literary work and show that it does not mean what it appears to mean.The aim is to demonstrate the instability of language in texts, thereby revealing how apparently clear meaning splits into contradictory, incompatible, and ultimatelyundecidablepossibilities.critics operate on the premise that language cannot be controlled by writers.As a result, literary works mean more than their authors are aware of, and their meanings are as unstable as the language of which they are constructed.Critics favors terms like "unmasking," "unraveling," "recovering," "suppression," and “contradiction.”
To help you, rent or watch “Lie to Me.”
Very easy. We read tone all the time. We read it so well, you understand it w/out us having to work at it.We have learned that through interpreting non-verbal language.How we stand, sit, walk, and make facial gestures.We can figure out what’s thepositionalityof the author through his or her tone.
Add the Biographical Perspective to Tone and we get . . .
Gilman relies on the reader's own enduring (and often ugly) human feelings to give you a deeply disturbing snapshot of whatyoumight be like after something as simple as a summer inside – and that snapshot is no pretty picture.Charlotte Perkins Gilman is counting on the fact that you know something about claustrophobia or resentment so that you can sympathize with the narrator of this short story in her slow trajectory towards madness.Gilman wants you tofeelevery crawling inch of craziness. She knows you've got an imagination.It's tough to read this story without wondering if, under similar circumstances, you yourself might start crawling out of the yellow wallpaper.because the story's language is powerful enough to reach out of the page and make you feel like maybeyou'recracking up.
The Wallpaper’s PatternIt’s definitely not a coincidence that the woman in the wallpaper is trapped behind a pattern. We can conceive of societal norms and mores as types of patterns that metaphorically restrict our movements. The woman whom the narrator imagines she sees trapped behind a pattern is simply a more direct embodiment of that metaphorical restriction.The PaperScholars have made much of the fact that the narrator starts referring to the wallpaper as "the paper." Given that the narrator has a repressed literary bent, it is no great stretch of the imagination to posit that the (wall)paper becomes her text. Her intellect restrained from reading and writing, the narrator’s mind instead turns to her surroundings and settles upon the wallpaper as an intellectual challenge.MoonlightIn "The Yellow Wallpaper," moonlight represents as time for the feminine. During the day, the narrator writes that the woman trapped in the wallpaper is motionless and immobile. As moonlight strikes the wall, however, the woman begins to move or, perhaps more accurately, to creep. This pattern mirrors the narrator’s own daily movements. During the day, she sleeps; at night she lies awake, alert, and invested in the intellectual activity that she must suppress during the day while her husband is watching.
Combine Setting and Toneand we getAraby
Nietzsche’s “God is Dead”The empty two story house“The Fall”The garden in backAsh Wednesday and dust40 pieces 0f silverBazaar and Eastern enchantmentFreemasons
Light vs. DarkDays of WinterViolet skyFeeble lanternsBodies glowedDark muddy lanesDark dripping gardens and nasty smellsHiding in shadowsMangan’ssisterdefined in light vs. brown figureFlaring streetsDark rainy evening