LIT/375. A Dream Within A Dream - Rough Draft of Critical Essay for Perspectives on Literature (Essay Sample)
Wk 3 Team - Rough Draft of Critical Essay for Perspectives on Literature
This assignment gives you an opportunity to critically analyze a literary work.
Write a 525- to 700-word critical essay draft analyzing “A Dream Within a Dream” by Edgar Allan Poe by using Psychoanalytic Theory.
Each essay should:
• Interpret the theme(s) of the work through the selected literary theory.
• Use examples (quotes & specific details) from the selected work to demonstrate what you have determined to be the theme of the work.
• Use at least two academic or peer-reviewed secondary sources to help you define your chosen theory and demonstrate how the theory brings the reader closer to the meaning of the work. (i.e. course textbook, course materials, UOP Library e-books or database articles).
Format your paper according to MLA guidelines.
Poem, Course Textbook, and secondary sources on next page.
A Dream Within a DreamBY EDGAR ALLAN POETake this kiss upon the brow!And, in parting from you now,Thus much let me avow —You are not wrong, who deemThat my days have been a dream;Yet if hope has flown awayIn a night, or in a day,In a vision, or in none,Is it therefore the less gone? All that we see or seemIs but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roarOf a surf-tormented shore,And I hold within my handGrains of the golden sand —How few! yet how they creepThrough my fingers to the deep,While I weep — while I weep!O God! Can I not graspThem with a tighter clasp?O God! can I not saveOne from the pitiless wave?Is all that we see or seemBut a dream within a dream?
LIT/375: Literary Theory and CriticismStructuralism to Deconstruction (If You Write it, They Will Tear it Apart)• Barry, P. (2002). Chapter 3: Post-structuralism and deconstruction. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary & Cultural Theory, 61-80.• Naas, M. (2006). Derrida at the wheel. Mosaic, 39(3), 59-68.Publications• Encyclopedia of Postmodernism• Feminisms REDUX: An Anthology of Literary Theory and CriticismText and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory, 7th Edition, Steven LynnCapter 1-3 below:
BOOK: Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory7th Edition. Steven Lynn
Chapters 1-3 Below:Textual ToursWhy should we read literature? Why should we talk and write about it? With so many problems in the world—from drug-resistant microbes to global climate change, from outrageous acts of terrorism to violently repressive regimes—do we really have the luxury to ponder literary art? You’d be surprised, wouldn’t you, if I said, “No, I suppose not,” and the rest of this book contained my thoughts on bluegrass music and extraterrestrials. We do, in fact, know that literary study, in uniquely powerful ways, helps to prepare us for rewarding and meaningful lives. We know this from thousands of years of educational and cultural history; from research in linguistics, cognitive psychology, brain imaging, and neuroscience; and from personal testimonies and common sense.1 No other reading experience or learning activity duplicates this foundation.It is, to be sure, entirely possible to be dull, mean, boring, even evil, and read great gobs of literature. You may know someone who goes to the gym regularly and still is in lousy shape, or someone who’s had months of violin lessons and can’t play a decent scale (um, this might be me), or someone who has traveled to exotic lands and failed to notice much of anything different from home. There are no guarantees. It is theoretically possible that not all English professors, including the ones who read a lot of literature, are entirely charming and happy. Sometimes people are remarkably impervious to their experiences. But you certainly increase your chances of getting into shape, playing an instrument skillfully, or experiencing another culture if you go to the gym, take lessons, or travel. And you increase your chances of being the most insightful, persuasive, engaged, and productive person possible if, among other things, you have meaningfully rich experiences with literature throughout your life.A large claim, yes: But reading and writing about literature does something especially valuable for your mind.1. Imagination: “Literature” in the sense of fiction, poetry, and drama cultivates the imagination by asking us to envision what isn’t, to create another reality, to think otherwise. That’s one reason despots and dictators hate literature and free expression, banning or strictly controlling verbal freedoms. From the ancient Greeks to the present day, cultures steeped in literary study have flourished because of their creativity and innovation.2. Communication: Although “literature” can refer to any body of writing, as in “the literature on measles and vaccines” or “the literature on Egyptian embalming,” the term usually indicates some kind of value judgment, implicitly claiming “this is an example of our best writing, the most interesting, most deserving of careful attention.” By studying those uses of language that our culture values most, which we tend to call “literature,” our own ability to use language effectively is likely to be enhanced.3. Analysis: Literary works—whether fiction, poetry, drama, creative nonfiction—invite readers to make connections, to weigh evidence, to question, to notice details, to see this and infer that: to make sense. Students may sometimes wonder, “If that’s what the author meant, why didn’t he or she just say that?” The answer in part is that literature is suggestive, opening up a role for the reader. The analytical abilities called for in our reading, which are fundamental life skills, almost certainly improve with practice. Reading literature offers that practice in a way that is often stimulating, entertaining, and moving.4. Empathy: Literature leads us to inhabit different perspectives, which may be similar to our own, or vastly different, or something in between. Reading literature, we can explore how other people see the world. We may come to accept or even agree with others, or we may disagree vigorously with them, but in any event literature offers a pathway to empathy and dialogue.5. Story-making: We think in terms of stories: A longtime bachelor inherits a schnoodle puppy, and several months later he is proposing marriage to his new girlfriend. We naturally try to see some link between these events, and we also naturally try to anticipate what is going to happen next. People who’ve experienced more stories tend to be better able to construct narratives and think about possible actions and consequences.6. Agility: Literary works often ask us to think in complex ways, to hold contradictory or apparently conflicting ideas in our minds. Our tendency is to classify people and events, but perhaps a particular character is both a villain and a hero; perhaps a thoughtless gesture is also a brilliant insight. We need to be able to resist closure, to un-decide things sometimes and look again. As brain imaging has shown, this kind of complex processing helps us to be more mentally flexible and nimble—more open to new ideas. It’s uncomfortable sometimes, but also invigorating. When we can’t change our minds, when we know everything important (in our own estimation at least), then in some sense we’re intellectually dead.7. Knowledge: Literature can vividly give us access to places, times, and cultures that we could not experience otherwise—the antebellum South, the nineteenth-century whaling industry, tenant farmers during the Great Depression. Works of fiction can convey facts and truths in powerful ways, and works of nonfiction (histories, biographies, travel narratives, autobiographies, and more) may be so well-written that we consider them to be “literature,” worthy of our careful attention.8. Wisdom: Literature often encourages us to examine and question our values, to think about the purpose of life, about the significance and meaning of what we are trying to do. We may value literary works for the way that they are written, or for the ideas that they convey—and sometimes for both.9. Inspiration: Writers that we value use words in ways that move us. Readers throughout the ages have found reasons to live, and ways to live, in literature.10. Fun: If you don’t find literature to be a whole lot of fun, you are almost certainly reading the wrong things (too difficult, too removed from your interests; unskilled, uninsightful) and/or you are almost certainly not reading enough. Sometimes just the requirement to read something is enough to make it unappealing. But great literature wasn’t originally assigned reading. The ordinary people in Elizabethan England weren’t required to attend Shakespeare’s plays. This may be mind-boggling to students who aren’t quite ready to appreciate Shakespeare, but many of his contemporaries apparently loved his work. They paid good money to stand outside (usually) and experience his plays. When you do discover the fun of literature, if you haven’t already, you’ll want to read and experience more and more, vaulting forward in verbal skills and reasoning abilities, and becoming a better reader of other kinds of texts (scientific articles, memos, legal briefs, political speeches, love letters, etc.).As Lynn Jordan Stidom put it on an exam when she was a student (quoted in my epigraph), we study literature and literary criticism “to forever alter our perspectives, to escape our own vanities, and to extend the horizons of our limitations.” These reasons to read and write about literature sound a lot like the reasons we should travel, and I’d like to elaborate for a moment on the idea that literary works are, in a way, like places we can visit. Some are foreign, mysterious, puzzling; others make us feel right at home. Some call us back again and again; others we feel obliged to experience, knowing they’ll do us good even though we may never fully enjoy them. We can just go places, seeking distraction and enjoyment, but travel is most likely to enrich our lives when we express our thoughts about what we’ve experienced. And we ought to write about literature and other cultural experiences for some of the same reasons that we like to write and think about where we’ve been. Indeed, we send postcards and letters back home, we make pictures and even movies (for sometimes captive audiences), in part because we want to share our experiences with others, but also because we want to capture and reconsider and ponder and make sense of our travels for ourselves. Life is the journey, it’s often said, but reflecting on where you’ve been can be the most meaningful part of that journey.Although wandering around is always an option, travelers who know what they’re looking for and have a plan for getting there are often more likely to have satisfying, interesting excursions. Literary criticism aims to bring such order and organization to our experience of literary works, focusing our attention, putting various parts together, helping us comprehend what we see. When you write about literature, you serve as a kind of tour guide, leading your reader (and yourself) through the work. Readers and travelers usually can see what’s in front of them, but they don’t necessarily know what to make of it without some persuasive commentary or explanation. Plus, different readers have different interests and backgrounds, and they necessarily bring different insights and desires to a work. Some travelers, with lots of miles, keen eyes, and fertile imaginations, may tend to provide especially wonderful guides and reports, but even inexperienced travelers may come upon marvels, and notice things that no one else has seen in quite the same way. Even if you are an unseasoned traveler in the literary world, you just can’t substitute someone else’s experience for your own: Don’t believe that anyone’s “Notes,” whether by Clifford or Sparkie or your best friend, will expand your horizons or deepen your awareness in the same way as a firsthand encounter. Even the people who sell these literary guides do not expect them to be substitutes for the real thing. And absolutely don’t believe that you have nothing of importance to say. To be sure, we all can benefit from the advice and guidance of genuine experts, of scholars who publish in academic journals and with university presses. Your teachers and reference librarians can help you locate this kind of reliable and helpful commentary. But you have to see the (literary) world for yourself first and foremost. It would seem silly to pay someone else to go to an exotic place and then come back and tell you about it.Critical theories are like the different travel agencies through which the various tour guides generally work. Different agencies feature different kinds of tours, just as different theories generate different kinds of readings: One specializes in cultural immersion, another in artistic appreciation, another in historical recollection, another in personal indulgence. The agencies provide the frameworks, the general guidelines for the performances of the tour guides. “The Museums of London,” “Shakespeare’s London,” “Supernatural London,” and “The Pubs of London” are all tours of the same city, but they start from very different assumptions about what the travelers are there for. A theory is a set of assumptions, a context for assigning value, making meaning, and guiding behavior. If you are familiar with a variety of theories, then you’re able to draw upon a wider range of assumptions and strategies as a reader; you’re better able to see how other readers are motivated. If an assignment asks you to focus on the formal features of a literary work, you’re less likely, given some familiarity with various critical theories, to concentrate on how the work affects you personally, or on how it reflects its author’s psychological state, or its racial and ethnic implications.Just as no one who is living in any significant sense can avoid having a personality, it is impossible to read (meaningfully) without some theoretical orientation. Even the belief that one should just experience a text without saying anything about it, without any self-consciousness, without considering one’s own purposes or suppositions, without exploring other ways of reading—even this effort to evade a theoretical stance is itself theoretical. It stands to reason, then, that some understanding of the kinds of tours available, and how they might be combined or adapted, will be valuable and reassuring. The goal of this book is to give you a working understanding of a variety of critical theories and practices. You won’t find every theory covered here, and I freely affirm that many complexities and controversies and ambiguities have been passed over in the pursuit of clarity and usefulness. This is, after all, an introduction, a starting point, for people who have some familiarity with required literary study but who aren’t familiar with different strategies for talking and writing about literature. If you’ve ever read a literary work or a writing assignment in a literature class and wondered “now what?”—then this is the book for you.Checking Some BaggageBefore we launch, let’s consider some basic questions often asked by embarking students, and then map out the purpose and plan of this book.“Is There One Correct Interpretation of a Literary Work?”Perhaps there are English teachers somewhere who truly believe that they have the correct interpretation of a literary work—the only reading of, say, Hamlet that their students will ever need, and their job is simply to pass it along to students. But most teachers (and certainly your own if this book has been assigned) cherish variety and difference in literary criticism, encouraging students to think for themselves when they write about literature. Just as there is no one best place to view the Blue Ridge Mountains, so there is no one best reading of Hamlet or any work (although it might be fun to argue about such things). Shift your vantage point a little, change your interests, or just let some time pass, and you’ll see something new.“So, Are All Opinions About Literature Equally Valid?”Still, surely some opinions seem more convincing or satisfying than others. Endorsing variety doesn’t necessarily mean that all opinions are equal, that any piece of literary criticism is just as good as any other. Just because we appreciate various views of the mountains, we need not also agree that all vantage points are equally satisfying to all people at all times. A geologist, a botanist, an artist, and a civil engineer might see the mountains in very different ways. If you construct a reading of Hamlet this week and a different interpretation next week, it’s unlikely that you or your readers will value both of them equally or even that everyone will agree on which one is superior. Some readings are arguably better than others, but to make such a determination, we need first to ask: Better for what? Better for whom? This book aims to address such questions, attempting not only to explain clearly and explicitly how to use various critical approaches but also to assess what purposes different approaches are likely to serve (better for what), as well as what sort of audience is likely to be influenced and even created by different critical strategies (better for whom).Consider, for instance, the photograph below: What does it mean?• Are these men standing so close together because they’re close friends? Are they from some other culture, in which men stand this close? Are they, in fact, standing unusually close, or am I revealing something about myself in asking this question? © AP Images• Are they father and son, perhaps—genetically disposed to superior beards? Is that the wife/mother in between and behind them? What is the expression on her face?• Are they trying to kiss, and laughing because their caps are getting in the way? The younger man’s attire does have sort of a Village People look. Is it possible these men are gay?• Does this scene seem somehow staged or unreal? Are they actors or politicians? Don’t they seem a little too jovial?• Is it possible these men never actually met? Perhaps the picture has an air of unreality about it because it is a computer-generated fake? Perhaps these are wax models?Some of these suggestions no doubt seem less plausible than others, but it would be difficult to exclude totally even the wackiest of readings on the basis of the picture alone, wouldn’t it?So let’s see what happens when we bring different contexts to this image. The photograph, as you may know, famously captures Ernest Hemingway, the great American writer (on the left), talking in May 1960 with Fidel Castro, Cuba’s legendary leader. One of many possible frames for “reading” this photograph would be President Obama’s call in December 2014 for the United States to normalize relations with Cuba. Fifty years of isolation, Obama noted, have not worked, and “It’s time for a new approach,” he said. Once upon a time, the photograph might suggest, Hemingway and Castro seem to have been getting along very well. Why shouldn’t their countries be friendly again?This interpretive move involves seeing Hemingway and Castro in symbolic terms, as standing for in some sense the United States and Cuba. Both men certainly are mythic figures, larger than life. As a brilliant writer, able to express his dreams and desires, Hemingway, we might say, embodies the openness, creativity, and accomplishment of the United States. His casual shirt and comfortable cap contrast sharply with Castro’s militaristic hat and stiffly starched uniform, just as the freedom and democracy of America contrast with the oppressive state control of communist Cuba. Even the backdrop of the photo supports this reading, with a window and vegetation behind Hemingway (American prosperity and openness), and a starkly blank wall behind Castro (poverty and repression).But a supporter of Castro’s Cuba might say that my own context as an American is skewing my interpretation and offer an alternative: The aging Hemingway, in his floppy cap and rumpled shirt, partially unbuttoned, is not a symbol of creativity and freedom; instead, a fan of Castro might say, Hemingway represents America’s moral and social bankruptcy, its weak self-indulgence. A few months after this photograph was taken, Hemingway left Cuba, never to return, and slightly more than a year afterward, in mental and physical distress, he used his favorite shotgun to commit suicide in Idaho. Despite the appearance of health in the photograph, a Cuban nationalist might remind us that Hemingway was married to his fourth wife at that time, drinking heavily, and behaving erratically. America, like Hemingway, one might argue from this communist Cuban context, is headed toward its own inevitable decline and self-annihilation, while Castro’s Cuba, based on his disciplined vigor, will continue to live on and on.Many other contexts are possible. For a third, consider that in September 1994 this image appeared in Michael Elliott’s Newsweek article on President Clinton’s Cuban policies, where it was captioned “Tangled up in Myths: Hemingway with the Cuban leader in 1960” (p.26). Elliott’s point in his article was that U.S. attitudes toward Cuba are clouded by fantasies and misperceptions. When we think of Cuba, we tend to think of “romance, casinos, and marlin,” of Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett, and relaxing in the island sun. We think, Elliott says, of Cuba as an extension of the United States—our playground, our tropical resort. Hemingway lived off and on in Cuba from 1939 until 1960, writing, fishing, breeding cats (his famous polydactyl cats were in Key West, but he also had Cuban cats), enjoying visits from his three sons, drinking, and partying. According to Jacobo Timerman, who toured Cuba years later, in 1987, “no worship is promoted more in Cuba than that of Ernest Hemingway,” with the exception, of course, of their revolutionary founders, Castro and Che Guevara (68). The tourist, Timerman writes, “gets the impression that Hemingway supported Fidel Castro, that the writer is part of the Revolution” (68). Indeed, in 1982 Cuba issued a peso coin with Hemingway’s face, another coin featuring his yacht, and a third coin depicting his small fishing boat (in honor of The Old Man and the Sea, published in 1952). And in 2010 Cuba issued a “50 Aniversario” one peso coin depicting Castro and Hemingway in a pose very nearly the same as this photograph, which is one of a series of photos taken that day.2A more in-depth historical context suggests yet another way of reading the photograph. Researchers believe that Hemingway and Castro in fact likely met only once, as Timerman notes (68), when this photograph was taken at a fishing tournament in Hemingway’s honor, which Castro surprisingly enough won. In this context, the photograph works beautifully with Elliott’s article, illustrating our misunderstanding of Cuba, which is intertwined with myths about Hemingway. Although it is possible that Castro did actually win the fishing tournament (without a scuba diver putting a fish on his hook, or someone leaning on the scales), even though he was a “novice” at fishing by his own admission (“a lucky novice” Hemingway said),3 just about everything else we might assume from the photograph certainly seems to be an illusion. In May of 1960 Castro had not admitted publicly that he was a socialist, but he was without doubt an enemy of the United States; he and Hemingway were not close friends; Hemingway was not part of the revolution or a supporter. And in this context, we might make some sense of a minor detail in the photograph—the face just visible between Castro and Hemingway’s shoulders. The significance of this woman, who might appear to be an admiring onlooker, becomes in this reading of the photograph’s illusions easy to flip: We can see her as representing the common people of Cuba, who are being squeezed out of the picture in Castro’s one-man rule, which will purportedly be all about the working class, but in truth obscured, diminished, and ultimately eliminated their power and visibility.The point I’m emphasizing here is that our understanding of a “text” is shaped by the context in which we see it. This point is not limited to literature or even to written texts, as we are naturally inclined to make meaning out of anything from cloud formations to slight facial movements. If this insight isn’t surprising to you, its implications are nonetheless profound—and often overlooked. Although a picture sometimes might, as we say, be worth a thousand words, even a picture can be read in many different ways, including opposing ways. When we think about how to take, or to create, the meaning of anything—a poem, a story, a photograph, a life—we cannot avoid this interplay of texts and contexts. The territory in which we think explicitly about how meaning is made is called “critical theory” or simply “theory.”The modifier “critical” in this context doesn’t mean theory that is “inclined to find fault or judge severely”—just as “literary criticism” is not devoted to making harsh or negative judgments. “Critical” also means “involving skillful judgment” and “of essential importance” (Webster’s definitions). Critical theory is thus concerned with those ideas that are essential to the process of making skillful judgments about literature.
Anything to Declare?Theory Enables PracticeThe focus in this text on the assumptions, strategies, and purposes shaping literary criticism—on critical theories in other words—is not a step away from literature or writing about literature; rather, such assumptions, strategies, and purposes make a deeply rewarding engagement with literature possible. Even the simplest acts of literary response, such as “This is boring,” depend on a certain theoretical stance, which in this case would include the assumptions that the purpose of literature includes entertaining the reader, and the critic’s job includes identifying works that fail this test.You Already Have a Theoretical StanceEven if you’re unaware of them, some kind of principles guide you in determining what you expect a literary work to do, how you evaluate its performance, what you decide to say about it. (Even the absence of principles constitutes a theoretical position, as does the presence of contradictory principles.) The “elements” of literature, such as plot, character, point of view, are relatively easy to understand, and most students have been through these terms and concepts many times, perhaps without noticing much help from them in interpreting literature. What is harder, and where more guidance is needed, is knowing what to say about such elements—how to approach them and how to use them. In the explanations and illustrations of the various critical approaches presented here, you’ll get to see the “elements” in action. You’ll see, for instance, how New Criticism, psychological criticism, and deconstruction provide very different views of “character,” or “plot,” or “theme,” giving you a wider range of purposes and strategies in writing about literature.To begin enhancing your awareness of literary criticism, take an inventory of what you already assume, asking yourself the following questions:• What do I suppose is the function of literature? What do I look for in a literary work?• What do I think is the function of writing about literature? What should literary criticism do?• How do I believe the task of criticism is carried out? What strategies, routines, procedures, and activities do literary critics engage in?As you try out the various approaches discussed here, you’ll be able to compare your own starting assumptions with some of the various options available. At the least, you’ll have a better understanding of the critical possibilities, allowing you to understand published criticism more readily; more likely, you’ll find yourself incorporating new strategies or stances into your writing about literature, enriching and deepening your insights.This is an IntroductionSuch theoretical work is challenging at times, but it isn’t beyond your abilities if you’ve read this far. There are, to be sure, many controversies, variations, complexities, exceptions, and qualifications that are not treated here. Critical theory can be astonishingly difficult (and often just astonishing). After working through this book, you may find the work of Jacques Derrida or Annette Kolodny more accessible, but they certainly won’t be easy to understand—just as an introduction to physics wouldn’t make the scientific papers of Steven Hawking or John Wheeler a breeze to comprehend. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t be told about black holes or deconstruction simply because the theories, in all their specifics and intricacies, are difficult. Few people, if pressed, could read Isaac Newton’s foundational works with complete understanding, but just about anyone can understand in a useful way how momentum and gravity work.This text offers a basic, working understanding of critical theory and practice, freely acknowledging that a more advanced understanding is possible. Is this book’s treatment simplified and formulaic? Yes, absolutely. I have tried hard to clarify without distorting, but some matters have no doubt been represented to be simpler than they are. This book aims to be a guided tour suitable for just about anyone. My hope is that it will whet your appetite for more detailed and adventurous critical travel.
Here’s the PlanUnfortunately, there’s no way a reasonably sized textbook (one without wheels and a handle) can cover adequately all the different kinds of criticism that can be identified today—even if I understood them all. Nor, as I say, can any one particular theory in all its mutations, combinations, and complexities be presented here. What I can do is provide a practical introduction to a sampling of some of the most influential theories. My goal is simply to put you in a position to develop and refine your understanding, to move into other critical arenas, to evolve your own readings and even theories.The plan is simple. The second chapter briefly visits all the approaches discussed here by applying them to a single passage. Then, each of the next six chapters inhabits a theory or a cluster of related theories in some detail, again applying the theory or theories to various passages. Essays are evolved step by step from each of the various critical stances, not to provide you with a formula that will work for every text, but rather to give you a sense of how theories are applied. At the end of each chapter you’ll find a very select list of suggested further readings. Where it seemed useful, I’ve annotated these items to give you a better sense of what’s out there and where you might want to go from here. Bon voyage!Notes1. 1. For a sampling of the research on reading’s effects, see, for instance, Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading, Gregory Berns and others’ “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain,” and Annie Murphy Paul’s “Your Brain on Fiction.”2. 2. For more on these coins, see Dolan and Cuhaj. Images are available at www.coincraft.com, www.ngccoin.com, and other sites for collectors and investors.3. 3. The encounter between Hemingway and Castro is imagined in a 1960 poem by John Updike, “Meditation on a News Item.” The meeting, Timerman’s article, and a portion of Updike’s poem are discussed in Jon Michaud’s “Hemingway, Castro, and Cuba,” New Yorker, May 24, 2012. Michaud cites Life magazine, without a specific reference, as the source for Hemingway’s “lucky novice” comment, but I could not locate this quotation in Life. It does appear in the 30 May 1960 issue of Sports Illustrated. Ron McFarland notes that he was unable to find in Life magazine the photograph of Castro and Hemingway that Updike describes, but he points to a similar photograph in Fuentes (facing page 97).
Works Cited and Recommended Further Reading1. Adler, Mortimer, and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book. New York: Simon, 1972. Print. Originally published in 1940, this book still offers valuable advice on “How to Be a Demanding Reader,” “How to Use a Dictionary,” and much else. Chapter 15 deals with “Suggestions for Reading Stories, Plays, and Poems.”2. Berns, Gregory, et al. “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain.” Brain Connectivity 3.6 (2013): 590–600. Print.3. Bloom, Harold. How to Read and Why. New York: Simon, 2000. Print. Offers dozens of dazzling examples of careful and imaginative reading, proceeding from the assumption that by reading great literature we “strengthen the self.”4. Bressler, Charles. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practices. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 2003. Print. A thorough overview including a valuable historical survey.5. Cuhaj, George S., ed. 2014 Standard Catalogue of World Coins, 2001–. Blue Ash, OH: F + W Media, Inc., 2013. 316. Print.6. Culler, Jonathan. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. Print. Sophisticated yet extremely lucid.7. Denby, David. Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World. New York: Simon, 1996. Print. An inspiring book for anyone embarking on serious literary studies. Denby, a movie critic, tells the story of his decision at age 48 to return to Columbia University and read great literature.8. Dolan, Yossi. Watercraft on World Coins: America and Asian, 1800-2008. Sussex: Sussex Academic, 2010. 117, 142–43.9. Eagleton, Terry. How to Read a Poem. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007. Print. “Like thatching or clog dancing,” Eagleton says, “literary criticism seems to be something of a dying art.” This book delightfully illustrates how to revive it.10. Elliott, Michael. “How Do We Get to the Endgame?” Newsweek 5 Sept 1994: 26–27. Print.11. Fuentes, Norberto. Hemingway in Cuba. Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stewart, 1984.12. Harmon, William, and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. 11th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 2008. Print. If you want to know what the “Spasmodic School” was, or what a Spoonerism is, or the meaning of just about any other word related to literature, here’s a handy place to look. There are many good handbooks, but this one is especially lucid and thorough.13. Hirsch, Edward. How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry. New York: Harcourt, 2000. Print. As the title suggests, this is a book about the joy, the pleasure, the “ecstatic response” even that constitute perceptive and committed reading.14. Lentricchia, Frank, and Thomas McLaughlin. Critical Terms for Literary Study. 2nd ed. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995. Print. Somewhat challenging but richly rewarding essays by leading scholars on various topics: “Representation,” “Structure,” “Writing,” “Narrative,” and so forth.15. Manguel, Alberto. A History of Reading. New York: Penguin, 1997. Print.16. McFarland, Ron. “Hemingway and the Poets.” Hemingway Review 20.2 (2001): 37–58. Print.17. Michaud, Jon. “Hemingway, Castro, and Cuba.” New Yorker 24 May 2012. Web. 30 Aug. 2015.18. Paul, Annie Murphy. “Your Brain on Fiction.” New York Times 18 Mar. 2012: Page SR6.19. “Lucky Novice.” Sports Illustrated The Vault 30 May 1960. Web. 30 Aug. 2015.20. Timerman, Jacobo. Trans. by Toby Talbot. “A Summer in the Revolution: 1987.” New Yorker 13 Aug. 1990: 62–81. Print.21. Trimble, John. Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 2000. Print. The best little book on writing I know. Many times I’ve assigned the first chapter to first-year English students, and they show up for the next class having read the whole book. If you’re at all weak as a writer, or if you just want to get stronger, get this book. It’s lively, fun, useful, and the examples are mostly drawn from writing about literature.22. Wolf, Maryanne. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. London: Icon, 2008.
Chapter 2 Critical WorldsA Selective Tour “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many things.”“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”—Lewis CarrollWhat you’ll learn in this chapter:• To distinguish the basic principles of various theories.• To apply the basic principles of New Criticism; reader-response criticism; structuralist and deconstructive Criticism; historical, postcolonial, and cultural studies; psychological criticism; political criticism; and other related theories.• To generate ideas about texts, inventing ideas and arguments.
It is wonderful for us to argue about what words mean. When we stop arguing, and we’re sure that our interpretation is the only possible correct one, the lights of civilization begin to go out.This chapter begins to show you how arguments are made and received. Specifically, we’re concerned here with arguments about literary texts, but the process is in crucial ways the same in any realm. When you finish reading this chapter, you should have a pretty good idea of the basic assumptions and strategies of the various approaches treated in more detail in the rest of this book. The emphasis throughout will be on what is practical—on how you can use critical theories.It’s entirely possible that you are encountering some or all of these critical strategies for the first time. Your prior experience with literature also may be limited. Don’t be dismayed if some of the terms and ideas presented in this chapter are unfamiliar and a bit challenging. In subsequent chapters, each approach and its use in the process of writing about literature will be explained in more detail. You may well want to use this chapter as a review also, returning to it after you’ve read the other chapters. As you may have noticed, there are brief summaries of these theories inside the front cover for handy reference. Also, an appendix includes a very brief consideration of how different theories relate to one another.But why, we might ask at this point, are there so many different strategies? Why not just show you the best way to write about literature? Because, as we saw in the previous chapter, there isn’t any way that everyone would agree is the best way for writing about any given work for any given purpose. As we noted, there is no single “correct” reading of a particular text. Some interpretations are no doubt more sophisticated, insightful, stimulating, or useful than others. Some interpretations no doubt will seem to many people implausible, unbelievable, strained, driven by prejudice, obtuse. But for different readers at different times and places, what is best will be a matter of opinion. This claim about readers and interpretations applies, of course, to just about everything, from music to enchiladas—we have different opinions at different times. That is not a bad thing, and lively discussion of our differing interpretations is invigorating and enlightening.To allow you to compare and contrast different theories, I illustrate how each one might be applied to the same passage, an excerpt from Brendan Gill’s Here at “The New Yorker.” It’s a wonderful passage, and since it will be used for all the theories presented here, you’ll want to read it carefully:When I started at The New Yorker, I felt an unshakable confidence in my talent and intelligence. I revelled in them openly, like a dolphin diving skyward out of the sea. After almost forty years, my assurance is less than it was; the revellings, such as they are, take place in becoming seclusion. This steady progress downward in the amount of one’s confidence is a commonplace at the magazine—one might almost call it a tradition. Again and again, some writer who has made a name for himself in the world will begin to write for us and will discover as if for the first time how difficult writing is. The machinery of benign skepticism that surrounds and besets him in the form of editors, copy editors, and checkers, to say nothing of fellow-writers, digs a yawning pit an inch or so beyond his desk. He hears it repeated as gospel that there are not three people in all America who can set down a simple declarative sentence correctly; what are the odds against his being one of this tiny elect?In some cases, the pressure of all those doubting eyes upon his copy is more than the writer can bear. When the galleys of a piece are placed in front of him, covered with scores, perhaps hundreds, of pencilled hen-tracks of inquiry, suggestion, and correction, he may sense not the glory of creation but the threat of being stung to death by an army of gnats. Upon which he may think of nothing better to do than lower his head onto his blotter and burst into tears. Thanks to the hen-tracks and their consequences, the piece will be much improved, but the author of it will be pitched into a state of graver self-doubt than ever. Poor devil, he will type out his name on a sheet of paper and stare at it long and long, with dumb uncertainty. It looks—oh, Christ!—his name looks as if it could stand some working on.As I was writing the above, Gardner Botsford, the editor who, among other duties, handles the copy for “Theatre,” came into my office with the galleys of my latest play review in his hand. Wearing an expression of solemnity, he said, “I am obliged to inform you that Miss Gould has found a buried dangling modifier in one of your sentences.” Miss Gould is our head copy editor and unquestionably knows as much about English grammar as anyone alive. Gerunds, predicate nominatives, and passive periphrastic conjugations are mother’s milk to her, as they are not to me. Nevertheless, I boldly challenged her allegation. My prose was surely correct in every way. Botsford placed the galleys before me and indicated the offending sentence, which ran, “I am told that in her ninth decade this beautiful woman’s only complaint in respect to her role is that she doesn’t have enough work to do.”I glared blankly at the galleys. Humiliating enough to have buried a dangling modifier unawares; still more humiliating not to be able to disinter it. Botsford came to my rescue. “Miss Gould points out that as the sentence is written, the meaning is that the complaint is in its ninth decade and has, moreover, suddenly and unaccountably assumed the female gender.” I said that in my opinion the sentence could only be made worse by being corrected—it was plain that “The only complaint of this beautiful woman in her ninth decade. . .” would hang on the page as heavy as a sash-weight. “Quite so,” said Botsford. “There are times when to be right is wrong, and this is one of them. The sentence stands.” (7–8)What can you say about this passage? I’d encourage you to take a few moments and write down a reaction to it or an analysis of it. I think you’ll find it interesting to see how an understanding of different critical strategies can give you more options, more material to work with. We begin with New Criticism, the critical approach that transformed the study of literature in the modern age. It’s no longer “new,” but it’s still a pervasively influential way of reading.New CriticismNew Criticism focuses attention on the work itself, not the reader or the author or anything else. New Critics are not allergic to talking about the responses of readers or the intentions of authors, but they believe that the work itself ultimately must stand on its own as an artistic object. This commitment to the work itself is what made the New Critics’ strategies distinctive and “new.” And what are the New Critics looking for as they read so carefully and closely the work itself?New Critics especially value artistic works that have both complexity and unity.In terms of “complexity,” they value richness, tension, paradox, striking language, and insights. Significant art, New Critics believe, brings order and harmony to the multifarious flow of experience. In an artistic work that has unity, every element works together toward a purpose, a theme. Every element is essential. New Critics popularized what they called “close reading,” the careful analysis of a literary work to reveal its complex unity. Great literature, New Critics assume, contains oppositions, ambiguities, ironies, tensions, and these are unified by the work—if it is successful by the standards of New Criticism. New Critics, in other words, are looking for qualities that would seem to be in opposition: complexity and unity.So how does one do New Criticism? Begin by reading closely. Everything should contribute to the work’s unity—figures of speech, point of view, diction, imagery, recurrent ideas or events, and so forth. Therefore, careful analysis of any aspect of the work should be revealing. Look for oppositions, tensions, ambiguities. A mediocre work might be unified but have little complexity, or it might be complex but never really come together. The New Critic, ultimately, shows how the various elements of a great work unify it.My New Critical reading of Gill’s passage was developed by reading carefully, marking up the text, asking myself questions, drafting answers to the questions, brainstorming and freewriting, and then putting my ideas together. Although this reading didn’t just pop out of my head, it wasn’t a frustrating struggle because I knew what I was trying to do, and I was confident that my assumptions and strategies would eventually produce something interesting. Specifically, I knew that a New Critical reading would identify some tension (or irony, or opposition) in the text, and I immediately saw that some tensions in the story are pretty clear:• editor vs. writer• the world vs. The New Yorker• grammar vs. style• confidence vs. doubt• right vs. wrongI also knew that such tensions or oppositions must somehow be resolved if the text succeeds (by New Critical standards). Therefore, how the text ends is especially important from a New Critical perspective.New Critics might have some trouble with the idea of an “ending” in this case, because the “work” I’ve chosen is not really a work, but rather an excerpt from a work. But for the purposes of demonstration, let’s imagine this passage stands alone, entitled “Writing a Wrong.” This title, as is often the case, points toward the unifying idea that I am finding in the work, a paradox (being right is wrong) that my punning title points toward. Endings are crucial, especially for New Critics, and this reading does focus on the reconciliation at the end, when Botsford pronounces “right is wrong.” As a New Critic, I had to consider, “How does this idea—‘right is wrong’—unify or resolve the work in a complex or ambiguous way?” In other words, what conflicting ideas are at work in the passage that are brought into balance and harmony by this theme? So, New Criticism invites you to do three things: focus on the text’s details and read closely; look for oppositions, ironies, and tensions; and show how the work’s complexity is artistically unified (how these oppositions come together).This may well sound obscure and difficult, but an example will help to clarify, I think, and keep in mind that there will be a much fuller explanation in the next chapter. You’ll benefit most, I think, if you try to sketch out your own New Critical reading before (and perhaps again after) you read mine.The Paradoxical Unity of “Writing a Wrong”In Brendan Gill’s story of a dangling modifier, “Writing a Wrong,” the editor Botsford solves the conflict between Miss Gould’s rules and Gill’s taste. He does so by offering a paradox that unifies Gill’s story: sometimes “right is wrong,” Botsford says. It turns out that Miss Gould was right to spot the error, but Gill was right to have written the sentence as he did. The irony of this solution is reinforced by various paradoxical images in the story.For example, the dolphin in the second sentence is “diving skyward.” This action simultaneously suggests a downward movement (“diving”) and an upward motion (“skyward”). The description thus embodies the same sort of logic as a wrong rightness. Likewise, the “progress downward” of the writer and even his “becoming seclusion” (“becoming”—attractive and appealing to others; “seclusion”—unknown to others) convey the same kind of image. In larger terms, the writer’s “unshakable confidence” quickly becomes a “dumb uncertainty”—which again suggests the kind of reversal that resolves the story.In such an upside-down world we would expect to find imagery of struggle and violence, and we do encounter a “yawning pit” and an “army of gnats.” Such tension is harmonized by Gill’s brilliant conclusion: in writing, conducted properly, the demands of correctness and style are unified by the writer’s poetic instincts. Similarly, the story itself is resolved by the notion of a correct error.Reader-Response CriticismReader-response criticism starts from the idea that the critic’s interest ultimately ought to be focused on the reader rather than the text itself or the author. Without readers, it seems safe to say, there would be little reason to talk about literature; it is the reader who brings the text to life, who gives it meaning. Otherwise, it’s just black marks on a white page.If you want to use the techniques of reader-response criticism, you’ll want to focus on the reader’s activity in one of two ways: by describing how readers should respond to the text, or by giving your own personal response. That is, the reader-response critic either is claiming to be describing what is “normal,” or conventional, or ideal, or implied by the text. Or, in the other variety of reader-response, the critic is expressing a reaction that is personal, subjective, perhaps even eccentric. One could argue that readers are always engaging in a subjective response, even when they think they’re objectively describing “the” response. Obviously, the goal of this kind of reading is entirely different from a New Critical reading. On the one hand, you’re describing a response; on the other, you’re describing the qualities of a text. Reading from a New Critical perspective, you would naturally tend to value works that can be shown to have a complexity that is artistically unified. Reading from the perspective of reader-response criticism, you would naturally value works that elicit some sort of interesting, or valuable, or revealing response.So how does one do reader-response criticism? If the goal is to offer a personal, subjective response, one simply reads the text and responds. As you can imagine, such a strategy has been especially popular with students and teachers because it really liberates the reader. It’s difficult to see how any response could be wrong: Who could say, “No, that isn’t your response”? Some responses may seem richer than others; some responses may seem to deal more fully with the text; some responses may seem more authentic and honest than others. But any particular response may well help another reader to a more interesting or satisfying experience of the work.If the idea, however, is to describe how a reader ought to respond, which might better be called “reader-reception” criticism, then you’ll need to try to suppress whatever is personal in your response and offer instead an “ideal” response, one that is (or rather ought to be) shared by other attentive and informed readers. Describing in careful detail the slow-motion progress of a hypothetical reader through the text, such “objective” or receptive reader-response criticism may consider these kinds of questions: What expectations does the text create? What happens to those expectations as one reads? (Are they met, undermined, exploited, transformed, denied?) What literary conventions does the text employ to affect the reader? How, in other words, does the text shape the reader’s response?Although I’m presenting these two versions of reader-response criticism as oppositions, flip sides of a single coin, it may be more accurate and helpful to see them in terms of a progression. Reader-response critics unavoidably must use their own personal responses as a starting point for talking about how the ideal, or implied, or “common” reader responds; but the close examination of such “ideal” responses would seem inevitably to reveal some personal and subjective features. (No one, I would suggest, not even the author, can be the ideal, ultimate reader, saying everything that should be said about a work, once and for all.)The following essay tries to present a record of my movement through this passage. It was fairly easy and fun to write because I simply read through the passage slowly and asked myself, “Okay, how am I responding now? What does this make me think? What am I expecting next?” Although I decided that the passage was continually surprising me, I would not argue that surprise is the only or the correct way to describe one’s response: I might have focused on the passage’s humor, on a pervading sense of doom, or something else. That’s the beauty of reader-response criticism: different responses. As a piece of reader-response criticism, the little essay that follows strives to be neither rabidly subjective nor dogmatically objective. I focus on my personal response, but I also try to play the reader’s role that I believe Gill has imagined. I quote the text repeatedly, trying to show my reader exactly what I’m responding to.The Reader’s Surprise in an Excerpt from Here at “The New Yorker”Beginning with its first sentence, the story of the buried dangling modifier in Brendan Gill’s Here at “The New Yorker” is continually surprising, setting up expectations and then knocking them down. Gill begins the first sentence with “When I started at The New Yorker,” and I naturally expect him to talk about how nervous and insecure he was starting off at one of the largest and most famous magazines in the world. Instead, Gill refers to his “unshakable confidence.” The third sentence begins with “After almost forty years,” leading me to expect some explanation of how his joy at the magazine has grown. But 40 years of experience, it turns out, have not developed Gill’s confidence and happiness. Instead, his “assurance is less than it was.” How, I must wonder, has he managed to work there for 40 years and yet grow less confident?Expecting Gill to explain the oddity of his deteriorating confidence, I find, surprisingly, that such an effect “is a commonplace at the magazine,” a “tradition” even. Since the loss of confidence occurs for everyone, we might then expect that the New Yorker staff sticks together, sharing insecurities and supporting each other. Such is hardly the case, as Gill continues to surprise me by tracing one imaginary writer’s loss of confidence to the point of what appears to be a nervous breakdown. The writer, who is said to have “made a name for himself in the world,” is reduced to weeping on his blotter and trying to revise his name. Such is not what I expect from a famous writer.Given this tradition of disaster, it seems clear to me that Gardner Botsford is appearing in the third paragraph to star in the story of Gill’s own downfall. Botsford points to a major error Gill has made, and Gill’s assertion that he “boldly challenged” the allegation seems to set him up for a major humiliation. “Unshakable” confidence and bold challenges certainly seem unwarranted in the atmosphere of The New Yorker. But, once more, Gill crosses me up and provides a story of triumph. Rather than undermining his confidence, which is what everything in the story suggests will happen, Botsford becomes Gill’s champion. “The sentence stands,” he says, as the last reversal provides a happy ending.
Reader-Response CriticismReader-response criticism starts from the idea that the critic’s interest ultimately ought to be focused on the reader rather than the text itself or the author. Without readers, it seems safe to say, there would be little reason to talk about literature; it is the reader who brings the text to life, who gives it meaning. Otherwise, it’s just black marks on a white page.If you want to use the techniques of reader-response criticism, you’ll want to focus on the reader’s activity in one of two ways: by describing how readers should respond to the text, or by giving your own personal response. That is, the reader-response critic either is claiming to be describing what is “normal,” or conventional, or ideal, or implied by the text. Or, in the other variety of reader-response, the critic is expressing a reaction that is personal, subjective, perhaps even eccentric. One could argue that readers are always engaging in a subjective response, even when they think they’re objectively describing “the” response. Obviously, the goal of this kind of reading is entirely different from a New Critical reading. On the one hand, you’re describing a response; on the other, you’re describing the qualities of a text. Reading from a New Critical perspective, you would naturally tend to value works that can be shown to have a complexity that is artistically unified. Reading from the perspective of reader-response criticism, you would naturally value works that elicit some sort of interesting, or valuable, or revealing response.So how does one do reader-response criticism? If the goal is to offer a personal, subjective response, one simply reads the text and responds. As you can imagine, such a strategy has been especially popular with students and teachers because it really liberates the reader. It’s difficult to see how any response could be wrong: Who could say, “No, that isn’t your response”? Some responses may seem richer than others; some responses may seem to deal more fully with the text; some responses may seem more authentic and honest than others. But any particular response may well help another reader to a more interesting or satisfying experience of the work.If the idea, however, is to describe how a reader ought to respond, which might better be called “reader-reception” criticism, then you’ll need to try to suppress whatever is personal in your response and offer instead an “ideal” response, one that is (or rather ought to be) shared by other attentive and informed readers. Describing in careful detail the slow-motion progress of a hypothetical reader through the text, such “objective” or receptive reader-response criticism may consider these kinds of questions: What expectations does the text create? What happens to those expectations as one reads? (Are they met, undermined, exploited, transformed, denied?) What literary conventions does the text employ to affect the reader? How, in other words, does the text shape the reader’s response?Although I’m presenting these two versions of reader-response criticism as oppositions, flip sides of a single coin, it may be more accurate and helpful to see them in terms of a progression. Reader-response critics unavoidably must use their own personal responses as a starting point for talking about how the ideal, or implied, or “common” reader responds; but the close examination of such “ideal” responses would seem inevitably to reveal some personal and subjective features. (No one, I would suggest, not even the author, can be the ideal, ultimate reader, saying everything that should be said about a work, once and for all.)The following essay tries to present a record of my movement through this passage. It was fairly easy and fun to write because I simply read through the passage slowly and asked myself, “Okay, how am I responding now? What does this make me think? What am I expecting next?” Although I decided that the passage was continually surprising me, I would not argue that surprise is the only or the correct way to describe one’s response: I might have focused on the passage’s humor, on a pervading sense of doom, or something else. That’s the beauty of reader-response criticism: different responses. As a piece of reader-response criticism, the little essay that follows strives to be neither rabidly subjective nor dogmatically objective. I focus on my personal response, but I also try to play the reader’s role that I believe Gill has imagined. I quote the text repeatedly, trying to show my reader exactly what I’m responding to.The Reader’s Surprise in an Excerpt from Here at “The New Yorker”Beginning with its first sentence, the story of the buried dangling modifier in Brendan Gill’s Here at “The New Yorker” is continually surprising, setting up expectations and then knocking them down. Gill begins the first sentence with “When I started at The New Yorker,” and I naturally expect him to talk about how nervous and insecure he was starting off at one of the largest and most famous magazines in the world. Instead, Gill refers to his “unshakable confidence.” The third sentence begins with “After almost forty years,” leading me to expect some explanation of how his joy at the magazine has grown. But 40 years of experience, it turns out, have not developed Gill’s confidence and happiness. Instead, his “assurance is less than it was.” source..
April 13, 2020
A Dream within a Dream from a Psychoanalytic Perspective
“A Dream within a Dream” By Edgar Allan Poe is an interesting read because the poet places himself in a state of conscious and unconscious at the same time. He believes that his life is a dream and he can’t tell apart the dream from reality. Using Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is appropriate in analyzing his behavior and understanding his versions of reality. I will look at Freud’s model of the mind and its three layers, conscious, preconscious or the subconscious and the unconscious.
The conscious part of the brain harbors thoughts and feelings that are stored through the brain's processing of sensory and motor information. Being aware of your thoughts and surroundings you can consider yourself conscious. The subconscious refers to the part of the brain that stores the information you process. You can, therefore, retrieve it to act on it or reprocess it and store it again. The unconscious part of the brain is a section that one is not aware of but it influences or thinking processes, primitive and instinctual desires.
The ID, Ego, and Superego are more deconstructed models of the mind and are more of processes than parts of the brain. The ID is part of an individual’s personality that retains their basic needs and desires. CITATION Cou20 \l 1033 (Ackerman) The only personality trait that is present in an individual at birth, it is more of a psychic force that
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