The Turn of The Screw: Analysis. Literature & Language Essay (Essay Sample)
Length: 1500-2000 words
ASSIGNMENT: Your final project for this class is a literary research paper on a Gothic work or works by some of the authors we studied this semester. Your paper will centre on your own literary analysis of either a novel or one of the short stories; however, it should also include quotations from scholarly sources (secondary materials), cited in proper MLA style, that undergird or clarify your own views. Try to engage critically with your sources (by which I mean that you should not simply parrot a critic's views). Be sure to include as well some commentary on your primary source (the Gothic story or stories under consideration) in your essay as well. Remember, as in the previous essays, you will need to develop a strong thesis statement and write a clear, cogent argument to defend your thesis. In addition, be sure to make one or two specific references to the literary work or works that you are discussing throughout your paper; try to include at least one quotation per paragraph. In this paper, as well, in many of your paragraphs, you should refer at least briefly to the views of other critics, allowing them to enhance, but not replace, your own ideas. Finally, do not write on a work that you have already dealt with in another essay, unless it is in a comparative capacity.
GUIDELINES: Your essay should be typed and double-spaced. Please number all pages and include a separate title page containing your name, your title, the topic number, my name and the due date.
In addition to your primary material(s), you must consult at least:
o One recent article of critical analysis written by a scholar in the last five-ten years (use MLA search
engine to find these). Feel free to use online sources.
o Two critical essays from scholarly journals (locate these by using the MLA
search engine) written within the last 50 years.
o Do not consult sources such as Wikipedia, Classic notes, Sparks notes etc.
You may, of course, use more secondary materials than are required, but be careful not to let your voice be overwhelmed by those of the authorities and critics whom you cite. Keep in mind that when you use information that you find on web pages, you need to make certain that it comes from reputable sites (such as The Victorian Web, or the course pages of university professors at other institutions) affiliated with a university or a library; Wikipedia, Sparks notes, enotes, and other similar unscholarly sites are not acceptable. (If you are in doubt about the value of a site, please don't hesitate to e-mail me and ask). Be sure to list your secondary sources, along with the primary material(s), on your Works Cited page using the proper MLA format. As in previous essays, incorrectly formatted title or Works Cited pages and faulty quotation integrations will receive deductions. (This time the deduction will be of -5%)
Note: Please do not feel that you must answer all the questions in a given topic. You can respond merely to the heading, or you can choose one of the questions as your main focus, or you can try to formulate your own question from those provided in the topic.
1. THE FEMALE GOTHIC AND THE SUPERNATURAL:
Discuss how Carmilla and at least one of the other stories studied this term (such as “A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family,” “The Lady in the House of Love,” “Kerfol”) depict the supernatural. Be sure to both compare and contrast these works in your discussion. Do they rely exclusively on the conventions of ‛the horror gothic' (with its overt violence, its use of macabre spectacle, and its ) or have they combined the horror and the subtler terror gothic modes for a more psychological approach to terror? If they have, how have they adapted the ‛horror' gothic mode to work with the unique generic features and qualities of the female, terror gothic? Why are they choosing this subtler approach? What if any generic tensions occur between the sudden, horrific or terrifying eruption of the supernatural in the narrative, and the dominant framework laid out by the conventions and characters of the female gothic? (Please note: In order to answer this question properly, you will need to rely on clear definitions of terms such as "horror gothic" and "terror gothic" – be sure to look back in your notes, or to consult reference guides such as M. H. Abrams' "A Glossary of Literary Terms").
3. GENERIC CONFUSION IN JAMES' GOTHIC:
Henry James' novella The Turn of the Screw brilliantly and deliberately foregrounds its blending of genres to provoke and challenge the reader. Is it a chilling ghost story dominated by supernatural horrors, or a work of psychological realism that explores the disturbing neuroses of the heroine, the children's governess? Discuss one of these options, while considering which possibility is the most troubling, and why. Finally, as you argue whether or not you believe this story is a ghost story or a work of psychological realism, examine how the generic confusion surrounding this story affects your interpretation. (If you choose to focus on the governess as a neurotic or unreliable narrator, try to avoid the simplistic crazy/not crazy argument. Instead, focus on gender and her marginalised position as a governess, and remember that James skilfully maintains the ambiguity throughout the story by indicating all along the partial and incomplete nature of the human understanding of reality, and inviting us to make judgements).
4. GOTHICISM AND MODERNITY:
Using at least two works on the course, discuss the gothic story in relation to modernity. Do Gothic stories play on sensationalistic fears and prejudices or do they test out and explore new ideas, attitudes and behaviours. As a genre, is the Gothic atavistic or progressive? Although it conveys a potential for anachronism and nostalgia, arguably it also opens up new spaces, alternate subjectivities, transgressive practices, or forward-looking ideas in an effort to embrace modernity. Mighall, in A Geography of Victorian Gothic Fiction: Mapping History's Nightmares, demonstrates that Gothic writers purposely pit modernity against the past to give readers evidence of the progressive nature of their own religious, political and social institutions. Alternatively, you could argue that Gothic novels are predicated on a clash of the old and the new, and that their violence and terror spring from a horror of modernity. (As you discuss, you might like to consider your stories’ attitude to religion, scientific advancements, cities, sexual mores and social customs).
5. THE QUESTION OF THE NARRATOR’S TRIUMPH OR DEFEAT IN “THE YELLOW WALLPAPER”:
In your view, is Charlotte Gilman’s narrator triumphant or is she defeated as she frees the woman hidden behind the wallpaper? Some critics argue that "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a story about a woman who is confined and silenced in true Gothic fashion, while others hold the woman responsible for her fate because of her complicity with and passivity about her husband’s medical orders. In your opinion does she become completely dependent on her husband, being utterly lost and reduced to an infantile state as the story unfolds? Is this the source of her Gothic oppression or is her problem more societal and systemic? Alternatively, a more feminist position is that the narrator at the end, despite succumbing to her post-partum psyschosis, finally evades the control of the patriarchy and achieves a personal triumph by relinquishing all roles and even her female identity as a wife and mother. Do you agree that the narrator achieves a greater sense of self as she acts out her madness by becoming the woman in the wallpaper in the end of the story? If so, in what ways does she triumph over her husband and the male-dominated society here? If not, why not?
6. WHARTON’S EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY GHOST STORY:
Kathy Fedorko asserts in Gender and the Gothic that “Wharton’s Gothic allows her to press the limits of rationality to utter the unutterable about sexuality, rage, death, fear, and, especially, the nature of women and men” (Fedorko ix). Discuss how Edith Wharton explores some of the darker aspects of Gothic fiction and captures in the same time a woman's life in "Kerfol." In this story, as in many other Gothic narratives, the circumstances of a woman in the upper class seem to be suffocating enough to set the stage for a Gothic story. How do the Gothic elements of entrapment and anxiety invite reflection on the status and condition of women? How do the matrimonial predicaments of this heroine in particular symbolize "the untold female story" (Fedorko 31)? Are there elements of, or concerns in this story that strike you as particularly modern in the midst of its strangeness?
7. CARTER’S POST-MODERN VAMPIRE:
Angela Carter's "The Lady in the House of Love" is a story filled with dichotomies: innocence and corruption, rationality and the irrational, reason and intuition, virginity and intense sexuality, immortality and death. Chose one pair and define each element, using the story's context as your sole focus, and interpret how the story can be read comprehensively in light of this pair. Analyse the relationship between each abstraction in the pair. How are they played against each other in paradoxical ways throughout the narrative? Alternatively, do these dichotomies help to position Carter’s text as post-modern or innovative in relation to the Gothic genre as a whole?
The Turn of The Screw: Analysis
The Turn of the Screw is both a ghost story and gothic fiction that narrates the story of a young woman who goes to work for a wealthy employer as a governess. She was tasked with raising the nephew and the niece of the wealthy employer in a remote estate. At the estate, she begins seeing ghosts and starts to believe that the land is haunted. The author's utilization of an unreliable narrator challenges the reader to believe the story as told or search for deeper meaning in the story. In this case, the reader can choose to believe that it is a ghost story dominated by supernatural horrors or a work of psychological realism. Various clues in the story point to the latter being probable. For instance, immediately after the governess and master of Bly meet, she develops strong physical desires. However, her background as a woman from humble beginnings in the countryside causes her to interpret such feelings as shameful (Gencheva 73). The problem is compounded by the master of Bly, who does not show any sexual interest in her and even forbids her from disturbing him. The governess deals with the problem by repressing her physical desires and labeling them as love. According to the psychological philosophy of Sigmund Freud, such feelings can then result in the visions she experiences as a means of coping with the unfulfilled physical desires.
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