Category Archives: Writing about Literature

Writing about Literature Portfolio 4

As the semester nears its end, I have greatly improved my ability to write about literature. Although there were not as many blog posts for our final portfolio, I believe the posts I did create all fit under at least one of the categories of depth, riskiness, and intertextuality. Additionally, my individual work on my research paper helped improve my ability in all of these areas, and contributions to the research of my peers built discussions throughout the final few weeks of the semester.

Depth:

Although many of my posts fit well under depth, my post about Wit is one that exemplifies depth for this portfolio. I incorporated multiple quotes from the play and analyzed their significance and possible meaning. Since this post was about the entire play, it was also multiple paragraphs in length.

Another post that I think is a strong example of depth is A Tale of Two Tortures. I wrote this as my second wildcard blog post, where I discussed my process of deciding my topic for my research paper. I wrote about what can be learned from comparing two novels in research, challenges I have faced, and my next steps to complete my revised paper.

Turning my attention to our Canvas assignments, my Term Paper Review of Literature is another example of depth. I wrote over 600 words to discuss ideas found in multiple sources I gathered for my research paper. I tried to organize my Review of Literature by topics, rather than simply have a paragraph about each source.

My final example of depth for this portfolio is my Term Paper Draft. Although I did not quite hit the word count, I wrote nearly 2000 words for this draft and attempted to organize it well. Rather than haphazardly throwing everything into a document, I went into depth to incorporate quotes, synthesize my own ideas, and explain how my sources support my ideas.

Riskiness:

Various assignments for my term paper were my strongest examples of riskiness for this portfolio. My Term Paper Proposal was probably the most risky, as I attempted to compare two novels for my paper rather than one. Trying to clearly identify how the two novels related to each other in this early stage was challenging, but finding a few sources helped me create a starting point for my research.

Another example of riskiness was my Term Paper Presubmission. This was my first attempt at making the comparison between the two novels clear in my thesis statement, sample body paragraph, and conclusion. I was taking a risk with my body paragraph particularly because I wanted to strike a balance between the analysis of the two novels. However, I utilized my writing skills and believe my presubmission was strong.

Intertextuality:

One example of intertextuality for this portfolio is my Writing about Literature post. I discussed how 1984, a text we read in class, could be analyzed through Marxist literary criticism, which is something else we learned in this course. In my discussion of text parser games, I mentioned how I had previous experience with text parser games in my Topics in Media and Culture course last semester.

Another example of intertextuality is my Literature and Journalism post. As the title suggests, I discussed my previous experience with and knowledge of journalism in this post, and even wrote about the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal. I also discussed The Taming of the Shrew, another text we read for this course, and how literary criticisms can be applied to an analysis of the play.

Discussion:

My strongest discussions for the final few weeks of the semester were the in-class discussions I had with my peers. One discussion in particular that stuck out to me was with Lucas and Steve after the Review of Literature assignment was due. I was struggling with formulating my thesis and how to move forward, and Lucas and Steve gave me a lot of helpful feedback that pushed me in the right direction. I also offered feedback on their Review of Literature assignments and gave advice for aspects of their papers that they asked me about.

In our various peer review assignments for our term papers, I gave feedback to all of my peers and tried to give them all constructive feedback to help them improve their papers.

Timeliness:

My timeliness was not the strongest for this portfolio, but I am caught up on all assignments before the end of the semester. Although timeliness suffered for certain posts and assignments, I do believe all of my posts and assignments were high quality and went into depth. I like to take the time to make sure everything I write is meaningful and done well, and even though I would have liked to improve timeliness a little more, I am still content with my work.

Coverage:

I believe all of my posts for this portfolio fit under at least one of the categories above.

Conclusion:

This final portfolio was slightly different than the others because we did not have a lot of blog posts, but I believe my work throughout these final few weeks of the semester has contributed to achieving the course goals. The first goal I identified at the beginning of the semester was to “read and interpret literary texts on an intermediate-to-advanced level.” By analyzing not only 1984, but also A Clockwork Orange for my research paper, I am interpreting these texts on a more advanced level. The second goal I identified was to “develop the ability to recognize how cultural experiences shape personal tastes and literary aesthetics, and to apply that ability to their analysis of the assigned texts.” Conducting research allowed me to learn about the cultural experiences of George Orwell particularly that shaped his writing, and researching about the cultures during the time periods when both novels were written allowed me to analyze the texts with a deeper understanding. Overall, I believe I have achieved the course goals as described in the syllabus this semester, and I am much more confident in my ability to write about literature.

Source: Discussion Portfolio 4

A Tale of Two Tortures

When presented with the opportunity to write a research paper, I wanted to make sure I chose a topic that I was truly interested in. I was apprehensive about choosing 1984 because I felt like that novel has already been analyzed extensively, but I remembered how I compared it to A Clockwork Orange in one of previous blog posts. The idea dawned on me that I could compare the torture sequences from both novels, and I’ve been pretty fascinated with my analysis so far.

Researching and comparing two novels can be challenging because most of my sources only talk about one of the novels. However, that’s what makes my paper unique – I’m the one creating this comparison. It’s also been interesting to see how both novels can be viewed from a psychological lens. When I read 1984 in high school, I wouldn’t have ever thought of analyzing the story that way, but it has opened up a new way of thinking about this story.

Aside from catching up after falling behind on assignments, I think one of the biggest challenges has been trying to understand the science aspect of my sources. Research involves more than just pulling quotes from a story – I have to look for sources that clearly explain the scientific ideas and incorporate those in my paper.

Going along with this idea, in my group discussion in class on Thursday, I talked to my peers about finding more sources to include in my paper. Since I’m not quite hitting the required word count, incorporating more viewpoints can add to the quality of my paper.

Source: Wildcard

Literature and Journalism

When we read The Taming of the Shrew, I noticed that many people chose to analyze it from a feminist perspective. They discussed how the women were treated abusively, whether that was mentally and/or physically. You could craft an argument out of that, but I think the feminist lens is the most obvious one to take with this text, especially since a lot of us in this class are female. I think it’s easy for us to look at how Petruchio in particular treated Kate and say he was an abusive and controlling husband. However, you have to avoid our personal biases in 2018 and dig deeper for analysis. I wrote a lot of my blog posts about Petruchio’s treatment of Kate, but I tried to find reasons why Petruchio would have done this besides power, as Shakespeare opens up a lot to interpretation. The academic article I found also analyzes the play from a more psychological lens and discusses the biological understanding of gender at the time. It was extremely interesting to read about this perspective, which isn’t the most obvious viewpoint.

As a journalism major, I don’t always see an obvious comparison between journalism and literature. However, I think the idea of literary criticisms and theories can be compared to how journalists should not look through just one lens when writing a story. Journalism is about sharing all sides of a story in order to avoid bias and allow the public to make decisions themselves. If journalists only covered one side of the story (one lens), then they wouldn’t get the full picture. Looking at the same literary text through different literary criticisms is similar, because it can provide you with a new way of understanding a text.

I think it’s also obvious that literary criticisms challenge us to think deeper than we normally would. As I mentioned, it’s easy to look at The Taming of the Shrew and say Petruchio was wrong for his treatment of women, but so much more can be discovered if you dig deeper. I compare this to investigative journalism in a way, because stories that come out of investigative journalism are not simple to uncover and write. The most obvious example I can think of is the Watergate scandal, and how the journalists from the Washington Post spent months and months working to uncover the truth about President Nixon’s involvement. If they weren’t willing to put in the work to uncover what was hidden, then the course of history would’ve been altered forever.

I never would have thought to compare literary criticisms to journalism, but I think it’s interesting to consider the similarities and how what you learn in one course can be applied to another.

Source: Wildcard: Any Course-related Topic You’d Like to Write About

Writing About Literature

Throughout our Writing about Literature course, there is a lot I have learned. One of the most prominent ideas I have taken away from this course is that there is not one “right” answer when reading and writing about literature. Although this is something I already knew, Writing about Literature is one of the first courses where I could really put this into practice through blogging about my ideas of a text.

Literary criticisms and theories are something new I learned in this course. In middle school and high school, we usually used the same techniques for analyzing literary works, so learning how to analyze a text using a specific lens was something new to me. I realized how reading and writing about literature through a particular lens can help you identify new ideas and ways of thinking about a text. For example, I wondered how Marxist Criticism could be used to write about literature, but I realized that you could use this criticism to write about the imbalanced class structure in 1984.

My definition of literature has also expanded throughout this course, specifically when looking at interactive fiction. Although we experimented with text parser games in my Media and Culture course, I tended to focus on the medium rather than the content. Although they aren’t what we traditionally consider as literature, these games tell a story and have complex ideas that can be analyzed through writing.

Source: Writing About Literature

Wit

As I read the play Wit by Margaret Edson, the fact that the poems that Vivian taught were by John Donne stuck out to me, since one of the first things we read in this course was a John Donne poem. A lot of Donne’s poems deal with themes like death and salvation, so they fit seamlessly into the narrative about an English professor dying from cancer.

Although you could compare the poems to Vivian’s life, one of the most interesting aspects of this play for me was how Jason essentially became what Vivian was. Vivian did not really care about connecting with her students on an emotional level – she just tried to get them to understand poetry. However, as she became weaker and weaker because of the cancer treatment and knew she would be faced with death soon, she regretted not being kinder, saying how she “ruthlessly denied her simpering students the touch of human kindness she now seeks” (59). Her entire life, she was dedicated to trying to solve the puzzle of poetry, and this caused her to not truly care about other people.

Jason even admitted that trying to solve the puzzle of anything complex, like poetry or research, was not really possible, when he said, “The puzzle takes over. You’re not even trying to solve it anymore” (76). He also conveyed this in his conversation with Susie:

Susie: “Where does it end? Don’t you get to solve the puzzle?”
Jason: “Nah. When it comes right down to it, research is just trying to quantify the complications of the puzzle” (77).

Even though Jason knew trying to solve the puzzle would not give him an answer, he got caught up in the complexity of his research, much like Vivian got caught up in the complexity of her poetry analysis. Rather than respect Vivian’s wishes to let her die when her heart stopped, he tried to get the team to save her life just so he could continue his research. Similar to how Vivian did not give her student an extension when his grandmother died, Jason did not respect the humanity of the person in front of him, and only cared about what was important to him.

Vivian rejected any connection with students, and this cost her the opportunity to become close with anyone as she died. Similarly, Jason initially ignored the final wish of a dying woman, which could cost him the opportunity to advance in the medical field.

I couldn’t help but notice these parallels as the play went on, and they really stood out to me as the play came to a conclusion. I also thought it was fitting that the play ended with Jason saying “Oh, God,” since many of the Donne poems deal with religion. Even though this play was a short read-through, I definitely think there’s a lot more you could analyze.

Source: Wit

Writing about Literature Portfolio 3

In my third portfolio for Writing about Literature, my improvement throughout the semester is evident. My timeliness category greatly improved from my previous two portfolios, and my discussion section also continued to improve. Additionally, my posts continued to exemplify the categories of depth, riskiness, and intertextuality.

Depth:

The first post that I think exemplifies depth is my Hilborn, “OCD” post. I used the close reading techniques I learned from our textbook to analyze the “OCD” poem, taking a look at both the text of the poem itself and Hilborn reciting the poem.

Similarly, my response to the poem of our choice is another example of depth. In my Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach” post, I analyzed this poem in depth, writing multiple paragraphs and using close reading techniques to find hidden meanings in the poem.

Another post that fits under depth is Depression Quest or Choice of the Dragon. I decided to play both games the whole way through and wrote detailed descriptions about both of my experiences and how they classify as literature.

Going along with the theme of interactive fiction, my Photopia or Lost Pig post also fits well under depth. I finished playing through Photopia and also played part way through Lost Pig, and wrote extensively about my experiences with both.

Finally, I think another strong example of depth is my Electronic Literature Sampler post. I sampled three different examples of electronic literature and wrote paragraphs about my experiences with each example.

Riskiness:

Overall, I was very pleased with the amount of risks I took in this portfolio. The first was my choice for my Academic Article. I chose an article about The Taming of the Shrew that explained how people during Shakespeare’s time period understood how the body and mind function together, which the author tied into Petruchio’s way of thinking. It was very complex, so responding to this article was a risk, but I tried to break it down and make it more understandable through my writing.

Another example of riskiness was my RWaL 6 “Writing about Poems” post. Poetry is not my strong suit, so reading and writing about the conventions of poetry was risky for me. I identified elements of poetry that I was and was not familiar with, which helped me understand poetry better.

There were a few other examples of poetry posts that I think fit under the riskiness category. In my Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” post, I grappled with the complexity of the poem, but analyzed different words and lines to make more meaning out of it. Similarly, I always consider reading works by Shakespeare a risk, so I think my post about Shakespeare, Sonnet 116 was risky. However, like I did with the Eliot poem, I used my close reading skills to make more sense of the poem.

I continued to take risks with my first academic article in my Analyzing Shakespeare Through Psychological and Historical Criticism post. In this post, I had to identify which types of literary criticisms the author of the article employed. I had no previous experience with literary criticisms, so this was challenging, but I applied what I learned from the textbook to the article.

Intertextuality:

My first post that fits under intertextuality is my RWaL 9 (1 of 2) post. I took each literary criticism I wrote about and explained how each criticism could be applied to some of the texts we have read in our course, including 1984 and John Henry Days.

In my response to the second part of the chapter, RWaL 9 (2 of 2), I went more in depth as I employed the same techniques I used in my first post. I went a step further with this post and identified multiple literary criticisms that I was unfamiliar with, and I explained how certain criticisms could be applied to different texts like The Taming of the Shrew and The Color Purple. I also discussed my American Literature course and how it related to historical and cultural literary criticisms.

Another example of intertextuality is my Brief Intro to Electronic Literature: Background post. I wrote about my own experiences with video games, and discussed how the games I enjoy have a story, relating to the idea of interactive fiction.

My response to Text Parser Games also fits under intertextuality. Since we had a brief unit on interactive fiction in my Topics in Media and Culture course, I discussed what I learned about text parser games from that course.

Discussion:

After improving my discussion section last time, I continued to generate discussions by commenting on a few of my peers’ blogs. As we completed our poetry unit, I left comments on Nicholas’ post about “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and Abby’s post about Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116.” When we discussed literary theory in class, I left a comment on Steve’s “RWaL 9 (1 of 2)” post, and when we turned our attention to interactive fiction, I commented on Kaylee’s “Depression Quest Run Through” post.

Timeliness:

Timeliness has been one of the categories I have struggled the most with throughout the semester. However, I definitely think I have greatly improved in this section since my last portfolio. The most I fell behind was a day or two with a few of my blog posts, and the rest were completed before the class period they were due. Although it’s still not perfect, I definitely can see the improvement in the timeliness section for this portfolio.

Coverage:

I completed all of the posts required for this portfolio, and I believe all my posts fit under at least one of the above categories. The one post that I am placing under coverage is my response to Adam Cadre’s 9:05. In this post, I briefly discussed my experience with this game during our class period.

Conclusion:

Overall, I am very content with my work for this portfolio and the improvements I made. My work for this portfolio also shows I am continuing to work toward achieving the course goals. One of these goals is to “read and interpret literary texts on an intermediate-to-advanced level.” By reading poetry and working with interactive fiction, I have challenged myself with literary texts that I was not as familiar with. Another goal is to “develop the ability to recognize how cultural experiences shape personal tastes and literary aesthetics, and to apply that ability to their analysis of the assigned texts.” I continued to develop this ability particularly by learning about literary criticisms and theories, some of which focus on the author’s life or time period when they were alive. I will continue to work on achieving these goals as we quickly approach the end of the semester.

Source: Discussion Portfolio 3

Electronic Literature Sampler

The first work of electronic literature I tried was called Adventures with Fido. You play the game as a Corgi in your backyard, and you can stumble upon a variety of adventures. I ended up finding an underground mole kingdom, and you have to do various tasks to help the moles. I didn’t advance super far in this game because I was keeping myself to the ten minute time limit, but I found it very entertaining to play. It felt more like a game and not just a story you have to enter commands for, and I like how there isn’t one particular order that you have to complete the adventures in. It’s a silly story, but I thought it was engaging and would definitely keep playing it.

The second work I tried was called Time Passed. You play as a man who wants to confess to his friend from middle school that he had feelings for him. This interactive text was very short, as it only took me about ten minutes to complete. It’s definitely less focused on “gameplay” and more on telling the story. You click on different words to advance the story, and certain words give you background context but then take you right back to the story. It’s very linear and definitely more of a traditional story.

The final interactive text I attempted was called The Mouse Who Woke Up For Christmas. You play as a mouse who wants to show his daughter what Christmas looks like before they go into hibernation. It’s very similar to the Adventures with Fido game, as you have specific tasks to achieve, but you can take your time exploring and figuring things out. This game had a lot of different places you could go, so I mostly just spent time exploring the world, but I think it would be interesting and fun to return to.

Source: Electronic Literature Sampler

Photopia or Lost Pig

As I went through Photopia, a work of interactive fiction, the story was confusing at first because it switched perspectives. This reminded me of John Henry Days by Coleson Whitehead, which we read for this course, which switches between different characters. However, it more so reminded me of a book called If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, which I read in Dr. Jerz’s Topics in Media and Culture class last semester. That book also switches perspectives, but like the interactive fiction, it’s written in second person point of view. Although you cannot make decisions with the book, the book and game give the story a more personal feel by placing you directly in it.

I will admit that going through the actual gameplay of Photopia was a bit challenging. There were a few scenarios where I knew what I was supposed to do, but I just could not figure out the correct verb to make commands work. It took me a good ten minutes at least to figure out that in order to get to Alley to come inside when you’re in the garage, you need to type the word “leave.” It also took me longer than I would have liked to find a way out of the cave. I had to realize that in the hint, the wording “vertical thinking” was used, and I never would have thought initially that typing “up” was the solution. Although the situation seems fictional, you don’t really know that at this point, so I originally didn’t think an “imaginary” solution was the answer.

The change in characters and scenarios was interesting because they ultimately all linked together to tell a single story. Once you find out what happens to Alley and the connection to the astronaut story, it definitely hits you emotionally. I also think you could write a lot about deeper meanings of the astronaut story and different themes that are present. Even though we might not think of interactive fiction as literature, I think Photopia is a strong example of literature because you can take a lot away from the story once you get past the difficulties of actually completing it.

On the other hand, I tried playing Lost Pig for a little while, but because I spent so much time trying to finish Photopia, I only advanced so far in this game. In Lost Pig, you have to complete tasks like you do in Photopia, but there is a clear objective that you are striving to achieve. I had to draw a map to avoid getting lost, but even then, I still struggled to find objects or figure out what I was supposed to do with objects. It was an entertaining and amusing game, but I did not feel as obligated to finish this one as I did with Photopia. I think because there are multiple characters and a meaningful storyline in Photopia, I felt more connected to it emotionally and wanted to finish it. Lost Pig is still fun and still considered literature as well, but because it’s just the story of finding a pig, I felt less obligated to finish it.

After talking to my classmates today, I wonder if there’s a certain point where the frustrations of figuring out how to advance in the gameplay completely ruin the chance of the author’s message getting across. You obviously don’t want to make the game too easy, but several of my classmates did not finish Photopia because they couldn’t figure out commands and didn’t have time to spend figuring them out. Although books can be difficult, we have a lot of resources that can help us out. In our Taming of the Shrew text, it included full footnote pages with definitions that helped us figure out the meanings of words. I wonder what the best way to approach interactive fiction is when you’re struggling and honestly cannot figure it out. Is it “cheating” to look up the command online, or is that acceptable? What other resources can help people get through interactive fiction? Although I probably will not explore these questions in too much further detail, I think they’re interesting to consider.

Source: Photopia or Lost Pig

Text Parser Games

Last semester, I took a course on Topics in Media and Culture with Dr. Jerz, and we had a brief unit about interactive text. We also watched the video about the monk who had trouble opening a book, and although we might find it humorous, it goes to show how much technology affects what we write. The entire experience is different, and when a new medium is introduced, you have to “relearn” how to read in a way. As someone majoring in communication in addition to journalism, I definitely understand how important choice of medium is. Different mediums change your experience as a reader and writer, and we have to be aware of that.

In the Media and Culture course, I remember we collectively tried playing a text adventure game. It was frustrating to figure out the correct commands, but overall, it was interesting to put yourself directly into the game and experience the story as a character yourself. From the writing perspective, text adventure games definitely involve a lot of writing and storytelling, especially because you have to create different storylines depending on which choice your reader makes. I agree with Dr. Jerz’s point that making a text adventure game is a “very writerly process,” from the fictional story to the actual coding that is needed to make the story work.

I’m actually working on an interactive text project similar to the text adventures games for one of my journalism courses. My idea is to create a hypothetical situation where you’re an editor, and you learn information about the ethics and principles of journalism with real life scenarios. However, which information you receive will be dependent on which option you decide to take. It’s definitely a challenge to write different storylines, especially because I’m also incorporating facts, but in my situation, creating this text adventure game will be a good way to display my knowledge of journalism and improve my creative writing and research skills.

Source: Text Parser Games

Adam Cadre’s 9:05

Whenever my group and I first completed the Adam Cadre’s 9:05 game, we got on the freeway and left the town, and that was the end of the game. However, we were really confused because we had no idea why we were leaving the town, and figured we had missed something. Then, my second time playing through, I ended up dying trying to get to the office, so no luck there. Finally, I figured out the twist with the corpse in the bedroom and tried to get the ending where I would made it the office and presumably get arrested, which did happen. It was interesting how we got the “good” ending right away, but it wasn’t emotionally fulfilling at all, so we felt like we were obligated to go back and see how many endings we could reach.

It was helpful being able to play this game in a group. We sampled a text adventure game in our Media and Culture class last semester, so I was slightly familiar with the format, but it’s still frustrating trying to figure out exactly how to phrase a certain command. Being able to share our thoughts and help each other out made it a little less frustrating and a little more entertaining.

Source: Adam Cadre’s 9:05