September 19, 2007

The Way Things Are. Go Structure.

"Unlike plot, which is concerned with conflict or conflicts, structure defines the layouts of works - the ways the story, play, or poem is shaped."

Edgar V. Roberts, Writing About Literature

So first things first, and Kevin, you should be with me on this, why didn't we have this book for Literary Criticism? (Insert HUGE Tiffany rant here.)

Anyway, on to the topic at hand.

The structure of a literary work is often the easiest thing to analysis. That being said, it is also one of the easiest things to make a work a complete muddle. Structure is overlooked for the very reason of being so basic as to blend into the background. Well, the first thing that goes into building any house, apartment complex, skyscraper, or even shed is a design structure. How often do you consider the frame of your house? (It's more the electric or plumbing that gets people in an uproar . . .)

Now; for our most beloved Prince of Denmark. The structure of Hamlet is singular in its play within the play (though this isn't the only work by Shakespeare to do so, A Midsummer Night's Dream anyone?) This structural decision puts more power on the crimes of Claudius and Gertrude, enforcing exactly what Hamlet wants to know.

If this almost-flashback of Claudius had been delivered in the form of a monologue, or an admission of guilt, the plot wouldn't have been forwarded as much - it would have been almost private, not the public display that Hamlet craved.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at September 19, 2007 8:07 PM | TrackBack

How very true. It is easy to overlook the structure. It's usually everything else that gets all of the focus. There's so much more to everything else.

Posted by: Jennifer Prex at September 19, 2007 10:27 PM

Yes, the public display outsted Claudius, thus embarrassing him! Hamlet wanting everyone to know what Claudius had done. While it is safe to say that the rest of the court knew nothing, Claudius thought he had been found out, and he was tortured (this is just what Hamlet wanted). Hamlet cornering Claudius in a room, telling him what he knew, and then killing Claudius would not have been as effective: Claudius needed to suffer for his deeds. Shakespeare made him suffer in the most ingenious of ways.

Posted by: Daniella Choynowski at September 20, 2007 1:07 AM

Again with "why didn't we have this book before"? :)

I'll take that as confirmation that requiring this book (or something similar) in "Writing about Lit" before "Lit Crit" is a good idea...

I have used this book occasionally in EL266 and EL267, but in those classes we also had so much American Lit to cover, and a large percentage of students who would never go on to take a different lit class, so there was only so much we could do with it.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 20, 2007 1:21 PM

Dr. Jerz, Diana and Tiffany called me last night to tell me about this book, haha. Just so you know--they're pretty passionate that it should be pre-Lit Crit. :)

Posted by: Karissa at September 20, 2007 1:40 PM

Even though it is easy to overlook structure, it would be a pain to read a story that did not have one. Masybe this is why our writings must have structure so they can be easily dectected by the reading.

Posted by: Kevin "Kelo The Great" Hinton at September 20, 2007 1:52 PM

You bet... it was my various experiences teaching EL150 and EL266/7 that made me suggest the new "Writing about Literature" course, which will focus on writing an English research paper. With the adjustments to the major, I hope we can spend some more time on fun things in EL150, and less time on the mechanics of paper-writing in EL312. I know that doesn't help those of you who went through the old program, but it's only after I've taught the classes a few times that I can really put the pieces together and see what adjustments will really help.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 20, 2007 8:20 PM

BTW, I did use "Writing about Lit" the last time I taught EL226/7, and I think it really helped.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 20, 2007 8:20 PM
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