March 2009 Archives

Help with Signifier and Signified

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-From Elizabeth Wright’s “The New Psychoanalysis and Literary Criticism” in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism, page 396


“The uncanny force of the shaving scene resides in the slave’s actions being both signifier of his good intentions to Delano, the new master, and at the same time signifier of his bad ones to Cereno, his old master, whose death is the moment he anticipates.”


I thought that Wright’s essay was interesting because she used Poststructuralism/ Deconstructive criticism to prove a psychoanalytical point.  This is just another means for us to see that it is often hard to separate the various types of criticism from one another.  


In this quote, as well as throughout the rest I found an example for myself as to how to use Poststructuralism in a critical essay.  The signifier and signified terminology was confusing to me at first, but after reading Eagleton’s chapter on Poststructuralism and after reading this essay by Wright, I feel like I understand Poststructuralism much better, as well as the difference between this school and Structuralism in general.  


See what others have to say about Wright's essay.

Understanding Poststructuralism-At Least I Think

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-From “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences” by Jacques Derrida in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism, page 355


“Where and how does this decentering, this notion of the structurality of structure, occur?”


This quote from Derrida’s essay has helped me to understand Deconstructivism and Poststructuralism.  Basically, according to Derrida, Poststructuralism deals with looking at the “structurality of structure” (355).  In other words, Poststructuralist critics go one step further than the structuralists who examine works based on basic structure, looking at all of the possible meanings of each word and how these work with one another.  For instance, the relationship between Snow White and her step mother is one of a kind, young, innocent girl and an cruel, jealous, older, woman.  Structuralists could further break this down into good versus evil.  However, I think that the Poststructuralists would go further to examine all of the meaning of good and evil and how these apply to the structures of this comparison.  


See what others have to say about Derrida’s essay.

Poststructuralism-Is It Really Its Own School?

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-From Donald Keesey’s Contexts in Criticism, Chapter 6 “Poststructuralism: Language as Context,” page 349-350


“Deconstructive criticism, then, is poststructural in at least three senses: it comes after structuralism; it deconstructs the central concept of ‘structure’; yet at the same time it continues many of the key ideas of structuralism, among them the ideas that humans are signifying creatures, that human culture is a system of sign systems, and that the source and pattern for these systems is language.”


After Reading Eagleton’s chapter on Poststructuralism, I thought I understood it; however, now that I have read Keesey’s chapter, I am thoroughly confused.  It seems to me that Keesey does not ever really present a description of Poststructuralism to the reader.  The quote I have above is the only line from the chapter that actually helped me.  Most of it seemed like a summary of the other types of criticism.  Did anyone else feel this way?


The above quote is interesting, though.  I did not realize that deconstructive criticism was the same as Poststructuralism.  I do understand now how they are the same.  The only problem I have with the quote is that Keesey writes that Deconstructive criticism is Poststructuralism because “it comes after structuralism” (349).  If one assigns titles this way, then all of them would be Post-Formalism or something like that.  Perhaps this is because Poststructuralism has not yet defined itself much from Structuralism or the other forms of criticism.  In fact, I think it might need to be explained to me exactly how Post-structuralism is at all different from Structuralism.


See what other have to say about Keesey's introduction to Poststructuralism.

-From Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory: An Introduction


“It has yearned for the sign which will give meaning to all others—the ‘transcendental signifier’—and for the anchoring, unquestionable meaning to which all our signs can be seen to point (the ‘transcendental signified’).  A great number of candidates for this role—God, the Idea, the World Spirit, the Self, substance, matter and so on—have thrust themselves forward from time to time” (113).


“That any such transcendental meaning is a fiction—though perhaps a necessary fiction—is one consequence of the theory of language I have outlined.  There is no concept which is not embroiled in an open-ended play of signification, shot through with the traces and fragments of other ideas” (114).


In some of my education and child psychology courses, we have discussed the fact that at birth, infants use every sound in every language in their babbling.  However, when they begin to hear their families talking to them, they drop all sounds that are not present in the speech they are exposed to.  How is this possible?  I really do not know much more about this occurrence than what I have written here, but as Eagleton explained Post-Structuralism and the ideas in the above quotations, I thought of this idea.  I think that maybe, with further research, this idea could be used to argue against the Post-Structural thoughts that there is no “‘transcendental signifier.’”


Aside from this thought, however, I really found Eagleton’s chapter to be helpful.  Even though these metaphysical ideas of the signifier and the signified are at first difficult to understand, I think that the concept is interesting in that every word can only be defined by other words and by what it is not.  After all, people often define their likes and dislike this way.  For instance, when someone asks me what my favorite food is, I usually say that I like most foods, but I don’t like scrambled eggs, green olives, and tomatoes.  We often define what we like by negating the opposite, so why not recognize that the same is done for the definitions of words. 


Take a look at what others have to say about Eagleton's essay on Post-Structuralism. 

Terms from Northrop Frye's "The Critical Path"

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As I read Northrop Frye’s “The Critical Path,” I made a list of the terms with which I was unfamiliar.  I have included them here with links to pages that explain them.  I hope this helps!




Blake's prophecies


Jungian critic

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason


Important Quotes from Frye's "The Critical Path"

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These are quotations from Northrop Frye’s essay “The Critical Path” that I thought were important or interesting and that could help with class discussion.


"Literature is a part of a social process; hence that process as a whole forms the genuine context of literature.” page 282

“I was led to three conclusions in particular.  First, there is no private symbolism…There may be private allusions or associations that need footnotes, but they cannot form a poetic structure, even if the poet himself is psychotic…Second…every poet has his own structure of imagery, every detail of which has its analogue in that of all other poets.  Third, when we follow out this pattern of analogous structures, we find that it leads, not to similarity, but to identity.” page 283

“It is identity that makes individuality possible: poems are made out of the same images, just as poems in English are all made out of the same language.” page 283

“And yet convention, within literature, seemed to be a force even stronger than history.” page 283

“A scholar, qua scholar, cannot think for himself or think at random: he can only expand an organic body of thought, add something logically related to what he or someone else has already thought.” page 284

“This total body of literature can be studied through its larger structural principles, which I have just described as conventions, genres, and recurring image-groups or archetypes.” page 284

“Criticism, like religion, is one of the sub-academic areas in which a large number of people are still free to indulge their anxieties instead of studying their subject.” page 287


Back to my summary of Frye's "The Critical Path"

Terms Page

Course Website


A Road to Help You Through Frye's "The Critical Path"

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Instead of choosing one agenda item and commenting on that quote, I thought that I would give a summary of what I found to be the major points of Northrop Frye’s essay, “The Critical Path,” as well as links to definitions and other sources that can help you understand this article.  It took me a while to get through it, and probably even longer to understand it, and I can see that others had as much difficulty as I did.  As I was reading, I saw that Frye was attempting to do a few different things in this article.  They are, in no special order:


  1. Discuss and promote his approach to criticism
  2. Define criticism generally and historically
  3. Warn writers and aspiring critics about a few necessary evils of criticism
  4. Relate all of this to his idea of “The Critical Path”


This is a lot to accomplish in such a short article, and think that it is this that makes the article confusing.  To help all of us out, I have compiled a list of Frye’s major points that go along with each of the above sections. 


  1. Discusses His Approach

·            Most of the well trodden paths, i.e. the other schools of criticism, were not working for him, so he decided to try something different

·            He wanted a type of criticism that would:

                                                                          i.      take the “major phenomena of literature” (later explained as convention, genre, and archetypes) into consideration (p. 280)

                                                                        ii.      take into account literature’s place in all of civilization/history

·            Therefore, he came to the conclusion that criticism was best achieved “through literature itself” or intertextual criticism (p. 280).

·            Important quotation: “It seemed to me obvious that, after accepting the poetic form of a poem as its primary basis of meaning, the next step was to look for its context within literature itself” (283).  In other words, look at the text itself to find meaning, and then look to how this meaning stands within other works-use literature, not other subjects, to find/prove points.

                                                                          i.      Along with this conclusion, Frye suggests that after going to the text, the next best place to go is to the author’s other works, and then to other works within that genre, or other works that have similar conventions and/or archetypes. 

                                                                        ii.      According to Frye, all literature should be looked at in terms of conventions, genres, and recurring image groups, or archetypes.


  1. Defines Criticism  Generally and Historically

·            Generally:

                                                                          i.      Frye distinguishes criticism from literature itself, from criticism of the arts or from “the subject called aesthetics” (p. 280), from those so-called critics who are really only interested in “social, philosophical, and religious” pursuits rather than literary ones (p. 280), from second-rate writing, and from other subjects/schools that do not deal primarily with literature.

                                                                        ii.      He also writes that criticism should not develop, as it has, “suburbs like Los Angeles” (p. 281).

o        These “suburbs” include biography, psychology, and history (in terms of the “social situation” of the author) (p. 281). 

o        One should note that these “suburbs” that Frye opposes are the bases on which our other schools of criticism are founded.

                                                                      iii.      Any and all criticism should be based on two aspects: the structure of literature and the social environment of literature.

·            Historically:

                                                                          i.      English literature was not an academic subject.

                                                                        ii.      Literary Criticism was based on philology.

                                                                      iii.      In North American universities, criticism was based on history and philosophy

                                                                      iv.      Other movements, based mainly on a historical perspective, include (in the historical order that he presented): Determinism, Catholic Determinism (Eliot), nominalism, Protestantism, liberalism, subjective idealism, solipsism, and Marxism

o        Frye highlights three problems with these movements:

a.      Literary form is not considered

b.      Poetic/metaphorical language is not part of the major meanings of these movements

c.       The quality of the poet relates negatively to or opposes the content area from which the poet is being observed (all from p. 282).

                                                                        v.      Frye believed that New Criticism was good because of its return to formalism, but noticed that it eventually returned to or relied on other subjects, just as the above movements do.

                                                                      vi.      He believes his new type of criticism (intertextualism) will become or should become a critical movement as well, one than can replace the others that usually fail. 

o        Frye thought that there were two contexts from which critics could find poetic meaning: the context of literature and the context of everyday ideas/language.  He believed that the latter is too often used as context and that the context of literature should be employed more often.


  1. Warns of the Necessary Evils of Criticism

·            “Pre-critical experience,” or a naïve view of literature, sometimes inhibits the critic (p. 285).  This experience deals with one’s initial, non-verbal reactions to a text on first reading.

·            Devotion to “determinism” limits our understanding of literature.  In other words, believing that everything has a specific outcome or meaning, and separating “social reference and structure” (p. 287)  is inhibiting to critics.

·            Our views of literature are always changing.   Each time we reread, we have a different interpretation of the work, and no matter how slight the differences are, they are still present.

·            “Criticism…is one of the sub-academic areas in which a large number of people are still free to indulge their anxieties instead of studying their subject” (p. 287).  Basically, do not do this.


  1. “The Critical Path”

·            Frye uses influences from William Blake’s prophecies (the idea of the path) and from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (“‘the critical path is alone open’” p. 280) to relate his development as a critic to the history of criticism and to the development of intertextuality.

·            There are many paths that diverge too much from “The Critical Path” and these should be considered when incorporating other subjects into criticism.  Basically, biography, history, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects should be considered, but should not overwhelm the piece and the literature that it is a part of.

·            Along this path, we as writers are moving from the naïve to the “sentimental,” or unified, way of looking at literature, and criticism only begins where the sentimental view begins (p. 286).

·            We must also learn to separate initial responses and determinism from criticism.

·            Through criticism, we can reach a higher level in ourselves and in reality.  (As an aside, this was too abstract for me, but I understood it as an imaginative and somewhat Buddhist-like way to say that criticism helps us to better understand this world and the literature that comes from it).


I know this is a lot of information, but I hope that it is helpful.  Below, I have also included a link to a page of links to the definitions of terms that I did not know, as well as some other important quotes for us to think about. 


Terms Page


Important Quotations


Take a look at some of the ideas others have about Frye's essay.



What Is a Diptych?

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“It is clear that this point is the ‘peripety’ or reversal of the action, and that the play falls into the form of a diptych, the first half tragic in direction and the second half comic.”

-From Northrop Frye’s “Shakespeare’s The Tempest” in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism page 300.

There are two words, “peripety” and “diptych,” here that I have never heard before.  Both are, however, defined within this sentence, which was very helpful.  Although, the definitions were there, I wanted to find more about what diptych means, mainly because this word made me wonder whether or not there was a certain classification for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juiliet, where the first portion of the play is comedic and the second portion is tragic.  Neither word was defined in Hamilton, but what I found was that all of the online dictionaries, even ones for literary terms, defined it more generally as something that has one fold and two parts, both literally and figuratively.  I wonder whether or not Romeo and Juliet would also be a diptych play then, or is Frye’s definition the only correct one?


Take a look at some of the other literary words my classmates found in our readings.

“Colin Still, recognizing that Shakespeare could have had no direct knowledge of classical mystery rites, ascribed the symbolic coincidences he found with The Tempest to an inner ‘necessity,’ to the fact that the imagination must always talk in some such terms when it gets to a sufficient pitch of intensity.”

-From Northrop Frye’s “Shakespeare’s The Tempest” in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism, page 303


This inclusion of Still’s argument really helped me to understand intertextuality better, just as Swann’s essay did.  What Still seems to be suggesting may be evidence for the monomyth idea that we have discussed in class.  Frye talks about the “No play of Japan” that includes travelers, fantastic creatures, such as ghosts, in a world that seems to be caught between life and death.  Frye goes on to suggest that The Tempest has elements that are shockingly similar.  Most likely, Shakespeare would not have been reading these types of plays, and yet he created one that is so similar.  I think this similarity allows us to see how the use of conventions and genre can be helpful to an intertextual criticism.  Even though I did not believe that it was possible to really look at works from two very different countries intertextually, I now see that it is possible and can be done successfully.  


See what others have to say about Frye's essay on The Tempest

A Little Different, but Still Valuable

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“A careful examination of the nature of the realistic fiction as modern criticism is coming to conceive it will show that in certain cases it is proper to treat literary characters as real people and that only by doing so can we fully appreciate the distinctive achievement of the genre.”

-From Bernard Paris’s “The Uses of Psychology” in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism page 217


Some of what Paris discussed seems to clash with what we have talked about in our previous English courses.  For instance, in the quote above, Paris suggests that it is helpful to treat the fictional characters within a story as real human beings.  We are always told never to do this in our courses, but this seems to me to be the only way that any type of Mimetic Criticism, especially Psychological Criticism, could work successfully.  I also wanted to point out that we might be moving into a new stage of criticism that rejects the use of a realistic examination of a character or voice/narrator in the story/poem because this essay was first published in 1974 according to the footnote on page 215.  In fact, many of the essays we are reading were written in the 1970s and 1980s, if not before, but I think this is the sort of subject that you must study in terms of its history.  

Another section of his text that I found interesting, yet countering the information that we have learned, occurs at the end of Paris’ essay.  He writes, “Psychology helps us to talk about what the novelist knows; fiction helps us to know what the psychologist is talking about” (222).  I think that this statement counters what we have learned because most of our experiences in studying literature are characterized by a devotion to a historical approach rather than one devoted to a mimetic, intertextual, reader-response, or formal approach.  I do see how Paris’ statement is possible and agree with what he is writing.  It seems as though he is suggesting that Psychology is a tool that we can use to evaluate a novel only because novels capture the fundamental portions of humanity that can be evaluated psychologically.  I completely agree with this statement, if this is his meaning.  I know I personally have learned a lot about real people from reading.

Because I now see that there is value to looking at literature in these previously seldom used “lenses,” I think that I will read much differently than I have in the past, and should I ever teach at a high school level or early college level, I would be sure that my students are trying on some of these more difficult lenses, if not so they master them, then so they know that they exist.


See what others have to say about Paris' essay.

"That is why I insist on calling it a mystery story-- for it is a detective story where the reader on reading and, crucially, rereading  the story has to learn not only to be the detective who could have solved the crime, but to decide what the crime was and who the real criminal is."

-From Charles Swann's "Whodunnit? Or, Who Did What? 'Benito Cereno' and the Politics of Narrative in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism page 311


I really liked Swann’s article, and like Greta, found it to be very helpful and well done.  I think that this article helped me most out of all we have read this semester in modeling the manner in which our casebook essays should be written.   It has shown me how more than one school of criticism can be effectively incorporated into a critical piece, how to include and support or refute other critical author’s ideas, and how to write a lengthy piece that still proves one main argument.  Also, this essay helped me to understand intertextuality, too.  I had thought that intertextuality was concerned mainly with comparing one work to another, but I really liked how Swann used conventions and characteristics of the entire mystery/detective story genre to make his points.

Also, I thought it was interesting that Swann discussed in his article what many of us brought up in class when we read “Benito Cereno”-having to reread the story, misconceptions about the plot and the characters, whether Melville was writing a story that supported racism or not, and reader-response both historically and today.  Maybe we are learning to be good literary critics after all!


See what others have to say about Swann's essay.

The Feminists Are Making Me Angry

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"By contrast, Chekhov's play The Three Sisters exists on a plane far above the exploitation of female suffering seen in these contemporary films.  The great themes of Chekhov's drama point to the vanity of human purposes and the corrosion of the human fabric through time.  The male and the female characters equally suffer disillusionments and defeats inherent in the human condition.  The strongest and most noble figure in the work, indeed, is a woman, Olga.  Chekhov clearly has full compassion and empathy for his female characters."

-From Josephine Donovan's "Beyond the Net: Feminist Criticism as a Moral Criticism" in Donald Keesey's Contexts for Criticism page 227-228


First, I just want to say that the feminist critics in Keesey’s anthology make me, and I believe many others, want to scream.  This, as well as the one presented in Gilbert and Gubar’s essay, is obviously not the empowering types of feminism that I have always thought was being and should be offered to the world as an important belief and movement.  Instead of empowering these female authors, it seems that these critics enjoy focusing on the need for pity, empathy, and compassion.  It is almost as if they are writing, “Oh, take pity on these poor female writers and the females that are depicted in male literature.”  Honestly, have they never heard of the Guerilla Girls or the books Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots and Do Princesses Scrape Their Knees?

Donovan is clearly advocating a depiction of women that is just as sexist, if not more so, as the one she argues against.  The “strongest and most noble” character does not and should not always be female in a piece of literature, and just because a male author has a male protagonist it does not mean that he is sexist.  If a woman creates a female character as the protagonist who seems to be objectified in her novel, is she then sexist too?  Gilbert and Gubar would say no, of course not, she is only venting her own experiences with oppression by men.  I, however, would say that the novel, the author, the historical context, the contemporary context, and other texts like it would need to be considered before even having a hint as to how to answer this question.  The more I learn about literary criticism, the more I feel that in order to truly understand the work, all of the factors involved must be looked at, not just the ones that will most easily prove a point.  I feel that the only people who are disillusioned are these writers who can suggest that men are prone creating objectified female characters that represent the “deviant” rather than the “norm,” while at the same time they hypocritically suggest that these female authors and characters should be pitied and given empathy (Donovan 225).  

However, I also want to say that I understand that these critics’ purposes for writing is probably not the empowerment of women, but rather a criticism of the treatment of women writers and women in literature.  I still believe that if you write and publish something, it should be only to persuade or to reaffirm an idea that matters or that changes people, and perhaps this was the goal of these authors and it is just not working for me; however, I think that many in our class (just take a look at what Angela and Greta have written about so far) would agree with most of what I have written here.


Take a look at some other blogs about Donovan’s essay and Feminism.




Actors or Actresses-It Makes All the Difference

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" practice the intertextual study of literature may best be organized along generic lines that keep our attention on conventional elements and that cut across national, temporal, and linguistic boundaries."

-From Donald Keesey's Contexts for Criticism, Chapter 5 Introduction "Intertextual Criticism: Literature as Context," page 271


When I read this section of Keesey's introduction to chapter five, I was immediately reminded of the presentation on Spanish Golden Age drama that Dr. García-Quismondo gave last class.  She mentioned, perhaps not exactly in these terms, that this era of drams is characterized by the convention of the female dressed in tight-fitting male clothing and how this was often does to allow the male playgoers a glimpse of a woman’s body.  One could argue that this convention also existed as a way for the immoral female to be put back into her proper and moral role at the end of the ply; however, when done in England, only the second explanation of the convention can be held true.  In Spain, women were allowed to act on stage; however, as Dr. García-Quismondo pointed out, in England, women were not allowed on stage.  The tight clothes on the female characters in England would only be flaunting the bodies of young men, thus giving the convention an entirely different meaning and purpose.

I do, however, understand that Intertextualists rely only on the text, but then what is to be done with this sort of convention written into plays of various origins, especially when one understands the dramatic purpose?  Once again, it seems as though one cannot separate the various schools of criticism.  Some type of historical information must be considered, especially when examining the works of two different countries.


Take a look at what others think about Keesey's introduction to chapter five.

Project Proposal

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Jenna and I have two ideas for projects that we have come up with together.  We will propose both of them now, and will do further research and decision making to decide which one of the two we will complete together.


The first one would be a creative project that will be in the form of a collage or some other visual form.  We will use either our own photographs or a combination of our own photos with other mixed media to create a visual criticism in each of five schools (formalism, reader-response, historical, mimetic, and intertextual) of each of the four texts we have focused on in our class this semester.




We will perform a criticism of Jane Austen’s work(s) (probably choosing one specific work) using a combination of historical, intertextual, reader-response, mimetic, and/or formal criticisms in order to decide/prove whether or not/ how her works have been viewed and or manipulated over time.  We will use her novel(s), her other texts such as letters, her biography and history from her time period, as well as films, fan-based fiction, and other professional fictions based on her novel(s) to defend our argument.


Back to Course Website

Some Themes for You to Think about

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“Ros:  My lord, you have given me my life,

            and since I am alive on your account,

            I shall eternally be your slave.

Clo:     It wasn’t

            life that I gave you…

            I haven’t given you life,

            because you didn’t come here with it;

            for a vile live is no life at all…”


-From Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño, Act I, page 53



This scene between Rosaura and Clotaldo, her father, basically sums up the major theme in the play.  The idea that all of the characters, in some way or another dreams for a different life reoccurs throughout the play, and is of course, where the author got the title. 


While I was watching the play, I wrote down a few other themes that Calderón was creating throughout the play, and I also found these as I was reading the script:


§         Nature vs. Nurture—Will Segismundo bring his father’s prophesy to fruition, or will he be a benevolent ruler?

§         Utopia vs. Dystopia—Is this an ideal society because it has a happy ending with everyone (but the comedian Clarín)living a pleasing life at the end or is this an imperfect society where only the people who fit in are those who have messed up lives (thus Clarín cannot be a part because he is the only member who seems to be sane, ironically)

§         Fate vs. Free Will—This is a pretty obvious theme and is related to the nature vs. nurture idea.

§         Higher you fight, the further you fall—I thought that this was an interesting observation by Segismundo, I believe, that relates to the idea of fate vs. free will and fortune’s wheel that many of us talked about with Chaucer (basically, fortune is a wheel, so for one moment you might be at the top, but the next you will be at the bottom).  This idea creates the question of whether or not one should always remain at the bottom so that one will never feel fate’s disappointments.


Most of these, although themes, are also really dualities, and most of them can be supported either way.  What do you think of these ideas?  Are they accurate?  Which of these, if any, do you think Calderón wished to develop and suggest as the correct option at the end of the play?  Let me know what you think!


I also wanted to say that I loved the play!  I thought the actors were great, the new setting was interesting, the costumes and scenery were awesome, and I think that I can honestly say that it is the best production I have seen from Seton Hill.  Great job to all those involved!   


See what other have to say about La vida es sueño.

“Political thinkers in both England and Spain follow the rhetoric and the arguments of anti-Machiavellian thought throughout Europe.  They are eager to restate and reiterate the point from which Botero’s thinking departs: that God controls the unfolding of history through providence, and will surely humble any ruler who defies the ethics that He has bestowed upon humanity.”

-From Stephen Rupp’s “Reason of State and Repetition in The Tempest and La vida es sueño in Comparative Literature’s Fall 1990 Vol. 42.4 publication, pages 293-294


I really enjoyed this comparison of Shakespeare and Calderón’s plays.  I actually did not see this connection in them until I read Rupp’s essay, but it is very true: both authors seem, on one hand, to write plays that can be discussed by the intellectuals of their day.  both countries were run by kings and governments who believed in the divine rights of the kings, but they were also peopled by those who believed in the divine rights of the people.  In both plays, this conflict can be viewed.  In The Tempest, Prospero, Sebastian, Antonio, are all vying for power in some form or another, when the real divinely chosen ruler is Prospero.  Also, Prospero has taken over Caliban who was technically given rule by divine right as well.  Similarly, in La vida es sueño, Segismundo, Astolfo, and Estrella are all vying for power, when Segismundo has the divine right.


However, at the end of both plays, those with divine right (Prospero, Caliban, and Segismundo) are given this right.  This fact would certainly provide forward thinkers with something to dispute. 


The second part of the above quote is also true, when Prospero and Segismundo, if not also Caliban, regain control of their rights to rule, they are peaceful, firm, and just rulers, not the overbearing rulers they started out as.  Perhaps this fact would settle the opinions of the free thinkers of the playwrights time periods.


See what others have to say about Rupp's essay.

Synesthesia-Imagery with All the Senses

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“Through synesthesia and paradox it takes us past the mode of sensuous apprehension toward the unheard melodies beyond the sounded notes, the static pattern behind the frenzied action.”


-From Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism page 207


I have never heard this word before, and Hamilton did not think it important enough, or common enough to include in her book.  According to American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary, synesthesia is defined as follows:

“a condition in which one type of sensory stimulation creates perception in another sense. The most common form of synesthesia is called ‘coloured hearing,’ where a person experiences a visual sensation when receiving an auditory signal (for example, hearing the musical tone C and seeing the colour red). Although tone-colour relationships are not identical for all people, there are general uniformities: the deeper a musical note, the darker the colour. Similar colour perceptions, called photisms, may accompany sensations of taste, touch, pain, smell, or temperature. Synesthesia has been used as a literary device by poets as diverse as Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Rimbaud, Hart Crane, and Dame Edith Sitwell.

I thought it is very interesting that a medical dictionary would also mention that it is used as a literary term.  I was also interested in this definition.  I always thought this was imagery, but I guess imagery only deals with a mental picture, not a mental smell, taste, sound, or feel.


Take a look at the other terms that my classmates defined. 


I Think I Like Mimetic Criticism!

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“To put it simply, if we can show that literature does, in some important ways, tell us the truth about experience, then the various forms of ‘scientific’ thought can be met on their own ground and the vast enterprise connected with literature, and our own intense personal interest can be given a widely accepted justification.”


-From Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism, “Chapter Four-Mimetic Criticism: Reality as Context,” page 213


Despite all of the complicated explanations, I really liked this chapter on Mimetic Criticism, and I can say that I think Mimetic criticism might be a valuable tool to me.  I think it makes a lot of sense to look at reality and what was/is going on in reality when the play was written and what in reality today could affect the way that it is viewed.  I really think, however, that Mimetic Criticism uses all of the other types of criticism we have discussed, including those that use the work, the history and author, and the audience as contexts.  I know that Keesey talked about Freud, Aristotle, Plato and Jung and the ideal and empirical realities, but there are also the sections where he talks about the artist creating, not a shadowy or watered-down version of reality, but that creates new reality through its truth.  I hope that the other articles will help me to better understand this form of criticism, and hopefully I will continue to enjoy and understand it, because we all know how easy it is to understand this stuff one minute and be completely lost the next.


Check out what others had to say about Keesey's introduction to Mimetic Criticism

From Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism:


“…as Emily Dickinson put it, her ‘life’ has been ‘shaven and fitted to a frame,’ a confinement she can only tolerate by believing that ‘the soul has moments of escape/When bursting all the doors/She dances like a bomb abroad.’”  page 260


“…but Dickinson, reporting that ‘I do not cross my Father’s ground to any house in town,’ was recording a real, self-willed, self-burial.”  page 260


I had hoped that this would be an interesting interpretation of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman,” a story that I had enjoyed so much, but instead I found it to be rather hypocritical and written in the type of feminist viewpoint that I do not enjoy. 


Take, for instance, the two lines above.  I don’t think I need to point out to you the hypocrisy of these two lines, but no one who imprisons themselves can blame anyone else for their imprisonment.  Yes, outside factors can contribute to depression which sometimes created the feeling of necessary self-confinement; however I think Gilbert and Gubar have the wrong idea.  As Greta mentioned last week in class, no one can look at a fictional poem or story and say that the author is a character in the story or is the voice in the poem.  Should we assume that J.K. Rowling went to Hogwarts just because she gives a vivid explanation of it?  Should we presume that George Lucas has a star fighter parked in his garage because he could create such a complete vision of one for the screen?  Of course not.  We recognize these as works of fiction, but cannot see that more realistic stories and poems can be, and are, fictional as well.   


Furthermore, the authors suggest that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a “rebellious feminist” (263).  If you do any research on Gilman’s life, you will find that she was not really a feminist, but a humanist, even calling herself one, working for rights for men and women alike, even though she was involved in many women’s groups.  If she is a feminist, then she is not the sort that is described in this article. 


Finally, the biggest problem I have with the authors is that they used three excellent authors, but three somewhat disturbed women to make their points: Emily Dickinson, a lifelong recluse, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Sylvia Plath who both exhibited psychological disorders and killed themselves.  These are not the sort of strong, reliable female authors to choose in order to support their opinion.  Or perhaps Gilbert and Gubar wanted the readers to take pity on these women because they were being put down by men.  But maybe this is exactly the type of women they needed to use to prove their point through mimetic criticism, for it can’t be denied that women’s place was in the home and usually only in the home during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as in 1950s.


See what others have to say about Gilvert and Gubar.

It's Too Complex for Me

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“Spanish, unlike English, has two words for the general concept of will: albedrío and voluntad, both of which refer to faculties of the mind and heart as they were envisioned dating back to classical times…Albedrío is allied more closely with judging the relative value of an action, whether by reason or emotion, and voluntad is a more elementary impulse toward or away from something.”


-From Theresa Ann Sears’s “Freedom Isn’t Free: Free Will in La vida es sueño   Revisited,” page 281in Romance Quarterly’s publication, Fall 2002 Vol. 49.4


The complexity of language always amazes me.  Just this morning at Otterbein Methodist Church, Pastor Aimee talked about how there are four words for love in Greek, and now Sears tells us that there are two words for “will” in Spanish.  These complexities make it very difficult for one to truly create a perfect translation. 


In Advanced Study in Literature, we read a play entitled “Translations” by Brian Friel that also discussed the complexity of translation, and even satirized the means by which it is completed, as well as its accuracy, at times.  I think this happens a lot.  I have read poetry by Pablo Neruda in an English anthology where the translator attempted to keep his rhyme scheme, but in the process of doing so, changed the entire meaning of the line.  I read another translator who translated word for word a Spanish story into English, which made the English difficult to understand for people who actually understand English. 


In my opinion, there is no truly accurate way to translate a work, unless one who is fluent does it for one’s own understanding. However, this would not, of course, really be translation.  I know I would never want to take on this difficult job.


Take a look at what my classmates have said about Sears's essay.  

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