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February 26, 2009

Reader-Response Criticism

The intorduction to chpt.3 of Keesey's Contexts for Criticism goes into great detail as to the implication of psychology upon literary criticism. The introduction states that: "Most reader-response critics have little interest in authors or intended meanings. The poem exists now. It affects us now. These, they claim, are the crucial facts, and any relevant criticism must be built on them."(129)
This is a very interesting concept and goes right along with the belief that there is no "right" or "wrong" answer when interpreting literature. Keesey makes reference to several proponents of this literary school of thought and I thought that their argument was very sound and practical. The theory that a poem or piece of literature doesn't really exist until a reader experiences it is very intriguing. "This is why human beings need poetry. It is indispensable to our psychic health."(132)

Posted by QuinnKerno at 3:14 PM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2009

Rose of Sharon

My portion of a close reading exercise involving Jennifer Prex and Georgia Speer:

Steinbeck’s aforementioned use of symbolism and ambiguous dialogue with the character of Rose of Sharon leaves much for readers to question. Her introduction in chapter ten provides the ground work for potentially a very poignant character. The very fact that she is pregnant offers many possibilities as to what she represents, not necessarily to readers, but more directly to the other characters within the book. Steinbeck frequently makes reference to the lack of, or at least waning of faith within his characters amidst the turmoil of their financial and familial situations. With a character like Rose, Steinbeck is able to further portray the uncertainty of the future. To the Joad Family, Rose represents the probability of renewed faith in the future. The ambiguity however remains, for the birth of Rose’s child is still many months away and the family’s exodus to California must first be realized, along with the dealings of any unforeseeable circumstances that may befall them in the interim. Steinbeck’s development of Rose is not limited to mere third person description but overflows into her cryptic dialogue and carefully included mention of her behavior in relation to other characters. All indications are that Rose represents something very important, delicate and necessary to the other characters, yet the unknowns involved in her situation, dialogue and behavior is a vital tool Steinbeck establishes for later chapters.

Posted by QuinnKerno at 5:14 PM | Comments (0)

The Concrete Highway

Chapter 3, The Grapes of Wrath:
This chapter is wrought with Steinbeck's use of symbolism. Readers get a very poignant description of the terrain from the unique perspective of a turtle. The turtle itself is representative of people, for both species must survive the environment and, as we make the connection later in the book, both species are on the move to somewhere else--somewhere concievably better, albeit unknown and foreign. A turtle is equipped with a shell for protection, and for Steinbeck's turtle: thank God for that! An ant--a nusance--finds its way into the shell of the turtle. The turtle deals with the ant by squezzing back into its shell and crushing the ant. An ant--a minor nusance--represents a problem which is considerably easy to deal with for the turtle. The ant is, I think, symbolic to a small problem which might befall a human, or a family, and one which can be taken care of with considerably little effort or outside assistance. However, within chapter 3, Steinbeck's turtle attempts to cross the concrete highway--a far more dangerous and foreign environment than what it is used to--which is also of significance to many humans within the book since both must traverse the road to get to their destination. The connection between turtle and human becomes all the more apparent as two vehicles come down the road as it attempts to cross. One of the vehicles swerves to avoid crushing the creature, while the other swerves to destroy it. This is very symbolic of human nature, and how people react differently to one another.

Posted by QuinnKerno at 4:42 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2009

Structuralism and Semiotics

"When we analyse literature we are speaking of literature; when we evaluate it we are speaking of ourselves...literary works are made out of other literary works, not out of any material external to the literary system itself." (Eagleton 80)

Eagleton's statement seems to be the consensus feeling about literature among many of the literary critics we are becming familiar with in class. Donald Keesey promotes a similar attitude in his work Contexts for Criticism : "Poems do not imitate life; they imitate other poems" (265).
Eagleton's elaborate assult on formalism suggests that formalism, in many ways, deters critics from the essential meanings of a work, as intended by an author, by over-analyzation of the conventions within the work.
Eagleton finds that literature is, although a derivative of other works of literature, a limitless art in its capability to conjoin two or more words in order to create a meaning which would otherwise be absent if only one word were present. Eaglton clarifies, "The Literary work continually enriches and transforms mere dictionary meaning, generatin new significances by the clash and condensation of its various levels".(89)

Posted by QuinnKerno at 3:08 PM | Comments (1)

A Chiasmus is clever, and sometimes clever is a Chiasmus.

Chiasmus--A lovely little word, originated in Greece like all the other lovely little words. The defenition had eluded me until now--how have I made it all these years without Chiasmus.

Chiasmus: A rhetorical inversion of the second of two parallel structures, as he went to the theatre, but home went she.
The American Heritage Dictionary; 2nd College Edition

Posted by QuinnKerno at 2:32 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2009

It's All Relative

"Pay attention to what you feel about the text. It probably means something."
How To Read Liiterature Like A Professor pg.107

Symbolism and its well-to-do cousin the Allegory have been integral components of literature since the inception of the craft, functioning as not only a technique for portraying ulterior meaning but also as the very purpose or intention of an author's decision to write the piece in the first place. Popularized in the early days of literature, symbolism was effectivly used by authors to express their thoughts without necessarily using words on the page to do so. By writing in such way authors were able to protect themselves against political and moral constraints often placed upon published material by government and ecclisiastic officials. The popularity of symbolism and its function throughout history has led to it being often represented in contemporary context as a form of epic.
As Thomas Foster suggests, symbolism is in many regards dependent upon the imaginative capabilities of the reader. Since authors are rarely available to give explanatory reviews of their work, the use of symbolism and allegory are completely open to the reader and allow for a very personal and engaging reading experience when they are prevelent.

Posted by QuinnKerno at 4:20 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2009

Alternative Methods of Criticism: A Look at Two Essays

Russ McDonald's essay "Reading The Tempest" serves as a good example of alternative methods of literary criticism much of which George Watson mentioned in his essay "Are Poems Historical Acts?". Of historical criticism of literature, Watson states: "If it does not forbid elucidation beyond the point where the poet himself might cease to follow the argument, it commonly forbids explanations that run counter to what the poet could have thought or felt." McDonald finds historical criticism as somewhat restrictive in that it fails to focus intently on Shakespeare's verse(specifically within The Tempest). McDonald delves into the repetition used within the work and gives examples of how these techniques can better help contemporary critics gain a better understanding of Shakespeare's intentions. McDonald surmises that the repetitions and texture rich phrases allow audiences to, whether knowingly or not, engage with the work in a unique way. The continual build-up of eloquent verse McDonald attributes to Shakespeare's desire to allow the audience to take part in the evanescence involved within The Tempest.
I enjoyed finding the connections between these two essays, although I am still undecided as to whether or not I agree with McDonalds bashing of previous historical criticisms.

Posted by QuinnKerno at 3:30 PM | Comments (3)

February 8, 2009

The Ghostly Heart

"No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart."
Pg.96 The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald's portrayal of the often disasterous quest for the american dream was masterfully represented within The Great Gatsby with his description of a diaspora of nou-veaux riches from the american mid-west to the ritz and glamour of New York and its surrounding coastal area.
Fitzgerald's characters are often misguided by and shrouded in the mystery of wealth. The most tragic of Fitzgerald's characters is Jay Gatsby who exemplifies the dangerous consequences of pursuing love while blurring the lines between money and morality. I had the feeling that Fitzgerald created Gatsby as something of a Byronic Hero. A Byronic Hero is often a character who carries some past secret that they refrain from sharing with other characters or even the reader, however they are consumately responsible for this secret and readers are usually very aware of its impact on the hero throughout the work.

Posted by QuinnKerno at 7:54 PM | Comments (0)