Introduction to Literary Analysis
Thursday. January 29:
Tuesday. February 3:
Class: The role of the strange/unexpected word and the power of metaphor. We will discuss Louise Glück’s poem “The School Children” (copy handed out in class 1/29). What is happening in each of the stanzas? How do the various roles change through the poem? Which words and images does Glück use to make this happen? Pay attention to repetition of sounds and ideas and the way subtle changes in those repetitions change the way we experience the things in question. Also pay attention to unexpected words, the effects of enjambment, verb tense changes, and shifts in spatial relation of the events in the poem. Then look at e.e. cummings’ “in just—“ (copy handed out in class 1/29) and apply the same analysis to it.
Homework: Based on our analysis of form in “in just—“, what is going on in the poem? As with the notion of the apple for the teacher in “School Children,” you will need to look outside of the poem for at least one of the images; however, attend very carefully to the words, sounds, and rhythms cummings selected and their overall effect. You goal is not to tell us what cummings “meant,” but to tell us what the poem seems to be “about”—what is going on? Offer an interpretation beginning with a statement about what seems to be going on in this poem. (If you are not sure how to write about and cite poetry correctly, see the guidelines at <www.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/composition/literature.htm>)
Thursday. February 5:
Class: Sounds and language. We will briefly discuss what you found in “in just—“ and the overall effect these features seem to have for you. Then we will discuss Walt Whitman’s poem “Hours Continuing Long” (copy handed out in class). Again we will look the effect of sounds and word choices and the way they work together to give us a sense of the feeling of the poem and to enhance the content.
Homework: Instead of responding to a poem tonight, I’d like you to respond to the idea of responding to poems. Read the handout from Helen Vendler 39-47 and 152-157 (copy handed out in class 1/29) and think about what she is doing. As she responds to the poems in these sections. What kinds of moves does she make as a literary critic? How do you react to them? Did her methods help you to see more within the poems? Do you like her strategies for breaking open or unpacking a poem? As a fellow literary critic, what can you imagine doing in the same way as Vendler? What did you not find so useful?
Reviewing terminology: alliteration, assonance, consonance, formalism, allusion, assertion
Class: Context and images. We will begin with a discussion of your role as literary critics. How is it going? Do you like reading this way? Where is formalism frustrating? Where is it illuminating? Unless anyone wants us to revisit the poems that Vendler discusses, we will apply her comments to another poem that she does not discuss in the section you read, Gwendolyn Brook’s “We Real Cool” (Gwynn 280).
Homework: Look at John Keats’ poem “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” (Gwynn 146) and Helen Vendler’s discussion of how to unpack it on pages 125-134 (copy handed out in class 1/29) and respond to this reading and the extent to which it works for you. What does it reveal about the poem? What does it reveal about reading poems? We will practice using this terminology in class on Tuesday, so think about how we might apply it (and the list on page 134) to another poem.
Terminology review: relations (thematic, phonemic, grammatical, syntactic); word function (subject, predicate, nouns, verbs); meaning; emotional curve.
Thursday. February 12:
Class: poetic structure (images in sequences) and speech acts. We will review the terms Vendler discusses on 125-34 (copy handed out in class 1/29) and then apply them (and the list on 134) to at least one poem, beginning by looking at speech acts in Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Oh, Oh, You Will Be Sorry for that Word” (Gwynn 245) and Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” (Gwynn 266). Then we will discuss speech acts and images in Mathew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” (Gwynn 182-3).
Homework: In this response, select one of the poems we discussed in class today and use Vendler to help you comment on the poem in more depth. Again, look at what is “going on” in the poem. Who is the speaker in the poem addressing? Who does the poem itself seem to be addressing? What is the effect of these different audiences and speech acts (the audience internal to the poem and us, the readers; the speech acts within the poem and the poem itself)? Consider the effect these poets might have created if they had made different choices and say something about the impact of the choices they did make. In other words, I’d like you to respond as a literary critic, discussing the poet’s moves and how and why they do or do not work.
Terminology review: meaning; emotional curve (skeleton); antecedent scenario; climax; agency; speech act.
Class: Narrative & Lyric poems. We will briefly discuss Mathew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” (Gwynn 182-3) and Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” (Gwynn 266) and the difference between "lyric poems" and "ballad" or narrative poems. Then we will discuss at least one narrative poem, "Bonny Barbara Allan" (Gwynn 59) and perhaps Robert Burns' "John Barleycorn" (Gwynn 114). What makes the ballad form work and how does it differ from the lyric? What makes "My Papa's Waltz" a ballad? How is "Dover Beach" different? What is a poem anyway? (Just checking to see if you are paying attention.) See Gwynn p. 9-12 if you want another explanation of all this.
Homework: Find the words of a song that meet the definition of either a lyric poem or a ballad, print them out and bring a copy to class Thursday. WARNING: this is not as easy as it sounds. The first three songs you think of won't work. You need to be able to apply the terms Vendler discusses on p. 125-34 of the handout (copy handed out in class 1/29) and the list on p. 134 and come up with something more interesting than "blah blah blah." If you find good song/poems I may invite you to write about them as one option for paper #1. Hint: if it sounds like Hallmark it isn't a poem--and it will bring on my allergies and make me sneeze!
Terminology review: content genres, autobiography, love-poem; speech acts, confessional narration, meditation; outer form.
Thursday. February 19:
Class: Sonnets (sonnetto’s, "little songs"). Shakespearean (English) form and Italian (Petrarchan) form. We will discuss examples of each in class, including Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 "My Mistress’ Eyes" (Gwynn 71) and John Keats’ "On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer" (Gwynn 146-7) again. Then we will look back at Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Oh, Oh, You Will Be Sorry for that Word” (Gwynn 245) and see whether reading it as an English Sonnet helps us to understand anything we missed last week.
Homework: Review what Gwynn says about poetry in her introduction (1-45) and what Vendler said in the handout we've been using in class and use this to do a reading of the song you selected Tuesday. Don't listen to the music--try to forget that there is music--just focus on the words. Don't worry about the terminology in Gwynn either (especially feet and metre). What I want you to do is to get a sense of how poetic language works, the moves poets make, the clues they leave, and the options you have as readers. Tell me what is going on in your song and how you know that. This may form a rough draft of paper #1 if you do it well enough.
Terminology review: octave, sestet, quatrain, couplet, thematic break
Class: Introduction to drama as performance. Bring your copy of Shakespeare’s Tempest to class. We will read the first scene aloud and discuss reading plays as a performance (see handout available in class and via the K;drive “Resources” folder).
Homework: Read the rest of The Tempest. We will work through it as performance in class on Thursday, but you need to have read it through once and worked out what is going on!
Virtual Class: tell everyone what song you are writing about and briefly summarize what you think is going on in it. Feel free to actually discuss each other's songs!
Thursday. March 4:
Class: Continue to work through The Tempest discussing it as performance.
Homework: Watch the BBC version of The Tempest on Drew T.V. (LC 30, 7:30 pm). This is a rather dated performance of Shakespeare. Think of it as a performance and consider the moves the director made. What effect do they have? What effect do you think he is going after? Look at costume, movement, and characterization. What do they tell you about the interpretation this performance is advancing? How might you have done things differently? What effect would your choices have made?
Virtual Class: Post your comments on TheTempest.
Sometime this week, watch the BBC version of The Tempest (LC 30, 7:30 pm on Wednesday, or in the library on reserve) or one of the other versions of The Tempest on reserve for this class in the library (if you are interested in performance you may want to watch more than one version and compare them for paper #2). The BBC version is rather dated--think of it as a performance and consider the moves the director made. What effect do they have? What effect do you think he is going after? Look at costume, movement, and characterization. What do they tell you about the interpretation this performance is advancing? How might you have done things differently? What effect would your choices have made?
Virtual Class: By Tuesday 23, post your comments on whichever version of The Tempest you watched.
Tuesday. March 16:
Class: Discussion characterization in The Tempest and our imaginations of it. Different images of Caliban, Ariel, Miranda, and Prospero. How does this change our understanding of the play?
Homework: Each group will read two extracts from Graff & Phelan, pp. 203-286 or one of my handouts.
Virtual Class: Briefly summarize the essays or extracts you read and respond to issues raised in the reading you did and in other people's summaries--does postcolonial theory make sense to you? If not, why not? What is gained from such an analysis? What is lost? And for whom?
Thursday. March 18:
Class: Responding to The Tempest (2): Postcolonial theory--Discussion of selections from pp. 203-286 and postcolonial theory in general.
Homework: Read Graff & Phelan, pp. 91-115.
Virtual Class: Respond to issues raised in the reading--does the application of theory to The Tempest make sense to you? If not, why not? Which side do you find yourself taking in this debate? Why?
Spring is here: Go see S.K.Thoth’s "Festad" in
Central Park if you possibly can sometime before April 1.
Go in groups of four or five (24 is too many). You can find directions
at his website and it really is easy. The website will also tell you
whether he will be performing on a given day--although sometimes he
not show up, especially if the weather turns cold or it looks as if it
might rain. This is FREE performance art, not professional theatre!
25: class cancelled today--use the time wisely!
Class: Discussion of paper #2, handouts, and questions.
Discussion of Blithedale Romance, pp. 40-78 (ch. 1-7).
Homework: Read Blithedale Romance, pp. 79-123 (ch. 8-13) Pay attention to words, images, sentences. Is the style getting easier as you get used to it? Are you getting a better sense of this "modern arcadia"? What do you think of the place? What do you think of Zenobia? And Priscilla? And Hollingsworth? What do you make of Coverdale's relationship with them? How do you see it evolving?
Virtual Class: Comments? What themes do you see now? What issues? What concerns? Answer any of the questions above--or all of them! What do you want to discuss in class Tuesday? What questions remain for you?
Tuesday. April 6:
Class: Discussion of Blithedale Romance, pp. 123-164 (ch. 13-20).
Homework: Read Blithedale Romance, pp. 164-218 (ch. 21-end) Pay attention to words, images, sentences, the way the story develops and the way we learn more about the characters. Think about Moodie for example. Is he what you expected? What is his role in the plot? And Coverdale? Did the story end the way you predicted? What took you by surprise?
Virtual Class: Comments? What questions remain for you? Answer any of the questions above--or all of them! What do you want to discuss in class Tuesday? What questions remain for you?
Class: Discussion of the Hwang reading.
Discussion of paper #3. Discussion of any final problems encountered with paper #2 (due Friday).
Brief introduction to powerpoint on African American literature and timeline (in the "Resources" folder on the K:/drive).
Homework: Read Toni Morrison's Paradise, pp. 1-77.
Finish Paper #2, due Friday April 16.
Virtual Class: Respond to the opening of Paradise. What did you expect after the first chapter? To what extent has the novel been what you expected based on those first pages? What do you think Morrison was doing there?
Paper #2 due in the box outside my office in S.W.Bowne by 6 p.m. today unless additional time has been granted in advance.
Class: Discussion of Paradise, pp. 81-138
Homework: Read Toni Morrison's Paradise, pp. 141-266.
Virtual Class: Responses? Questions? Points of confusion? What do you need explained? What themes do you see developing?
7:00: Poet Seamus Heaney will read from and discuss his work at the College of Saint Elizabeth (Holy Family Chapel). This is a rare chance to hear the Nobel Laureate in one of only four speaking events in his tour of the US. Don't miss it!! (You'll find some of his poetry in Glynn, and I can give you more, but you have to hear his voice reading and explaining the poems!)
For more information, go to the CSE website.
Class: Discussion of Paradise, pp. 269-318 and cultural contexts.
Wrap up of the class, discussion of final project, sign up for final deadlines and appointments to collect work and discuss grades, course evaluations--please don't miss this class.
Homework: Work on paper #3, get some sleep, eat, take care of yourself.
5: Paper #3 is
due in the box outside my office by 6 p.m. today.
Last updated: March 24, 2004