Literature Introduction Essay
What Is Literature and Why Do We Study It? • Literature is – Composition that tells a story, dramatizes a situation, expresses emotions, analyzes and advocates ideas – Helps us grow personally and intellectually – Provides an objective base for knowledge and understanding – Shapes our goals and values by clarifying our own identities, both positively and negatively – Literature makes us human. Genres • Four genres of literature: – Prose fiction • Myths, parables, romances, novels, short stories – Poetry • Open form and closed form • Relies on imagery, figurative language, sound – Drama.
• Made up of dialogue and set direction • Designed to be performed – Nonfiction prose • News reports, feature articles, essays, editorials, textbooks, historical and biographical works Guidelines for Reading Literature • First reading – Determine what is happening, where, what, who is involved, major characters – Make a record of your reactions and responses – Describe characterizations, events, techniques and ideas • Second reading – Trace developing patterns – Write expanded notes about characters, situations, actions – Write paragraph describing your reactions and thoughts – Write down questions that arise as you read (in the margins)
Writing a Precis • Precis = a concise summary = paraphrase – Retell the highlights so reader will know main sections – Only essential details – they must be correct and accurate – Must be an original essay, written in your own words – Be sure to introduce the title and author – Avoid judgments – Use present tense when retelling a story Elements of Fiction • Essence of fiction = narration (the telling) • Elements of fiction = verisimilitude and donnee – Verisimilitude = realism • Must be compelling enough that the reader can “suspend disbelief” – Donnee = premise • Something given by which you can judge the realism = ground rules.
• Sources of elements – Character, plot, structure, theme, symbolism, style, point of view, tone, irony Plot and Structure • Plot = reflection of motivation and causation – No plot = The king died and then the queen died. – Plot = The king died, and then the queen died of grief. • Conflict = controlling impulse in a connected pattern of causes and effects – Opposition of two or more people (e. g. , hatred, envy, anger, argument, avoidance, gossip, lies, fighting, etc. ) • Dilemma = Conflict within or for one person – Conflict is a major element of plot because it arouses curiosity, causes.
doubt, creates tension, produces interest – No tension = no interest Structure of Fiction • Structure defines the layout of the work Crisis Complication Climax Exposition Resolution (denouement) Another structural element used sometimes = Flashback Characters in Fiction • Character = verbal representation of a human being – Rounded = lifelike, full, dynamic, reader can predict future behavior because of an understanding of the personality – Protagonist = the hero or heroine, main person in the story, person on the quest, etc. – Antagonist = the person causing the conflict, in opposition to the protagonist, the obstacle, etc.
– Flat = no growth, static – Stock = representative of a group or class (stereotypical) – Characters disclosed through • • • • • Actions Descriptions, both personal and environmental Dramatic statements and thoughts Statements by other characters Statements by the author speaking as storyteller, or observer – Characters need to have verisimilitude, be probable or plausible Point of View • Refers to speaker, narrator, persona or voice created by the author to tell the story • Point of view depends on two factors: – Physical situation of the narrator as an observer – Speaker’s intellectual and emotional position • • • •
First person = I, we Second person = You (uncommon) Third person = He, she, they (most common) Point of view may be: – Dramatic/objective = strictly reporting – Omniscient = all-knowing – Limited omniscient = some insight Setting • Setting = a work’s natural, manufactured, political, cultural and temporal environment, including everything that characters know and own (place, time, objects) • Major purpose = to establish realism or verisimilitude, and to organize a story • Setting helps create atmosphere or mood • Setting may reinforce characters and theme, in order to establish expectations that are the opposite of what occurs = irony.
Tone and Style • Tone = methods by which writers and speakers reveal attitudes or feelings • Style = ways in which writers assemble words to tell the story, to develop an argument, dramatize the play, compose the poem – Choice of words in the service of content • Essential aspect of style is diction – Formal = standard or elegant words – Neutral = everyday standard vocabulary – Informal = colloquial, substandard language, slang Tone and Style (cont’d) • Language may be:
– – – – Specific = images General = broad classes Concrete = qualities of immediate perception Abstract = broader, less palpable qualities • Denotation = word meanings • Connotation = word suggestions • Verbal irony = contradictory statements – One thing said, opposite is meant – Irony = satire, parody, sarcasm, double entendre • Understatement = does not fully describe the importance of a situation – deliberately • Hyperbole (overstatement) = words far in excess of the situation Symbolism and Allegory
• Symbolism and allegory are modes that expand meaning • Symbol creates a direct, meaningful equation between: – A specific object, scene, character, or action – Ideas, values, persons or ways of life • Symbols may be: – Cultural (universal) = known by most literate people (e. g. , white dove, color black) – Contextual (authorial) = private, created by the author Symbolism and Allegory (cont’d) • Allegory is a symbol = complete and self-sufficient narrative (e. g. , “Young Goodman Brown”) • Fable = stories about animals that possess human traits (e. g. , Aesop’s Fables)
• Parable = allegory with moral or religious bent (e.g. , Biblical stories) • Myth = story that embodies and codifies religious, philosophical and cultural values of the civilization in which it is composed (e. g. , George Washington chopping down the cherry tree) • Allusion = the use of other culturally well=known works from the Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, famous art, etc. Idea or Theme • Idea = results of general and abstract thinking • Literature embodies values along with ideas – In literature, ideas relate to meaning, interpretation, explanation and significance – Ideas are vital to an understanding and appreciation of literature.
• Ideas are not as obvious as character or setting. It is important to consider the meaning of what you’ve read and then develop an explanatory and comprehensive assertion. • Theme can be found in any of these: – – – – – Direct statements by the authorial voice Direct statements by a first-person speaker Dramatic statements by characters Figurative language, characters who stand for ideas The work itself.