Analyzing Literature


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This is a lecture for Introduction to Literature.

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Analyzing Literature

  1. 1. Questions for Exploring Short Stories Beth Ritter-Guth DeSales University Spring 2010
  2. 2. Mode •  Is the story: –  Comic –  Pathetic –  Tragic –  Satiric –  Elegiac –  Didactic
  3. 3. Narrator •  Who is the narrator? •  Is the narrator also a character? •  What role does the narrator play in the development of the plot? •  Do we trust the narrator?
  4. 4. Background •  How does the story start? •  What happened before the story started? •  Where does the reader “land” in the story? •  How do we learn this background? •  Is the delivery of this background important to the plot of the story?
  5. 5. Characters •  Who are the main characters? •  How are they introduced in the story? •  When are they introduced? •  What do we know about these characters? •  What do we need to know about them? •  Do they fit any archetypal patterns?
  6. 6. Character and Setting •  What time period is the story set? •  Do the characters behave according to the standards of time and location? •  What do we need to understand about the time period, customs, language, mores, habits, and traditions of the culture or time period?
  7. 7. Characterization? •  How are the major characters drawn? What are their major strengths? Weaknesses? Are they active? Passive? •  How to the characters function in relationship to one another? •  How do the minor characters work with the major characters? •  Do we trust the characters? Why or why not?
  8. 8. Action, Speech, Ideas •  How to characters present their ideas? •  How is speech crafted to provide characterization? •  Which is more important to the character - actions or speech? •  Does the reader “get inside the head of” any character? •  Do the characters change (for better or worse) during the story?
  9. 9. Setting •  How does the author address setting? •  Is the setting described in full or is it implied? •  What role does the setting play in the plot/action of the story. •  How does the setting establish mood? •  Does the setting impact character development?
  10. 10. Plot •  Is the plot of the story the most meaningful part of the story? If not, what is? •  Is there anything missing in the plot? Is this element missing on purpose? •  Are there any inconsistencies in the plot? Are these intentional? •  How does memory play a role in the development of the plot? Do we trust these memories?
  11. 11. Organization of Plot •  Is the story organized thematically or chronologically? •  Would the outcome be different if the events happened differently? •  What are the motivations of the major and minor characters?
  12. 12. Theme •  Is this story didactic? •  What is the point of the story - to inform, persuade, or entertain? •  How does the plot establish the theme? •  How do the characters function in relationship to the theme? •  What value statements are implied by the theme?
  13. 13. Symbols •  Are symbols used in the story? •  Do the characters recognize the symbols, or are the symbols used for the benefit of the reader only? •  Do these symbols add meaning? Why, or why not? •  Are there major and minor symbols? •  Are the symbols archetypal?
  14. 14. Reality and Believability •  Is this story believable or fantastical? •  Does the story need to be believable to achieve the overall effect or impact of the story? •  How does the plot function in believability? •  Are the characters believable? •  Is the setting realistic? Does it need to be realistic?
  15. 15. Critical Theory •  How would a Feminist react to this story? •  How would a New Critic react to this story? •  How would a Deconstructionist react to this story? •  How would a Psychoanalytic critic react to this story? •  How would an Ecocritic react to the story?
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