• myth

    Myth

    Myth – A myth is simply a story told over and over and over again by a group of people. Generally, we use “myth” to connote an ancient, sacred narrative (the rape of Prosperine to generate seasonality, the striking of the heavenly spear into the Pacific to create Japan), not just any story. This is [...]

  • naturalism

    Realism and Naturalism

    Realism and Naturalism – In prose that we term realist (small R), the style of expression is “realistic,” meaning “as things actually happen,” not exaggerated for emotional effect. A real story, with real people, drives the power of the text. The style of content is that of a “real” story, in which a true-to-life seeming [...]

  • pomo

    Postmodernism

    Postmodernism – Just as modernity is the period after the Middle Ages, so is postmodernity the period of modernity after modernity’s global (but incomplete) ascendancy—after the exhaustion of the modern and its turn toward severe self-awareness. Generally, we talk about postmodernity as beginning after World War II. The style or movement in art, thought, and [...]

  • whitewhale

    Melancholy and Moby-Dick

    Melancholy and Moby-Dick – AKA, a psychological and highly quotational meditation on the sad, the saturnine, and the furious. Freud defined the term melancholy in its modern sense: …Melancholia is in some way related to an object-loss which is withdrawn from consciousness, in contradistinction to mourning, in which there is nothing about the loss that [...]

  • skull

    Horror versus Terror

    Horror versus Terror – These are the two major divisions of literary, cinematic, or otherwise artistic (representational, strategic) fear. Fear is—along with joy, sadness, anger, and anxiety—one of the most basic human emotions. While anxiety occurs without an external stimulus, fear occurs when we perceive a threat or feel pain. Fear in the brain engenders [...]

  • lobster

    Différance

    Différance: Reflex and Double Articulation – The concept  of “différance” was coined by philosopher Jacques Derrida. He came to it by way of a lineage of reflexive thinkers beginning with Nietzsche, the thinker who’s so reflexive, he posits that even emptiness, death, the abyss, gazes back. (And calls the world to itself: Abyssus abyssum invocat.) [...]

  • machine

    Ambiguity (Narrative, Symbolic)

    Ambiguity (Narrative, Symbolic): Transcendence, Transcendent, Transcendent Signified versus Immanence, Immanent, Immanent Signified – This short exercise in literary theory/philosophy works best if you have drawing implements and a few minutes to think… [Draw picture on board of a box, huge, full of junk. Label "Moby-Dick."] [Draw picture on board of a small, gift-wrapped box, beautiful, [...]

Wythe Marschall writes!

It's true!

Quality of Evidence

Quality of Evidence - When researching, it is important to gather evidence of high quality to help prove your thesis. The New York Times and other newspapers, no matter how well written, are not peer-reviewed. They are not scholarly, but journalistic. While journalistic evidence may be quite useful, it is not as high-quality as scholarly evidence. Understand [...]

Paratext

Paratext – Paratext (”side text”), meaning frame or way-into the text pur sang. The text isn’t just, say, a novel; it’s an experience: A sexy cover catches your eye; a screaming title and subtle subtitle play with your naughty lizard brain; a table of contents or epigraph or short foreword make you want to learn [...]

fable

Fable versus Parable

Fable versus Parable - Narratology, criticism, and folkstudies give us plenty of rubrics by which to determine what is or is not a certain type of traditional story. For example, according to Wikipedia, a fable is “a brief story that features animals, plants, objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized, and that illustrates a moral [...]

Exaggeration

Exaggeration - Amplification of rhetoric. The most common type of exaggeration is hyperbole. Hyperbole is overstatement, plain and simple: “That test last week was so hard it made blood shoot out of my nose, just looking at it!” Understatement is, well, understatement:  “Was your dreaded five-hour final exam in chemistry as hard as I heard it was?” “Oh, [...]

Essay Structure

Essay Structure – Every text has its own beautiful organic structure. These are VERY ROUGH guidelines for a general “academic essay.” Please consider them. They make sense. They can help you, if you are feeling lost. PLANNING 0. Research – what are you going to write about? what evidence supports your idea? (Intermezzo 1. Outlining, brainstorming, [...]

Difficulty, Textual (Perceived)

Difficulty, Textual (Perceived) – When you find a story or passage within a story unfamiliar, power through. DO NOT stop reading or paying attention simply because a word or idea is unfamiliar. You are almost always graded on doing the work and coming to class, regardless of the unfamiliarity or density of a given assigned [...]

machine

Ambiguity (Narrative, Symbolic)

Ambiguity (Narrative, Symbolic): Transcendence, Transcendent, Transcendent Signified versus Immanence, Immanent, Immanent Signified – This short exercise in literary theory/philosophy works best if you have drawing implements and a few minutes to think… [Draw picture on board of a box, huge, full of junk. Label "Moby-Dick."] [Draw picture on board of a small, gift-wrapped box, beautiful, [...]

Allegory vis-á-vis Comic Books

Allegory vis-á-vis Comic Books – An allegory is any story in which some dimension of the plot and its actors is not literal but symbolic, creating for us associations beyond the obvious. Perhaps surfaces of plot and character reveal hidden depths, or—in a more postmodern mode—surfaces are pregnant with new surfaces, new implications. I like [...]

Dialogic versus Monologic

Dialogic versus Monologic – Bakhtin defines dialogic texts in opposition to monologic texts. Dialogic texts “speak to” other texts (other books, movies, stories, myths) and other writers. Dialogic texts do not merely “answer” these texts; they are not apologies or sequels. They instead open up an ongoing exchange, in which both texts are enriched and [...]

Dénouement

Dénouement – The resolution of a story, how/where things “end up.” This is sometimes considered the same as falling action, though Freytag (an important critic of narrative structure in drama) places dénouement after falling action. I personally don’t see what he’s saying:  In most modern stories, there is only a short section of text after [...]

Compression, Structural: Scene versus Summary Narrative

Compression, Structural: Scene versus Summary Narrative – Fiction relies on a difference between narrative time and real time, or the time it would take narrated (told) events to “actually happen.” Without this difference, fiction is if not impossible, at least highly problematic, very long, and definitely very, very boring. Thus the question, when narrating events—cutting [...]

Climax

Climax – The turn, the reversal, the reveal: What completes or redefines or nullifies the protagonist’s quest or journey, what answers our question. In most modern works of fiction, the climax comes after the halfway mark in the text (the scalene triangle).

Cliché

Cliché - Wikipedia: A cliché is “an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect.” There is no time like the present to seize the day and improve your writing: Avoid cliché at all cost. This means avoiding hackneyed proverbs, truisms, oversimplifications, [...]