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a 250 word (min.) analysis of a literary work assigned this week. To do this:

First, pick a literary element or device that you think is important to the story/poem/play from the Literary Terms and Movements handout.

Create a


analyzing the importance of the term to the literary work (identify the term and text in the


). Ex: Literary movement X is important to writer Y’s story because…

Analyze (rather than summarize) the text. Don’t just restate what happens; instead, make an argument about how the term is relevant to the text.


Options for Week 2 Journals:

Explain the



Dark Romantic

characteristics in the assigned Poe or Hawthorne story.

Write about

point of view

in “The Tell-tale Heart” using our conversation in the live session as a basis.

Write about




in Gilman’s story.

Write about




in Chopin’s story using our conversation in the live session as a basis.

Explain how the London story is an example of


(the literary movement, not simply the state of nature).

Explain the


elements of the Thoreau or Emerson writing.


Prompt One:

Are you a Henry David Thoreau or a Charlotte Perkins Gilman? Consider your response to the recent culture of quarantining and social distancing and determine if your perspective is more akin to that of Thoreau’s stance in “Solitude” or Gilman’s response to solitude in her story. Use a close reading of one of the assigned readings by the authors as support for your analysis. As an added bonus, see if you can explain how the author’s outlook relates to Transcendentalism (Thoreau) or Gothicism (Gilman). If you don’t fit in either camp, email me for a variation on the prompt.

Prompt Two:

Pick a prominent symbol in an assigned week 3 text and do a close reading of the text (including cited quotations) to show why the symbol is significant to the text. Do not pick a text you have written about in


or the Journal.

Prompt Three:

We read 2 poets this week: Whitman and Dickinson. Even though they lived and wrote in roughly the same era, they are a world apart in form (the manner in which they construct their poems) and content (the topics they write about). Which did you prefer OR which did you dislike more? If you loved or disliked both, you can go that route too. Defend your response with a close reading of EACH poet’s assigned poems to support your assertions. Use a variety of lines from various stanzas or poems to show breadth in your analysis.


Prompt 1

: Using the live session and the introductory


in our textbook, analyze the postmodern elements of Ginsberg’s poem, DeLillo’s “Airborn Toxic Event” or Morrison’s “Recitatif.” Start with a line or two that offers your own explanation of Postmodernism (based on class resources) and then apply those characteristics to a close reading of the text, incorporating cited quotes as support. Be sure to cite any outside sources you use.

Prompt 2

: O’Connor’s short story is full of symbolism. It is also an example of Southern Gothic writing. Analyze one of the following symbols:

Hulga’s leg

Character names: pick at least 4 names and offer a close reading with support to explain why they are significant. Note that there is great irony in these names.

A symbol of your choice

Prompt 3

: Using at least one assigned reading by Tan, Lahiri or Diaz, consider what it means to be an immigrant in America. How do immigrant/ethnic characters define themselves in the American landscape? Do they assimilate and define themselves as Americans? Do they maintain a hyphenated identity? Do they face challenges or roadblocks? Do they forge an identity apart of their ethnic heritage?


Options for Week 4 Journals:

Consider the past 4 weeks of reading. Are there any common topics, themes or characteristics running through the examples of American literature? Write a journal entry that uses a close reading of at least 4 texts from various time periods (including cited quotes from each) to answer the following question: “What is American literature?”

Emily Dickinson: Lesson & Activity
Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. She attended Mount
Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, but only for one year. Her father, Edward Dickinson, was
actively involved in state and national politics, serving in Congress for one term. Her brother, Austin,
who attended law school and became an attorney, lived next door with his wife, Susan Gilbert.
Dickinson’s younger sister, Lavinia, also lived at home, and she and Austin were intellectual companions
for Dickinson during her lifetime.
Dickinson’s poetry was heavily influenced by the Metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century England, as
well as her reading of the Book of Revelation and her upbringing in a Puritan New England town, which
encouraged a Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity.
She admired the poetry of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, as well as John Keats. Though she was
dissuaded from reading the verse of her contemporary Walt Whitman by rumors of its disgracefulness,
the two poets are now connected by the distinguished place they hold as the founders of a uniquely
American poetic voice. While Dickinson was extremely prolific as a poet and regularly enclosed poems in
letters to friends, she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. The first volume of her work was
published posthumously in 1890 and the last in 1955. She died in Amherst in 1886.
Upon her death, Dickinson’s family discovered forty handbound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems, or
“fascicles” as they are sometimes called. Dickinson assembled these booklets by folding and sewing five
or six sheets of stationery paper and copying what seem to be final versions of poems. The handwritten
poems show a variety of dash-like marks of various sizes and directions (some are even vertical). The
poems were initially unbound and published according to the aesthetics of her many early editors, who
removed her annotations. The current standard version of her poems replaces her dashes with an endash, which is a closer typographical approximation to her intention. The original order of the poems
was not restored until 1981, when Ralph W. Franklin used the physical evidence of the paper itself to
restore her intended order, relying on smudge marks, needle punctures, and other clues to reassemble
the packets. Since then, many critics have argued that there is a thematic unity in these small
collections, rather than their order being simply chronological or convenient. The Manuscript Books of
Emily Dickinson (Belknap Press, 1981) is the only volume that keeps the order intact.
Tips for Reading
Emily Dickinson once defined poetry this way: “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no
fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I
know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?”
Reading Dickinson’s poetry often leaves readers feeling exactly this way, because she names so incisively
many of our most troubling emotions and perceptions. But often, too, her poetry can make readers feel
this way because it baffles and challenges expectations of what a poem should be. “All men say ‘What’
to me” she complained (L271), and many of her readers still cry “What?” in their first encounters with
this dense and elusive poetry.
While every reader of Dickinson’s poems has his or her own approach to the poetry, here are some
suggestions for getting started on discoveries of her work:
1. Stay open to linguistic surprise. The characteristics that help to make Dickinson’s poetry so
intriguing—the absence of titles, her dense syntax, unusual vocabulary, imperfect rhyme
schemes, approaches to abstract ideas—can at first seem to obscure rather than illuminate her
2. Read the poem again. Dickinson begins one well-known poem “Tell all the truth but tell it
slant—” (Fr1263). The power of Dickinson’s poetry often comes from her playful but potent
sense of indirection. Trying to understand her poetry doesn’t mean solving it like a riddle, but
rather coming to recognize its slippery strategies. Read the poem a third time. Set it aside and
come back to it. Look at the poem with a friend.
3. Review Major Characteristics of Dickinson’s Poetry. How does the poem exemplify or confound
these characteristics?
4. Set aside the expectation that a poem has to “mean” one thing. A Dickinson poem is often not
the expression of any single idea but the movement between ideas or images. It offers that rare
privilege of watching a mind at work. The question of how we know anything comes alive as we
read Dickinson.
5. Try “filling in the blanks.” Sometimes Dickinson’s syntax is problematic—the poems are so
compressed! In lines where a verb or another critical word seems to be missing, what words
might create meaning? Don’t feel that there is only one possibility. The variorum editions of her
poetry reveal that she often thought of many alternative ways of expressing an idea. Looking at
her variant wordings for a poem can help illuminate its possibilities.
6. Don’t try to make the poem “about” Emily Dickinson. Dickinson writes in the lyric style, in
which the speaker of the poem is often referred to as “I.” While the poem may represent the
view of the poet, it also may not.
7. Look for recurring themes, images, and strategies in Dickinson’s poetry.
8. Get out the dictionary. Emily Dickinson once wrote, “ . . . for several years, my Lexicon was my
only companion” (L261). She had an exceptional command of the English language. Look up
words that are unfamiliar, or that she uses in unfamiliar ways. Try the new Dickinson Lexicon, an
on-line resource that defines all words used in Dickinson’s poetry with definitions from the
dictionary she herself owned, Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language.
9. Consult a Bible concordance. Dickinson also had an exceptional knowledge of the Bible.
Sometimes an unfamiliar word or image may be an allusion to a Biblical passage. A good
concordance to use is James Strong’s The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which is keyed to
the King James Version, the version that Dickinson read.
10. Read the poem aloud. Poetry is an ancient, oral tradition. Often reading a poem aloud can help
to elucidate its meaning. One of Dickinson’s early editors, Mabel Loomis Todd, convinced
Thomas Wentworth Higginson (her future co-editor) of the power of Dickinson’s poetry by
reading selections aloud to him.
1. In “They shut me up in Prose,” Emily Dickinson writes that being inside prose is “As when a little
Girl / They put me in the Closet –/ Because they liked me ‘still’ –” How does the musicality and
rhythm of this poem contribute to her idea of movement? Is there a place for being still in
Dickinson’s poems?
They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
Because they liked me “still” –
Still! Could themself have peeped –
And seen my Brain – go round –
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason – in the Pound –
Himself has but to will
And easy as a Star
Look down opon Captivity –
And laugh – No more have I –
2. In two of her poems about grief, Dickinson hints at the possibility of a greater truth coming from
sadness. In “There’s a certain slant of light” (258), she writes that the “Heavenly Hurt” gives us
“internal difference / where the meanings are.” In “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” (280), she writes
that it seems “That Sense was breaking through –” Read these two poems together. What kinds
of “sense” or “meaning” might she be suggesting?
3. “I’m nobody – who are you?” (288) is an invitation to loneliness. How does this poem or “I taste
a liquor never brewed” (214) invite the reader into the a kind of shared strangeness? Do you feel
separated or connected by the language?
4. “What Soft Cherubic Creatures” (401) is full of contractions, such as “refined horror” and
“common glory” as Dickinson describes the gentlewomen of her day. How do these contractions
affect your understanding of these women?
What soft, cherubic creatures
These gentlewomen are!
One would as soon assault a plush
Or violate a star.
Such dimity convictions,
A horror so refined
Of freckled human nature,
Of Deity ashamed, ?
It’s such a common glory,
A fisherman’s degree!
Redemption, brittle lady,
Be so, ashamed of thee.
5. In “I dwell in possibility” (657), Dickinson sets up “possibility” as the opposite of “prose.” How
does her poetry represent this idea of possibility? Using Dickinson’s metaphor of the house,
what does she suggest when she says that poetry is “more numerous of windows, superior – for
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –
In “The Soul Unto Itself” (683), Dickinson imagines that her soul is separate from herself. How
can a soul be a “friend” or “spy”? How might a soul be “secure against its own”?
7. In “I heard a Fly Buzz” (465), Dickinson imagines the moment of her own death. What role does
the fly play in this imagining? She writes “There interposed a Fly –/ With Blue – uncertain
stumbling Buzz –/ Between the light – and me.” What is her relationship to the fly?
This list is a start for you to begin compiling your own notes on Literary Terms and Movements (necessary for
journals and the exam).
Voice = who is speaking. Every time you have a new character speaking you have a new voice.
Ex: John says, “Hi Mike.”
Mike says, “Hi.”
Here you have two voices.
Narrator = the person telling the story
Narrative = the story itself
A narrator tells a narrative
Point of View = how much a narrator knows about the characters and events
1. First Person Point of View – narrator is a participant in the narrative
Identifiable by the use of the “I” pronoun
Ex. I walked down to the corner store.
2. Second Person P.O.V. – narrator addresses reader as “you”
Ex. You decide to brush your teeth before going out.
3. Third Person P.O.V. – narrator refers to characters as “he,” “she,” “they,” etc.
May talk about what they are thinking
Ex. He talks to her about the weather.
Literary significance of Point of View: “a way the events of a story are conveyed to the reader, it is the
‘vantage point’ from which the narrative is passed from author to the reader. The point of view can vary from
work to work. For example, in the Book of Genesis the objective third person point of view is presented, where
a “nonparticipant” serves as the narrator and has no insight into the characters’ minds. The narrator presents
the events using the pronouns he, it, they, and reveals no inner thoughts of the characters. In Edgar Allan Poe’s
short story “The Cask of Amontillado” the first person point of view is exhibited. In this instance the main
character conveys the incidents he encounters, as well as giving the reader insight into himself as he reveals
his thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Many other points of view exist, such as omniscient (or “all knowing”)
in which the narrator “moves from one character to another as necessary” to provide those character’s
respective motivations and emotions. Understanding the point of view used in a work is critical to
understanding literature; it serves as the instrument to relay the events of a story, and in some instances the
feelings and motives of the character(s)” Quoted from the Glossary of Literary Terms from the University of
North Carolina at Pembroke website http://www2.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/allam/general/glossary.htm
Types of Narrator
Reliable Narrator – a reliable narrator can be trusted to provide an accurate account of events and is
Unreliable narrator- cannot be trusted to provide an accurate telling
Intrusive Narrator – an intrusive narrator gives his or her own opinions on an event.
Rather than being objective, they are subjective.
Ex. If the sun is shining an intrusive narrator might say, “The sun was out and it was a beautiful
day.” By saying it was a beautiful day the narrator is intruded his or her opinion on the reader.
Tone = the attitude of the narrator; the mood of the piece
Tone can be established by analyzing diction and syntax.
Diction = word choice
Syntax = word order
If a narrator writes “ The angry man stood frowning and muttering swear words and the scared people that
walked by.”
The diction here “angry, frowning, scared” provides the tone of menace.
Irony: “a literary term referring to how a person, situation, statement, or circumstance is not as it would
actually seem. Many times it is the exact opposite of what it appears to be. There are many types of irony, the
three most common being verbal irony, dramatic irony, and cosmic irony. Verbal irony occurs when either the
speaker means something totally different than what he is saying or the audience realizes, because of their
knowledge of the particular situation to which the speaker is referring, that the opposite of what a character is
saying is true. Verbal irony also occurs when a character says something in jest that, in actuality, is true.
Dramatic irony occurs when facts are not known to the characters in a work of literature but are known by the
audience. Cosmic irony suggests that some unknown force brings about dire and dreadful events.” Quoted
from Glossary of Literary Terms from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke website
Figurative Language: “In both literature and daily communication, many sentences contains figurative
language. Figurative language makes meaning by asking the reader or listener to understand something by
virtue of its relation to some other thing, action, or image. Figurative language can be contrasted with literal
language, which describes something explicitly rather than by reference to something else.”
When you discuss form, you are commenting upon how something looks. Prose is literature that is written in
paragraph form with no line breaks, like there is in poetry.
There are two types of prose: fiction and non-fiction
Fiction is imaginative or invented prose
Novels: prose of a hundred pages or more
Short Stories: prose of less than 20 pages (“Rip Van Winkle”)
Novellas: prose of between 20 and 100 pages
Non-fiction is prose based on fact
Essay: a brief prose composition on a single topic (“Remarks Concerning the Savages of North
Biography: a story of a person’s life told by someone else
Autobiography: story of a person’s life told by him or herself ( Columbus’ letters)
Plot: the summary of the action and events of a story, including the words and deeds of the characters.
Structure of Plot:
• Conflict: Every story has a conflict, which is the struggle or opposition the main character feels and
or confronts.
• Exposition: this is the section of the plot where the characters and setting is introduced (Ex. In “Rip
Van Winkle” the exposition is up until Rip enters the forest.)
• Rising Action: this is where the conflict begins (When Rip enters the forest).
• Climax: this is where the conflict is resolved (When Rip meets his daughter and discovers what has
happened to him).
• Falling Action: this is any action that occurs after the climax (Where Rip explains what he
remembers of his journey into the forest).
• Denouement: this is the resolution of the story which illustrates what happens later to the characters
(Where Rip spends the rest of his life telling stories).
Characters are the invented people in fiction.
• Protagonist: the protagonist is the main character, not the same as the narrator, although the main
character can sometimes be the narrator. The protagonist is not always a “good” character, like in
“Tell-Tale Heart.” (Rip would be the protagonist of “Rip Van Winkle.)
• Antagonist: the antagonist is the real or symbolic force that conflicts against the protagonist (Dame
Van Winkle, for example.)
• Characters can be either round or flat.
o Round characters: have some sort of emotional depth, are three dimensional and often change
(the protagonist of “Tell-Tale Heart” for example).
o Flat Characters: do not change and only behave in one manner (Rip Van Winkle behaves the
same throughout the story; therefore, he would be considered flat).
Setting: Where, when and under what circumstances the story takes place. Often details in the setting are
significant to the story. They might set the mood or contain an important symbol. For instance, in “The Yellow
Wallpaper,” the wallpaper, the bedroom and the garden are each pieces of the setting that have great symbolic
Poetry is different in form from prose and one can see that just by how poetry looks on the page. Lines are
broken to change the meaning.
The line “John fell down the stairs” is prose.
However in poetry one could write:
and the reader’s eye, like John, falls down.
Poetry uses images (words or phrases that stimulate the senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell).
Images in poems can have two meanings: literal and symbolic.
A literal meaning is what the words actually mean, where symbolic meaning is what the words
represent. Wedding rings are symbols; if you lose your ring you are no less married.
There are different forms of poetry. Some poems, like Dickinson’s, are organized by rhyme, syllabics
(how many syllables are in a line) and meter (the rhythm or beats in a line). Whitman wrote in free
verse which is poetry without any fixed patterns, or poetry that adheres to unconventional structure.
The last of the three literary forms also looks much different on the page.
There are two types of drama:
Tragedy: where the protagonist fails to overcome the conflict
Comedy: typically humorous, absurd and containing a happy ending
Structure of Drama:
Dramas are mainly considered a script for the actors who perform them, so there’s nothing wrong with seeing
dramas performed since that is how they were intended.
Join Week 2 Live Session for a lesson on Gothic literature, regionalism, realism and romanticism.
Transcendentalism was a philosophical and literary movement that developed in New England in the 1830s and
40s. Transcendentalists believed that one could transcend or go beyond everyday reality through communion
with nature, intuition and searching inwardly rather than through the doctrines of established
religions. Emerson and Thoreau in particular emphasized the importance of seeking a higher reality in Nature.
Naturalism is an offshoot of Realism and has the same emphasis on detailed, accurate descriptions. It goes
further, however, in describing some of the gorier details of the less aesthetic side of life. There is also an
emphasis on the effects of society on the lower classes, and these are usually not positive.
Join Week 3 Live Session for a full lesson on Modernism.
Check out this site: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_harlem.html
Check out the definition on this site: https://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_P.html
“Mary Louise Pratt’s term in Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992) for social places
(understood geographically) and spaces (understood ethnographically) where disparate cultures meet and try to
come to terms with each other. It is used quite widely in literary studies and Cultural Studies as well as
Postcolonial Studies as a general term for places where white western travellers have encountered their cultural,
ethnic, or racial other and been transformed by the experience. Contact zones are most often trading posts or
border cities, cities where the movement of peoples and commodities brings about contact. See also creoleness;
hybridity.” From Oxford Reference @
Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”: Lesson & Activity
CULTURAL LEARNING OBJECTIVE: crisis of existence and gender issue through Sylvia Plath’s
LITERARY LEARNING OBJECTIVE: analyzing a “confessional” poem, including form, voice, tone,
and stylistic devices.
Analyze Plath’s description of her father.
a. Fill in the banks with the given details:
Appearance: …………………………….. (moustache, bright blue eyes)
Origin: ………………………………….. (I thought every German was you)
Job: ………………………………………. (Teacher : You stand at the black board)
Clothes: …………………………………. (A man in black)
b. List the figures the speaking voice compares her father to:
(1-5 lines) ………………………. Black shoe
(6-10 lines)……………………… Marble heavy, a bag full of God, Ghastly statue
(46-50 lines) ……………………… Swastika
(51-54 lines) ……………………….. devil
(71-75 lines) ……………………….. vampire
Write down the autobiographical details contained in the poem:
Line 57 ………………………….. I was ten when they buried you
Line 58 …………………………… At twenty I tried to die
Lines 72-74 …………………………. Seven years
Now focus on the narrator’s feelings.
Find the lines where the speaking voice explains how she felt towards her father and match
them with the corresponding adjectives:
Trapped = …………………………………….
Inferior = ……………………………………..
Inhibited = ……………………………………
Scared = ………………………………………
Victimized = ………………………………….
Broken-Hearted = …………………………….
How does the speaking voice feel about her father?
Ask to analyze the structure and the language of the poem.
The striking appeal of this poem is created by particular devices:
– structure: the poem is made up of …….. stanzas;
– stanza form: the stanzas consists of ………. lines each, the most recurrent stanza form in Plath’s
– rhymes : is there any regular rhyme?
– use of personal subject: What effects does the use of I suggest ?
– figures of speech : Which of them is most frequently used?
Define the tone of the poem choosing from among these adjectives:
joyful – aggressive – exaggerated – childish – resentful – forgiving – anguished – plain
Daddy is a multisensorial poem based on contrasts and unpredictable shifts. Can you identify
them? Follow these prompts and discuss your ideas with the whole class.
Setting and places
Give the definition of “Confessional poetry”.
Finally, ask to recognize the themes of the poem and reflect on its general meaning:
The poem contains recurrent themes in Sylvia Plath’s poetry. Tick the one(s) you consider
most convincing:
Dissolution of the self
Life and death
The relation between art and death
The uncontrollable mutation of biological life
Memory of past experiences
The misuse of technology
Gender issue
Focus on the poet’s relationship with the two crucial male figures in her life. In your opinion,
does her private position of a dominated and oppressed woman can be extended to the
general condition in society?

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