LITERATURE. Introduction to Humanities. Literature Chapter 7. Literature is an art whose medium is language used to affect the imagination. Words themselves can evoke a response even when they are spoken independently of a grammatical setting, such as a sentence.
LITERATURE Introduction to Humanities
LiteratureChapter 7 • Literature is an art whose medium is language used to affect the imagination. • Words themselves can evoke a response even when they are spoken independently of a grammatical setting, such as a sentence. • Fiction writers and poets share many of the techniques of literature because their effects depend on universal language art.
Literature as spoken language • Treating literature as spoken language points up its relationship to other serial arts such as music, dance, and film. • Literature happens in time. • In order to perceive it, we must be aware of what is happening now, remember what happed before and anticipate what is to come.
A Work of Literature • A work of literature is, in one sense, a construction of separable elements like architecture. • The details of a scene, a character or event, or a symbol pattern can be conceived of as the bricks in the wall of literary structure. • If one of these details is imperfectly understood, out understanding of the total structure will be imperfect.
The Literary Theme • The theme (main idea) of a literary work is usually structural, comparable to an architectural decision: • Is it a house, church, urban mall, airport, or garage? • Once we have explored some of the basic structures of literature, we will examine some of the more important details.
Literary Terms • But in a work of literature language is rarely that simple. • Language has denotation: a literal level where words mean what they obviously say, • And connotation: a subtler level at which words mean more than they obviously say.
Literary Terms • The symbol, simile, metaphor, images, and diction (word choices) are the main details of literary language that we will examine. • All these details are found in poetry, fiction, drama, and even the essay.
LITERARY STRUCTURES • The Narrative and the Narrator • The narrative is a story told to an audience by a teller controlling the order of events and the emphasis those event receive. • Most narratives concentrate upon the events. • But some narratives have very little action: • They reveal depth of character through responses to action.
Narrative Structures • The term “episodic narrative” describes one of the oldest kinds of literature, • Often used in the epic, as in Homer’s Odyssey. • The overall structure of the story centering on the adventures of Odysseus, but each adventure is almost a complete structure in itself.
Narratives cont’d • We develop a sense of the character of Odysseus as we follow him in his adventures, but this does not always happen in episodic literature. • Often the adventures are completely disconnected from one another, and the thread that is intended to connect everything – the personality of the main character (protagonist) is not strong enough to keep thing together.
Narratives cont’d • The organic narrative connects every action and every character in subtle ways so that as the narrative unfolds, • the reader is given more and more information about all the events of the story.
THE QUEST NARRATIVE • The quest narrative is simple enough on the surface: a hero sets out in search of a valuable treasure that must be found and rescued at all cost. • Such, in simple terms, is the plot of almost every adventure yarn and adventure film ever written.
The Quest Narrative • The quest structure in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is so deeply rooted in the novel that the protagonist has no name. • We know a great deal about him because he narrates the story and tells us about himself. • He is Black, southern, and as a young college student, ambitious.
Cont’d • His earliest heroes are George Washing Carver and Booker T. Washington. • He craves the dignity and the opportunity he associates with their lives. • But things go wrong. He is dismissed unjustly from his college in the south and must, like Odysseus, leave home to seek his fortune.
He imagines himself destined for better things and eagerly pursues his fate, finding a place to live and work up North, Beginning to find his identity as a black man. • He discovers the sophisticated urban society of New York City, the political subtleties of communism, the pains of black nationalism, and the realities of his relationship to white people, to whom he is an invisible man.
Yet he does not hate the whites, and in his own image of himself he remains as invisible man. • The novel ends with the protagonist in an underground place he has found and which he has lighted, by tapping the lines of the electric company, with almost 200 electric light bulbs.
Despite this colossal illumination, he still cannot think of himself as visible. • He ends his quest with out discovering who he is beyond this fundamental fact: he is invisible. • Black or white, we can identify in many ways with this quest, for Ellison is showing us that invisibility is in all of us.
THE LYRIC • The lyric structure, virtually always a poem, primarily reveals a limited but deep feeling about something or event. • The lyric is often associated with the feelings of the poet, although we have already seen that it is not difficult for poest to create narrators distinct from themselves and to explore hypothetical feelings.
Lyriccont’d • If we participate we find ourselves caught up in the emotional situation of the lyric. • Poets can understand and interpret emotions without necessarily undergoing them. • The lyric has feeling – emotion, passion, or mood – as basic in its subject matter.
LITERARY DETAILSTHE IMAGE • An image in language asks us to imagine or “picture” what is referred to or being described. • Most images appeal to our sense of sight, but sound, taste, odor, and touch are often involved. • One of the most striking resources of language is its capacity to help us reconstruct in our imagination the “reality” of perceptions.
The Metaphor • Metaphor helps writers intensify language. • Metaphor is a comparison designed to heighten our perception of the thing compared. • Poets or writers will usually let us know which of the things compared is the main object of their attention.
The Symbol • The symbol is a further use of metaphor. • Being a metaphor, it is a comparison between two things; but unlike most perceptual and conceptual metaphors, only one of the things compared is clearly stated. • The symbol is clearly stated, but what it is compared with (sometimes a very broad range of meanings) is only hinted at.
Symbols cont’d • For instance, the white whale in Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick, is a symbol both in the novel and in the mind of Captain Ahab, who sees the whale as a symbol of all the malevolence and evil in a world committed to evil. • We may believer that the whale is simply a beast and not a symbol at all.
Symbols cont’d • Or, we may believe that the whale is a symbol for nature, which is constantly being threatened by human misunderstanding. • Such a symbol can mean more than one thing. • It is the peculiar quality of changing. • Symbols are usually vague and ambiguous.
MOTHER TO SON • Well, son, I’ll tell you: • Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair • It’s had tacks in it, • And splinters, • And boards torn up, • And places with no carpet on the floor - - • Bare. • But all the time • I’se been a – Climbin’ on • And reachin’ landins, • And turnin’ corners • And sometimes goin’ in the dark • Where there ain’t been no light. • So boy, don’t you turn back. • Don’t you set down on the steps • ‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard. • Don’t you fall now – • I’se still climbin’, • And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. • By Langston Hughes
Symbols cont’d • The most important thing to remember about the symbol is that it implies rather than explicitly states meaning.
DICTION Diction refers to the choice of words. “To be, or not to be.” The careful use of diction can sometimes aid a satirist, whose intention is to say one thing and mean another.
Summary • Literature is not passive; it does not sit on the page. It is engaged actively in the lives of those who give it a chance. • Reading aloud a literary piece clarifies this point. • The authors are especially interested in two aspects of literature: its structure and its details. • composed of an overall organization that gathers details into some kind of unity;
Summary continued • Before we can understand how writers reveal the visions they have of their subject matter we need to be aware of how details are combined into structures. • The use of image, metaphor, symbol, and diction, as well as other details, determines the content of a work of literature. • -30-