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. Read and study the following excerpt from Edgar J. Roberts' anthology: Reading and Writing about Literature • "We use the word literature, in a broad sense, to mean compositions that tell stories, dramatize situations, express emotions, and analyze and advocate ideas. Before the invention of writing thousands of years ago, literary works were necessarily spoken or sung, and they were retained only as long as living people continued to repeat them. In some societies, the oral tradition of literature still exists. Even in our modern age of writing and printing, much literature is still heard aloud rather than read silently. Parents delight their children with stories and poems; poets and story writers read their works directly before live audiences; plays and scripts are interpreted on stages and before movie and television cameras for the benefit of a vast public." • No matter how we assimilate literature, we gain much from it. In truth, readers cannot often explain why they enjoy reading, for goals and ideals are not easily articulated. There are, however, areas of general agreement about the value of systematic and extensive reading.
Literature helps us grow, both personally and intellectually • It opens doors for us • It develops our imagination, increases our understanding, and deepens our power of sympathy • It helps us see the beauty in the world around us • It links us with the cultural, philosophical, and religious world of which we are a part • It enables us to recognize human dreams and struggles in different places and times • It helps us develop mature sensibility and compassion for all living beings. • It enables us to see worthiness in the aims of otherwise seemingly unworthy people.
It nurtures our ability to appreciate the beauty of natural order and arrangement--gifts that are also captured by a well-structured song, a beautifully painted canvas, or a well-chiseled piece of sculpture • It exercises our emotions through interest, concern, sympathy, tension, excitement, regret, fear, laughter, and hope • It encourages us to assist creative and talented people who need recognition and support. Through our cumulative experience in reading, literature shapes our goals and values by clarifying our own identities--both positively, through acceptance of the admirable in human beings, and negatively, through rejection of the sinister • It enables us to develop perspectives on events occurring locally and globally, and thereby it gives us understanding and control • It is one of the shaping influences of life. • It makes us human.
After reading the short description of literature excerpted above, apply some of the ideas about why we read literature to any novel, play, poem or short story you have read for an English class. Identify the work and author and complete the writing assignment below. • Consider the previous statements. Comment on how and why was able to achieve (or not achieve) one or two of these characteristics of literature.
Final Paragraph from James Joyce’s The Dead • A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, further westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
A collection of short stories published in 1907, Dubliners revolves around the everyday lives of men, women and children in the Irish capital of Dublin during the late Victorian era. Generally unhappy tales, they form a chronicle of lost innocence, eroding faith, missed opportunities, subtle hypocrisies, devastating ironies, and paralysis – always moral and intellectual paralysis. • Of all the stories, the final one – The Dead – gets the most attention. Concerning an intellectual but frustrated writer named Gabriel Conroy, the story takes place during a single evening, a wintry night when Gabriel discovers that a dead lover haunts his wife’s past. The novel concludes with one of the most famous passages in English Literature.
Argument • Critics have asserted that this is one of the most beautifully written paragraphs in existence. • In a paragraph or two, argue whether or not this assertion is deserving. Use specific evidence from the text to support your ideas.
Gabriel’s sleepiness and the imagery of snow, along with the repetition of “falling” again and again, give the paragraph the feeling of softly floating down to its ending. It feels like the ending of the story is slipping down bit by bit, lightly and beautifully like the snowflakes themselves. This paragraph also has possibly the most complete feeling of any ending ever, because the snow covers everything: starting with all of Ireland, the hills, the plain, the seas, the focus then shifts inward to the churchyard where one human is buried, to all the crosses and headstones and thorns in that single churchyard. Everything, large and small, is covered by the falling snow; everything, large and small, will come to an end; the ending of the story encompasses everything. And the final sentence—well, the final sentence lends such a vivid image of a soul swooning—a soul, swooning—through the falling snow, the snow that’s falling through the universe—the universe, yes, snow falls through the entire universe—like the descent of their last end—the ending end, redundantly eloquent—upon all the living and the dead. All of it. The repetition of “faintly falling” and “falling faintly,” the antithesis of all “the living and the dead,” and the association of a soul and falling snow create a final sentence that brings the whole story to land slowly upon soft white blankness. I don’t know that it’s possible to quantify the “best” paragraph ever, but the imagery, the diction, the sense of finality are good—very, very good.