Thursday, November 10, 2011

Literary Analysis, Introduction

Recently, the Blue Bookcase hosted a blog hop about analytical reading.  It sparked a great deal of conversation among the bloggers who participated, and I personally spent a considerable amount of time reading the various posts and comments.   In fact, the comment sections were unusually full of conversation, and I found the discussion beneath them every bit as interesting as each person's initial posting.  There was quite a bit of variety in the responses, ranging from detailed instruction about a specific literary theory to somewhat worried concerns. 

I think that one of the key components directing the discussion was that "literary analysis" is so vague that we all responded based on our various understandings of that term.  Is analysis the purposeful application of one of the Norton Anthology's specified theories of criticism?  Is analysis breaking down the work minutely in order to study each word that passes?  Is analysis pinpointing the way that the reading impacted you personally/emotionally?  Is analysis thinking about the book for a few minutes while writing a review?  Is analysis studying the work as a whole to find a subtle undercurrent?

I don't think that there is a definitive answer for these questions, and I won't attempt to create one.  However, I want to pursue this for a little longer using my individual understanding of analysis in the hope that it may be interesting or helpful to any of you readers.  At the same time, I hope that this series will allow you all to teach me more about each of the measure of analysis I will mention because I am certain you all have insight I could use.  Reading through your thoughtful comments in the blog hop assured me of that, if nothing else. 

So my plan is to present a couple of the primary literary philosophies I consider when I am engaged in analysis.  I will refer to specific books I've reviewed in the past that should help provide examples.  Please note that I am not a literature professor and do not pretend to have the authority to present this series as such.  I am not writing this to act as a teacher but to continue the discussion we have already begun.  Moreover, I am hoping that you will all teach me more in the process.

Ok, let's begin...

Part One: Existentialism
Part Two: Feminism
Part Three: Metanarrative


Andrew Shaughnessy said...

Interesting. Have you thought about using specific books that deal fairly explicitly, or at least on purpose, with different frameworks of literary analysis? Specifically I'm thinking of Eco, who is really into postmodernism, the fragility of text and symbol, and reader response theory, all of which come out as major players in his books. Or Rushdie with his simultaneous narrative and exploring the construction/destruction of historical truth in the historic consciousness and in text itself.

Jennifer said...

I actually took a little bit of a break from blogging in the hopes of focusing my reading in a more analytical direction. It didn't quite turn out the way I had hoped.

Still, I love that bloggers are discussing this because analysis is a difficult thing. I am in a teacher training program right now and when I work with students regarding analysis, they are constantly baffled. I'm hoping that through the series of posts you are preparing, I will get some ideas of things I can discuss with them -- and I promise to try to make some contributions to the discussion, which I'm sure will be rich with insights.