Introduction to Literature

Dear Class,

Before you post your individual introduction post, please review the following power point and read the lecture notes as the second half of your post must respond to literature.

Introduction to Literature –review this power point as you read the lecture notes below

This course is an extension of the work you completed in your Freshman composition. This course, however, will focus on critical reading and critical thinking in regards to literature.

To understand this, consider the quotes as noted in the power point (slide 2).  These quotes define literature to be one of a written production.  According to Aristotle, literature “holds the mirror up to nature” because what is written comes from life’s experiences–think about Oscar Wilde’s idea that “literature anticipates life.”  What we read contains universal themes, spiritual and physical settings–places , and different points of view.  The characters we will meet exhibit characteristics and qualities of personalities that exist in society.

“All the creative works of man” informs us that literature is all that is written–beyond what most of us know of fiction and non-fiction.    From fairy tales to dramatic presentations to poetry (the Spoken Word).  Can you think of others?   One other point to make about literature is that it is meant to be read aloud.  We will learn this when discussing poetry and the play.

Literature is about telling stories–stories we have read again and again.  We must also understand that literature has its purposes.  For one, a writer has a need to convey his/her personal vision to reader.  As readers, we see the world through our own experiences and knowledge of it.  The writer, then, will show a vision of the world we may not have experienced before or one we may not have considered.   Therefore, the writer will give a unique view of life’s experiences.  Most of us have experienced disappointments, but a writer can create a picture of it through the thoughts and feelings and actions of a character to show us what disappointment really looks like.   By highlighting on the actions of characters, the writer creates memorable images of them that their names are understood by these actions, like Hamlet.  Language, too, is developed to illicit emotions.  Lastly, a reader is able to see a writer’s life more clearly through his ability to tell a story by how it is told and how much is told.

Literature anticipates life through the universal themes developed.  The most common are loss of innocence–a state of mind, not physical. For example, if someone has not experienced death, then that person is innocent to understanding death and being emphatic to someone who has experienced it.  The individual vs. society is common as well in regards to characters who choose not to live by the dictates of society.  In the story of “A Rose for Emily”, Miss Emily Grierson clashes with the townspeople as she lives mentally in a different world.  The conflict of parent and child is exemplified in the novel, Frankenstein. The “father” rejects “child” and each will suffer consequences for their actions.  The impact of past on present is ever-present in literature.  One cannot escape one’s past–it’s always there when turning/looking back.   Other basic themes are abstract concepts like disillusionment, justice, honor, frustration.

Finally, in understanding literature, it is important to review the elements of literature.  The first element we will review is plot–the way a story is told.  Setting is more than just time and place.  We want to understand the types of setting and the purpose of setting.  Characters are defined as individualized personalities.  A theme is the central point of the story.  Some stories have more than one theme.  Point of view is how a story is told.  We will review the 5 different methods.  Figurative language,including symbol, myth, and allusion, allows the writer to stretch language to its limit.  As you read the stories, critically read how and why of these elements used.


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