Medical Humanities: Major 20 and 21 Writers seen through the Literature and Medicine Theme

This is a core elective literature class in the McGhee division of New York University


Professor Julia Keefer
Course Number LITR1-UC6201, Semester Fall 2015, 4 credits
Office Hours Professor Keefer is available by email any time at, at 212-734-1083 for emergencies, in the FORUM for questions and answers, on a back-up outside listserv, and at the Palladium Saturday mornings after kickboxing , or Student Council meetings, or Literary Readings and Cultural Tours sponsored by our New York Literary Club where we will actually meet some of the authors we are reading!

Course Description
Major Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Writers is an introduction to the work of significant global writers from early Modernism to the twenty-first century in the Anglo-American, European, South American, African, Middle Eastern, and Asian clusters. Most of these writers have won the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, Dublin IMPAC, the Prix Goncourt, or others, and almost all have been censored by someone at some time. These books also represent a wide range of styles including naturalist, realist, fantasy, science-fiction, modernist, minimalist, post-modern, terrorist, and eco-literary, covering a fascinating time period through two World Wars, utopias and dystopias, terrorism, media proliferation, and incredible innovation and destruction because of science, technology and the ravages of nature.  Studying global literature allows us to dig deeper beneath the surface of global affairs and to plunge into the heart and soul of courageous, creative writers who dared defy the norm and transgress societal taboos in their pursuit of art and truth. This semester we will explore how great authors treat the themes of love, suffering, disease, disability, and environmental destruction across cultures.

Course Objectives

  1. To enhance critical thinking and analytical skills through weekly close textual analyses of passages from the reading list
  2. To sharpen skills for close textual analysis, learning the vocabulary of prosody, understanding the power of connotative language, and situating the passage within the dramatic structure and narrative sequencing of the novel
  3. To improve your writing (voice, fluency, argumentation, expression, artistry) through weekly analyses and participation  
  4. To foster a love of great literature by reading books you might not normally read although you can choose your favorites to study in-depth from a wide selection 
  5. To get an overview of the major literary movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by studying the content in the Lessons (scroll over this entire web site to review before you submit weekly CTs on Monday)
  6. To experience literature from the inside, empathizing with the courageous writer who rebelled against social norms
  7. To study the ethical, religious, intellectual, and sexual dynamics of a given society to determine why they would find certain fiction offensive
  8. To understand and respect cultural differences and diversity without being stymied by a politically-correct protocol by comparing and contrasting great writing from different cultures in your cross-cultural midterm essay and then your final essay
  9. To establish initiative, independence, and academic leadership by writing your midterm and final on a theme of your choice related to your interests and the reading list, using your weekly CTs as evidence.
    To improve long-term memory with the weekly CCCC or cross-cultural comparison and contrast of all books read so far.
    To create a positive online learning experience through group participation, discussion, and occasional cross-editing of the close textual analyses, as well as special projects such as the Creativity, Dissidence, and Egyptian Revolution, the Symposium on International Relations, Leadership, and Global Literature, the Ecodisciplinary Conference, and the Censored Literature Symposium, the Kingsolver Skype Retrospective  or publishing in Professor Keefer's international online journals
  10. THE CLASS PROJECT FOR FALL 2015 is a screening of Blindness followed by a blinded discussion on kinds of imagery in global literature and people with disabilities on November 12 and a Dream Job Colloquium with Wasserman November 19.

Course Requirements

Buy and peruse all books on the reading list--some are very short. 

  1. Read through all Lessons ASAP and then study the ones that you need thoroughly for that week's assignment.
    Lessons are recursive and referential to help you with assignments. Consult them as you need them.
  2. Submit Close Textual Analysis followed by your CCCC (Cross-Cultural Comparison and Contrast) by Tuesday 9am every week. Proofread carefully.
  3. You cannot get an A if you miss more than one CT upload to Resources.

Course Prerequisites
There are no course prerequisites as Major Twentieth Century Writers is open to all majors. However, it helps if you have already completed the basic writing courses and are comfortable with a challenging reading list.


Close Textual Analysis on the weekly book must be submitted to the Drop Box in Resources by Tuesday 9am.

Midterm is the expanded, enriched, edited version of at least 4CTs and threaded by forum posts.

Final paper is an expanded version of the midterm, with 4 more CTs threaded by forums posts and your evolving thesis.

Required Reading
Although all these books are required, you will only have to read eight of your choice in depth.
Mr. g by Alan Lightman
Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman (optional 100 Names for Love)
Three Essays by Feminists: "On Being Ill" by Virginia Woolf in the same book as "Notes from Sick Rooms" by her mother Julia Stephen, and Simone de Beauvoir's "A Very Easy Death"
Kafka's Stories in Resources
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (1930)
The Plague by Albert Camus (1947)
Memoir of a Woman Doctor by Nawal el Saadawi (1957-1987)
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1985)
In this rich novel that sprawls through time and space with the fecundity of an Amazonian jungle, love becomes the sickness, the addiction that causes pain and suffering, but also hope and transcendence. Except for its beauty, love is often like cholera.
Blindness by Jose Saramago (1995)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby (1997)
Imagine suddenly going into a coma at age 43 as a result of a stroke, becoming quadriplegic, and then writing this beautiful memoir with the help of a secretary/transcriber who offers the alphabet as you blink your one good eye to choose the letter. This excruciatingly laborious process must be fertilized by an acute memory, a vast vision, and a palatial imagination, not to mention Bauby’s wry sense of humor and refined sensuality. And yet looking at him drooling and crumbled on his hospital bed one would think his mind was in the vegetative state.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Saturday by Ian McEwan (2009)
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (2009)
Born in Ethiopia during a traumatic birth where his unwed nun mother died and a surrogate dad quickly severed the lethal connection to his twin brother,
A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar ben Jelloun (2009) Au Pays
The Dark Road by Ma Jian (2012)
Frog by Mo Yan (2015)

Optional Reading
Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (1917-1921)
Palace of Desire (third tome of the Cairo Trilogy) by Naguib Mahfouz (1957-1991)
The Local Anesthetic by Gunter Grass (1969)
Exit the King (1963)
The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace
Angels in America by Tony Kushner
Old People on the Nursing Home Porch by Mark Strand
The Way We Live Now by Susan Sontag
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
The Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Waiting by Ha Jin
End Point and other Poems by John Updike
Everyman by Philip Roth
The Torch and Autobiography of a Surgeon by Wilder Penfield
Charming Billy by Alice McDermott

Course Outline: Classes meet every Thursday from 6:20 to 8:50. We will usually begin promptly with focusing exercises and in-class writing, followed by a lecture, discussion, class projects, a screening, and oral presentations after the midterm. You must also post in the forums during the week. CTs and CCCCs are due on the same WORD document before Tuesday am every week in the Fall Drop Box in Resources in NYU Classes. Read Lightman's Mr. g and introduce yourselves in the Introduce Forum before the first class.

September 3: Introductory lectures on Twentieth Century authors, cultural foundations, the basics of close textual analysis. Discussion of Lightman. Lecture on Ackerman and the Natural History of the Senses. Read Ackerman for next week. Compare and Contrast Lightman and Ackerman for first CT due September 8.
September 10: Compare and contrast Ackerman and Lightman. Lecture on Sense Imagery of the first cluster. Expand CT on Lightman and Ackerman for September 15. Read Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
September 17: Diving Bell and the Butterfly. What does it feel like to be paralyzed and write your last book by blinking your left eyelash?
September 24: Kafka's stories.
October 2: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
October 9: Cluster Two: Doctors as Protagonists. Saturday by Ian McEwan
October 16: Memoirs of a Woman Doctor by Dr. Nawal el Saadawi
October 23: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
October 30: Midterm due with at least four CTs and CCCs expanded, edited, and threaded with your themes.
November 5: Sick Societies, Cluster Three begins. Read three essays by Virginia Woolf, Julia Stephen, and Simone de Beauvoir. Continue reading on your own for oral presentations on your chosen books. CTs and CCCCs on these essays due November 10.
November 12: Screening of Blindness followed by a discussion blindfolded. CT due on Blindness or Love in the Time of Cholera on November 17.
November 19: Wasserman Dream Job Colloquium.
November 26: Thanksgiving.
December 3: Oral Presentations on Cluster Three. Possible choices: Death in Venice, Magic Mountain, The Plague, Frog, The Dark Road, A Palace in the Old Village or an approved book of your choice.
December 10: Oral Presentations on Cluster Three.
December 17: Final papers due. Each student gives a talk on their final and reads aloud a few new paragraphs.

Rubric for Assessment of Midterm/Final

Attendance Policy: Attendance and participation, including weekly CT and CCCC submissions to the Drop Box, class attendance, and forum posts are 50% of the total grade. Every time you miss a class or an assignment you get F. You cannot get an A if you have more than one F in my Progress Report. I am not in a position to evaluate the excuses of adult students and because all the lectures are online in two different locations as well as delivered orally on site, you can do the work if you want to.  The writing is recursive as you edit and develop weekly assignments into midterm and final, not only to help improve your writing and literary analysis, but to give you time for reflection and improvement. Everyone is busy and your commitment to academe is just as important as your commitment to work and family.

PLAGIARISM: "Plagiarism is presenting someone else's work as though it were one's own. More specifically,

plagiarism is to present as one's own a sequence of words quoted without quotation marks

from another writer; a paraphrased passage from another writer's work; creative images,

artwork, or design; or facts or ideas gathered, organized, and reported by someone else, orally

and/or in writing and not providing proper attribution. Since plagiarism is a matter of fact, not

of the student's intention, it is crucial that acknowledgement of the sources be accurate and

complete. Even where there is no conscious intention to deceive, the failure to make

appropriate acknowledgment constitutes plagiarism. Penalties for plagiarism range from

failure for a paper or course to dismissal from the University."

CCCC Rubric to Evaluate Final Paper

Your final paper (20-40 pages, due in the Drop Box is based on the theme and threads of the Forum or hypothesis you developed throughout the semester. You can quote and evaluate the ideas of classmates. Organize and evaluate claims and counterclaims and use all the ideas to refine and develop your thesis. Your paper should include quotations from the literature to back-up all ideas. Compare and contrast the different points of view and literary styles of the cultures in the various clusters. This paper is a combination of analysis and synthesis, stamped with your personal perspective and journey through the literature, threaded by the course theme and your writing.

The acronym for this rubric is CCCC. Cross Cultural, Connotative Language, Claims and Counterclaims in your Chosen Forum, Correct Sentences

25% Cross-cultural comparison and contrast. Look at the similarities and differences between cultures. Identify what you consider to be the indigenous roots of a culture and how hybrid cultures have developed, for example, with Moroccan and French writer Tahar ben Jelloun, or Chinese and French writers Gao Xi Jiang and Dai Sijie. Analyze the different approaches to dramatic structure and narrative sequencing and style between the Arabic, Anglo-American, Modern/Postmodern Joyce versus Rushdie, Twentieth Century European, and the Soviet/Nazi/Maoist clusters. Make sure that the comparison and contrast you do provides evidence to support the claims or counterclaims in your chosen forum.

25% Claims and Counterclaims.

Although the title of your Forum is a theme such as Literature and Technology or The Power of Knowledge or Literature and Food, analyze the threads for emergent claims and counterclaims, position stances related to some of the literature. Whenever you make a claim, CONNECT the literature to that claim with quotations from the texts. Organize and evaluate these claims so that a thesis does emerge. This isn't as tight a thesis as you would have for a Writing Workshop II paper or a Senior Thesis, but it should guide your paper and help the reader to understand your investigation.

25% Connotative Language refers to your attention to the aesthetics of the literary style. This refers to what you have learned by analyzing the connotative aspects of language in your weekly CTs. If denotative language refers to the dictionary meaning, connotative language suggests emotion, thought, analogies, allusions, and music. It is what distinguishes literature from expository writing. If the original language is English, you can analyze tone color such as rhythm, rhyme, meter, assonance, consonance, alliteration and the complexity of the vocabulary. If it is translated, you can still analyze figures of speech such as metaphor, simile, and personification, symbolism, kind of sensory imagery (olfactory, gustatory, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, synthesthetic), the sentence length and paragraph progression. It's not enough to point out these devices. You need to relate them to your thesis and your ideas. What kind of language supports religious fundamentalism? What kind of language is the most beautiful and to whom? What kind of language enhances knowledge or power? How is language related to food? And so forth. Use your weekly CTs to help with this analysis.

25% of the grade is always devoted to your personal writing style. While Joyce and Rushdie can play with language with modernist and postmodern literature, academic, critical writing must be presented in grammatically-correct sentences with MLA format. Proofread carefully as 25% of the grade of the final paper is related to your ability to write correctly and powerfully.

The midterm must include at least 4 CTs and the final 8 CTs but you can use all books! Have fun!

Introduction to Close Textual Analysis
Write out a passage from the book, approximately one page, triple-spaced, numbering every line. The triple spaces are for you to analyze meter, long and short stresses, or note figures of speech, and to really focus on the exact words the author has written. You do not write your essay in between these spaces. Your analysis comes after the passage in standard MLA format with good sentence structure and paragraph progression. In the age of the Internet, it is easy to get literary analyses and critical theory, so it is important for you to focus on your intimate relationship with the text and what it means to you. As such, I will not be giving examples of the ideal textual analysis. In fact, there is no ideal analysis, because every text is different and you are all different from each other. It's not objective like arithmetic. This lesson will give you guidelines to help you with the vocabulary and structure of analysis, but you must make it your own, edit it, and improve upon it throughout the semester. At this introductory level, pass/fail grades are given because analyses can always get better. I know a PhD candidate who has been analyzing Yeats for the past forty years. Be patient with yourselves, read closely, and focus carefully, but use your imaginations to interpret the text your way.
Analyze the passage for intrinsic and extrinsic meaning, relationship to the rest of the text, rhetorical devices, structure, and aesthetics. Even though you are concentrating on a single passage, it is important that you read the entire work to understand its relationship to the whole. First of all you must understand the denotative and connotative meanings of every word in the text. Use your thesaurus and dictionary frequently so that you understand every possible meaning, even when you think you know what is being said. Then analyze sentence structure (simple, complex, compound, compound-complex) and paragraph structure and progression in a novel or short story, dialogue and action in a play, prosody if a poem. Most of your works are novels but you should also know how to analyze poetry.

When you analyze language, place close attention to both diction, or choice of words, (formal, informal, colloquial, concrete, abstract) and rhetorical devices. Even prose passages can be scanned to determine rhythm. It is not enough to identify these devices-- you must relate them to the whole, and evaluate their impact on story, dramatic structure, narrative voice and sequencing, aesthetics, meaning, and character objectives.
This first close reading focuses on the HOW of the text, how the writers created the beauty and meaning from the words they chose arranged as they saw fit. By understanding prosody, style, and structure you can get better breakdown the passage into its components. Then you can ask the WHY questions that connect this form to content. Language is a symbolic and metaphoric art. To be successful, the readers must translate these black lines on the white page into images, feelings, and thoughts in their minds that bring the world to life. It may not be the exact world the writer intended, which is part of the reader-response criticism discussed in the literary theory Lesson.

Does the passage describe a natural or artificial scene and what is the degree of plausibility, suspension of disbelief? How vivid and explicit is the descriptive language? To which senses does it appeal most? Does it describe character as monologue or dialogue, explicit or unconscious? Does it describe an action, develop an argument or an idea connected with the larger world of the fiction? How is the passage sequenced, in other words, what comes before and after, and why? How does this relate to the overall dramatic structure? Is this a passage devoted to exposition, complication, turning point, crisis, climax or resolution? What are the levels of empathy or emotional involvement? Comedic techniques or devices to increase suspense and drama? In what person is the novel told? In a drama, how successfully are the characters orchestrated? How is language used aesthetically to develop theme and how his theme related to the central dramatic question and the protagonist's objectives? In this global literature course, how do style and structure reflect the taste of the indigenous culture? How does this passage compare with another one on the same content, but from a different culture? For whom is the story written? How does the narrative voice relate to audience?

After thinking about all of the above, let us go into detail on the various sections. Part I Lesson I focuses on Form, while Part II focuses on content. You must always relate the two.


Meter in poetry or grammar, sentence length, paragraph progression in prose

Rhythm in stressed and unstressed syllables

Rhyme where applicable

Tone Color including alliteration, assonance, consonance and onomatopoeia

Figures of Speech including metaphors, similes, personification, analogy

The Music of Words

Read aloud your triple-spaced passage and note the sentence length, paragraph progression or prosody in poetry. How long or short are the lines, sentences, and paragraphs? What effect does this have? Always relate form to the overall meaning. In translated works, you can still analyze the length of lines, sentences and paragraphs but not the exact meter, rhythm or tone color. These are reserved for works written in English.

Meter is analyzed in terms of metric feet--iamb,u_ trochee,_u anapest, uu_dactyllic, _uu, spondee, __pyrrhic,uu. Most British poetry is written in iambic pentameter. A spondee has a finality about it while a pyrrhic is light, an anapest is a waltz rhythm, and a trochee makes you stop and think backwards.

Rhymes can come at the end of the line and a rhyme scheme can look like this A B A B C D E C D E FF, refering to the end of the line, but rhymes can also be internal. In Part III of my trilogy I have the Electoweak Force narrator talk in rhymes because it mimics the electrons. What do rhymes do to the meaning of the piece?

Words are letters taking up space on a page that when read aloud form a pattern in time. What is the overall affect of this pattern related to the meaning of the book?

Tone Color

Tone color relates to the sound of the words, like movement quality amplifies dance, resonance music, and color painting. Alliteration is the repetition of the first sound like "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers." Consonance is the repetition of consonants like "Sister Suzie sells seashells down by the seashore." Assonance is the repetition of vowels like "How now, brown cow." Onomatopoeia occurs when the tone color mimics the sound of the thing described, such as "babbling brook." There are many categories of tone color, but see how the style determines how you feel about the characters and their thoughts and actions and how you experience the setting.

Again tone color is best evaluated in original, not translated works.

Figures of Speech
Figures of Speech refer to words that are used to connote other things or feelings than what is being literally described. A simile uses like or as if, such as, "her eyes are like seashells," while a metaphor says something is something it is not, such as "her eyes are seashells." Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human entities such as the narrators in My Name is Red or Part II of my trilogy. Obviously, trees, dogs, cats, the Statue of Liberty, the Sphinx etc cannot speak English but we personify them to give depth and breadth to a story.
Even in translation you can evaluate figures of speech. What do they do to the experience of the passage? Some Native American writers prefer literal words and meanings because the sky and the sand are good enough, while writers like Virginia Woolf make put diamonds on waves, and describe nature in terms of human beauty. What do the figures of speech reveal about the narrators, characters and their worlds?

Rhetorical Devices

Using selections from All Quiet on the Western Front as examples, please review the following to help you with close textual analysis:

Humor, with metaphor: "My arms have grown wings and I'm almost afraid of going up into the sky, as though I held a couple of captive balloons in my fists."

Personification: "The wind plays with our hair; it plays with our words and thoughts."
"Over us Chance hovers."

Euphemism: "At the same time he ventilates his backside." "All at once he remembers his school days and finishes hastily:'he wants to leave the room sister.'"

Imagery: "To no man does the earth mean so much as to the soldier. When he presses himself down upon her long and powerfully, when he buries his face and his limbs deep in her from the fear of death by shell-fire, then she is his only friend, his brother, his mother; he stifles his terror and his cries in her silence and her security; she shelters him and releases him for ten seconds to live, to run, ten seconds of life; receives him again and often forever." (and personification) "The front is a cage in which we must await fearfully whatever may happen."

Repetition: "Earth!-Earth!-Earth!"

Antithesis: "A man dreams of a miracle and wakes up to loaves of bread."

Parallel Construction: "My feet begin to move forward in my boots, I go quicker, I run."

Simile: "He had collapsed like a rotten tree."

Metaphor: "Immediately a second [searchlight] is behind him, a black insect is caught between them and tries to escape--the airman.]

Liturgical prose: "Our being, almost utterly carried away by the fury of the storm, streams back through our hands from thee, and we, thy redeemed ones, bury ourselves in thee, and through the long minutes in a mute agony of hope bite into thee with our lips!"

Apostrophe: "Ah! Mother, Mother! You still think I am a child--why can I not put my head in your lap and weep?"

Allusion: "The guns and the wagons float past the dim background of the moonlit landscape, the riders in the steel helmets resemble knights of a forgotten time; it is strangely beautiful and arresting."

Hyperbole: "They are more to me than life, these voices, they are more than motherliness and more than fear; they are the strongest, most comforting things there are anywhere: they are the voices of my comrades."

Rhetorical question: "If one wants to appraise it, it is at once heroic and banal--but who wants to do that?"

Aphorism: "...terror can be endured so long as a man simply ducks--but it kills, if a man thinks about it."

Symbolism: "I pass over the bridge, I look right and left; the water is as full of weeds as ever."

Foreshadowing: "On the landing I stumble over my pack, which lies there already made up because I have to leave early in the morning."

Doggerel: "Give 'em all the same grub and all the same pay."

Short Utterances: "Life is short." (Analyse for rhythm and effect.)

Cause and Effect: "They have taken us farther back than usual to a field depot so that we can be re-organized."

Irony: "...a high double wall of yellow, unpolished, brand-new coffins. They still smell of resin, and piine, and the forest."

Appositive: "Thus momentarily we have the two things a soldier needs for contentment: good food and rest."

Caesura: "It is all a matter of habit--even the front-line."

Onomatopoeia: "The man gurgles."

Alliteration: "The satisfaction of months shines in his dull pig's eyes as he spits out: 'Dirty hound'"

Euphony: "Now red points glow in every face. They comfort me: it looks as though there were little windows in dark village cottages saying that behind them are rooms full of peace."

Cacophony: "The storm lashes us, out of the confusion of grey and yellow the hail of splinters whips forth the child-like cries of the wounded, and in the night shattered life groans painfully into silence."

Slang: "And now get on with it, you old blubber-sticker, and don't you miscount either." "That cooked his goose."

Rhetorical devices also include the syllogisms, logical fallacies etc explained at

Critics analyze in reverse of how many writers create, except poets, who often start with language and word games.


Meter in poetry or grammar, sentence length, paragraph progression in prose

Rhythm in stressed and unstressed syllables

Rhyme where applicable

Tone Color including alliteration, assonance, consonance and onomatopoeia
Figures of Speech including metaphors, similes, personification, analogy

Compare/Contrast Connotative Analysis
For your midterm and final you will have to compare/contrast your different CTs in terms of connotative analysis related to story and culture, theme, narrative voice and sequencing, CDQ, dramatic structure, and levels of characterization.
Everything you learned in Close Textual Analysis I about connotative language must be applied to analysis of the story, narrative voice and sequencing, and dramatic structure so that the form and content are one aesthetic whole.
Story is what happens to a specific person or group of people in a specific place at a specific time.

Dramatic structure is the orchestration of conflict in the story, exaggerated or edited to produce an exciting fight (mental, physical or spiritual) between protagonist(s) and antagonists. In the classical model, this conflict is related to a central dramatic question, objectives, obstacles and plot points characterized by catalyst, commitment, confrontation, chaos/low point, crisis, climax and conclusion. We will also study the Ordinary World/Special World Journey created by Joseph Campbell. Some modernist and postmodernist writers create their own dramatic structure or improvise and ignore it.

Narrative structure is the way the events are sequenced in time and space from the point of view of the narrator in a book and/or camera in a film in such a way that a style is created that expounds the theme, or the way the author feels about the material. In novels and short stories, the narrator or narrators tell the tale in the first or third person, singular and/or plural, and rarely in the second person. In film the narrator can be a real person who occasionally narrates over the action, or simply the POV of the camera.

For example, the CDQ in Pulp Fiction may be “How will the crime unfold among Vince, Jules, Butch etc., but the two themes are “Crime works if you can keep it a secret” within the chronology of events, or “It is possible to get out of crime with a spiritual transformation” based on the focus on Jules' epiphany at the conclusion in the way it is filmed. The story of Pulp Fiction is a mundane one of murder and double-dealing throughout three days with drug dealers; but the narrative structure of the stop action, rewind and fast-forward of a VCR turns the story into a dramatic structure with multiple protagonists where a character with little screen time has the character transformation that restructures the story into both an Aristotelian structure with three crises/climaxes, or a monomyth where Jules emerges from the special world to have a transformation. Don't worry if you don't understand all this right away, as it is covered thoroughly the course.
In Romeo and Juliet, the story is about these young lovers from the warring Capulet and Montague families; the CDQ is "Will they get married and live happily ever after or not?" and the theme is "True love never runs smoothly," refering to Shakespeare's attitude toward the material, so that the sequencing of events lead to the tragic, untimely deaths of the lovers.  


Timed Paradigm modeled on 120 page or 120 minute script
For each plot point, describe exactly what your two protagonists (is that what you want--two journeys?) are doing, what they want, and what obstacles they face. After each plot point, state and refine your CDQ or Central Dramatic Question. If you have two protagonists, you will need 4 graphs of time and space for each one. Make sure all these plot points are actions that can be filmed. Conversations can ensue, images can be symbolic, but create a clear dramatic event that inspires the CDQ.

Catalyst or Instigating Event or Inciting Incident 5-15 minutes into film depending on genre. A murder mystery might have the catalyst as credits roll. State CDQ.

Commitment or Plot Point One 30 minutes into film. How has the CDQ become more focused?

Confrontation Mid Point 60 minutes into film  This must involve a significant fight with the antagonistic forces. How has the CDQ changed?

Chaos Plot Point Two. The Low Point. p.90. Make us think that all is lost. What has happened to the CDQ? Where are protagonist and antagonist? What is the worst thing that could happen?

Crisis around 105 to 110. Tease the audience with a crisis before the climax. Up the stakes and put the audience on the edge of their seats.

Climax around 110-115. What is the most dramatic thing you can think of? Is this a true catharsis?

Conclusion to 120. Did you answer the CDQ, twist it in a new way, or move to another CDQ?

Obviously there are excellent "slice-of-life" screenplays shot by French or independent directors. However, you are not a director so I recommend that your script have a clearer structure and the more complex it is, the harder you must work on its structure--just like the layers of Adobe Photoshop. To be experimental one must be even more organized.

Space Paradigm inspired by Joseph Campbell but using the work of Chris Vogler and Stuart Voytilla to adapt it to the screen
For this paradigm, list the ARCHETYPAL roles of all characters such as the Hero, or Heroine, Shadow, Threshold Guardian, Trickster, Mentor, Allies, Friends etc. This journey can be symbolic and internal but you still visual images to symbolize the deeper layers.

ORDINARY WORLD In your outline under OW, you are actually talking about the Special World. Really set up an ordinary world with which the audience can identify. Imagine its colors and shapes so that you can also imagine how the Special World differs. Think of films like Blue Velvet that moved from the mundane suburbs to a hallucinatory drug world.

CROSSING THE THRESHOLD is usually around PP1 about 30 pages. Who are the guardians and how do the Hero and Heroine get through?
TESTS with Allies and Enemies
APPROACH THE INMOST CAVE is usually around mid-point, 60 pages in  but not necessarily. You have to follow the space in this paradigm. Where is the scariest place and how does the Hero emerge?
What is the REWARD?

ELIXIR What did the hero learn from the journey?
RESURRECTION How has he changed?

(I wrote a script where the heroine returned to an EXTRAORDINARY WORLD but it is simpler to follow the paradigm.)

Once you have the two paradigms for one or several protagonists you and your readers (producers and agents) have a clearer idea of dramatic structure. Then you can decide what sequencing techniques to use such a flashback recursive, tandem-competitive, split screen etc based on Aronson's book. The movie Pulp Fiction has a very simply story with a 3-day timeline, a fairly simple dramatic structure, but a complex sequencing inspired by the rewind, fast forward of the VCR age. Now we can be even more complex but if your dramatic structure isn't clear then you come off as disorganized when you do innovative sequencing.

Sequencing is akin to ordering the different courses of a meal you have already cooked with dramatic structure. Do you want the French cuisine with small bits at a time in a predictable order, a Jewish wedding buffet, an Asian sushi style presentation or what? Then eating the meal is what your characters do with scene study based on the exact LANGUAGE you have.

Campbell Monomyth: Paradigm of Space
Look at your entire script in terms of a spatial journey of the hero or heroine from the Ordinary to the Special and back to the Ordinary World.
Timed Plot Points: A Paradigm of Time
When you cook a meal you usually are aware of the time it takes to boil, bake, fry, or broil the food. Time is an essential element of drama.
Dramatic Structure and Cooking
Steam-the Aristotelian pressure cooker
When you steam food, you preserve the texture and vitamins, but you make it really hot. If you steam too long, it will wilt or get soggy; if you don't steam enough, part of it remains cold. Coffee benefits from the steaming process and sometimes makes us think more

Drama began from our love and need for imitation, harmony and
rhythm. Tragedy is an imitation of characters of noble birth and comedy of
inferior types whose flaws are so exaggerated and real that we can laugh at
them. Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a
certain magnitude, in language embellished with each kind of ornament, through
pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of the audience's emotions.Pity is
aroused by unmerited misfortune; fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves.
Every tragedy must have six parts: Plot, Character, Diction, Thought, Spectacle,
Song. Aristotle feels plot is more important than character because the most
beautiful colors, laid on confusedly, will not give as much pleasure as the
chalk outline of a portrait. Do you agree? Spectacle is the least important.
Diction involves the delivery of words that are either current, or strange, or
metaphorical, or ornamental, or newly-coined, or lengthened, or contracted, or
altered. The perfection of style is to be clear without being mean or too
literal, vulgar, simplistic etc.

Aristotle disliked episodic drama: for tragedy to be worthwhile it had to be a well constructed story with a beginning, middle and end that proceeded from action to counteraction by necessity and probability. There is a strong connection between what he wanted from drama and what he wanted from rhetoric, although the purpose of tragedy is to purge the emotions. Tragedy must be simpler and more credible than comedy if it is to move us to tears rather than laugher. A simple plot is one which takes place without reversal or
recognition. A complex plot has reversals and recognitions which should arise from the internal structure. The best form of recognition is coincident with reversal, as in OEDIPUS. Characters must be chosen in such a way that their actions raise the stakes of the drama. It's better to have family members kill each other than an enemy kill an enemy because then you can construct scenes that have the elements of betrayal, jealousy, fear, love etc. as well as anger. The DEUS EX MACHINA must only be employed for events external to the drama; the crisis/climax should arise of necessity from the inciting incident, just the way it's supposed to do in Hollywood screenplays. Every tragedy falls into two parts: complication and unravelling. Complication is every action that moves to the turning-point from good to bad fortune and unravelling is that which extends
from the beginning of the change to the end.

An epic structure differs from a tragedy because it has a multiplicity of plots. Epic structure is similar to what we call narrative structure. However as poetry (Homer) it was usually written in the heroic measure. Alexander Pope satirized this form in his mock epic poem THE RAPE OF THE LOCK in the eighteenth century. Epic tales can be longer, more complicated, more irrational and fantastical because they are not confined to the stage.

In Western drama the most important thing is a hero who badly wants something
he can't get; in world mythology, it is the call to adventure to undertake a
journey, implying that there are archetypal forces even stronger than the hero's
objective. The first is a paradigm of time, heightened by compressing events in
space into a limited time span; while the second is a paradigm of space that
takes the hero away from the Ordinary World to transform enough in the Special
World so he can bring back an elixir to community. Return, resurrection, rescue,
archetypes, threshold struggle are some of the terms pitted against plot points,
throughlines, premises, reversals, crisis/climax/denouement. While high concept
screenplays involve the community and transformative dramas develop character
transformation, in the Campbell paradigm, the hero's transformation is a
resurrection that brings the community full circle. Campbell's work is motivated
by his spiritual search and his recording of stories that transcend the hero's
objective to connect to a more universal truth. Many Western stories stay with
the self, its foibles, flaws, frustrations, and final triumph in getting what it

The French dramatist, Georges Polti, categorized 36 dramatic situations, that
presumably encompass all the major conflicts between characters in drama. If you
are basing your story on real life, and want to raise the stakes, you can use
one or more of these situations to cook your characters.
Crime Pursued by Vengeance
Vengeance Taken for Kindred upon Kindred
Falling Prey to Cruelty or Misfortune
Daring Enterprise
The Enigma
Enmity of Kinsmen
Rivalry of Kinsmen
Murderous Adultery
Fatal Imprudence
Involuntary Crimes of Love
Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized
Self-sacrificing for an Ideal
Self-sacrifice for Kindred
All Sacrificed for a Passion
Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones
Rivalry of Superior and Inferior
Crimes of Love
Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One
Obstacles to Love
An Enemy Loved
Conflict with a God
Mistaken Jealousy
Erroneous Judgment
Recovery of a Lost One
Loss of Loved Ones

Dramatic structure, how the conflict unfolds, is not the same as narrative
structure, the sequence of events in time and space colored by the POV of the
narrator. Dramatic structure is the conflict between protagonist and antagonists
as they fight for their through-lines in response to the Central Dramatic
Question, a visual paradigm similar to falling off a cliff from catalyst to
commitment to confrontation to cataclysm to chaos, crisis, climax and
conclusion, timed by plot points. Emotion is consummated in a catharsis.

Americans still find Aristotle useful now for his catharsis and definition of
unities of space, time and action and priorities of plot, character, thought,
diction, song, spectacle. Shakespeare is good for the gap between expectations
and result, colored by the character's dilemma and necessity to choose, a
sequence of choices, which reveals deep character. While Americans can't compete
with Shakespeare's language, nor do they want to, they have the same epic sense
of crisis and climax and its effect on the community. However, they tend to
prefer transformational drama to a tragedy where the hero dies. The hero is
often a commoner who makes good rather than an aristocrat who falls, reinforcing
the democratic social system of American culture.

While the plot points are a paradigm mainly of time, the monomyth is a
paradigm of space. The circular journey from ordinary to special world and back
and the stages of this journey from call to adventure, to crossing the
threshold, approaching the inmost cave, returning resurrected and getting or
giving the elixir are similar to plot points except that the spatial aspects
represent a circle rather than falling off a cliff, thereby making the set-up
and conclusion a bit longer.

Just like argumentation, drama deals with controversy, conflict and
conversion in a search for truth except that logical fallacies are glorified to
heighten the flaws of the tragic or comic characters. Drama must combust space
and time so deadlines, planting and payoff are necessary to heighten surprise
and mystery, while irony can enhance suspense and make the audience feel smart.
No matter how intricate and discipline the dramatic structure, if the emotions
of pity, fear, laughter or lust are not elicited in the audience, then the
structure will be more like a legal case than a drama that requires catharsis to
transcend the paradigms, just as wonder must transcend prosody in poetry.

World of Time: Plot Points and the Central Dramatic Question-Catalyst,
Commitment, Confrontation, Chaos, Crisis, Climax, Conclusion

World of Space: Campbell Paradigm, Ordinary and Special Worlds, Bore-dinary
and Extraordinary, Call to Adventure, Crossing Thresholds, Meeting with the
Mentor, Approach the Inmost Cave, Reward, Resurrection, Elixir


In summary, cooking transforms your food, as conflict transforms your characters. You decide whether to steam, fry, broil, boil, bake, saute, or serve them raw and bleeding. You also cook, dice, or prepare the fruits, vegetables,
starches, and drinks in your meal. Cooking compresses time in space, which is
what drama does to your action. No matter what, you still have to serve
delicious, appetizing food, so you can't undercook or overcook your characters.


Most of you are naturally good at characterization, at discovering, hiding, or uncovering the secrets, lies, obstacles, and wishes that confound and cause action. You are also good at seeing people's qualities and flaws. Therefore you should focus on creating characters in conflict playing out your dramatic structure and acting in scenes with specific activities (stage business) that relate to their overall actions and throughlines. In other words, characters must be firmly embedded in your script.

Good drama gives the audience a taste of death. Even comedy has a taste of
some kind of death. Death helps the audience appreciate life more and fear their
own demise less. To keep the story going for 2 hours, make sure you tease the
audience with appearances of death and take them on a treacherous roller coaster

Make sure you relate each character to the Campbell archetypes. While the hero undergoes a momentous transformation as a result of this journey, the other characters serve as archetypes to further this journey, and must fulfill roles such as MENTOR(wise old person offering gifts, motivation, inspiration, guidance, training), THRESHOLD GUARDIAN (obstacle at the gateway to the new world), HERALD (issues challenges and announces the coming of
significant change), SHAPESHIFTER (the protean force that creates surprise,
suspense, obstacles and keeps the audience and the hero guessing, the animus/a
of the hero), SHADOW (the dark side of self but also the villain), TRICKSTER
(challenges authority through laughter, helps hero and audience see the truth by
laughing at it), and of course the hero's HIGHER SELF, in true 12 step fashion.
These types can change masks the way the shapeshifter does, but on the deepest
level, and Hollywood is trying to get "deeper" in the twenty first century, they
represent parts of the buried psyche of the hero. Hence any journey is
ultimately a journey inward as the villains are projections from the hero's id.

The HERO must elicit empathy/sympathy in the audience so they are willing to
immerse themselves in his journey; he must have human flaws, needs, desires and
capacity for growth-- rather, an almost inhuman capacity for growth because it
has to happen in less than 2 hours. He should be fully active, decisive, capable
of SACRIFICE for his ideals. In this way he shows us how to deal with death,
whether it is literal death or death of a loved one, an idea, a part of oneself.
A hero can journey from the ordinary to the special world and back or from the
wilderness to civilisation and back or anywhere and back as long as something is
learned. This means that Hollywood may be ready to start accepting tragedy as a
genre (especially after 9/11) as long as the hero learns something and the
community is restored and made whole in some way.

Notice how phallic this entire journey is, particularly with the approach to
the inmost cave, passing through the "belly of the whale," as Campbell would
say. If women were truly free to create their journey, how would it differ?
(Dancing with Wolves?) Maybe the climax is not going into the secret cave but
rather dancing with a wolf and beating him. Maybe it is similar to what I felt
when I was wriestling men and had to win every time as part of the choreography.
Maybe it is moving into a larger space where the light is brighter and the
mountains are higher.

In the pits of the cave, in the muddy, murky miasma of anima, the hero faces
an elusive, ephemeral death. But in the open the heroine battles the strong,
powerful male villain by dancing with him.

At the end of the male journey, there is an apotheosis, a step up from
enthusiasm where the hero becomes god by letting go of his ego. Men like to go
on adventures and come back to the hearth. Women might stay at the hearth but
for those who go on adventures, what are their journeys like? Are there two
kinds of women?

Is your heroine empathic and sympathetic and to which audience?