Notes for Major Twentieth Century Writers

Close Textual Analysis

Write out a passage from the book, approximately one page, triple spaced, numbering every line. Then analyse 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 analyse 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. 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? 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? When you analyse language, place close attention to both diction, or choice of words, (formal, informal, colloquial, concrete, abstract) and rhetorical devices. Meter is analysed in terms of metric feet--iamb,u_ trochee,_u anapest, uu_dactyllic, _uu, spondee, __pyrrhic,uu. 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 dramatic structure, aesthetics, meaning, and objective. Put all your passages in one document and feel free to compare and contrast three passages with a similar theme, style or objective. Discuss any socio-political or philosophical knowledge necessary to enhance meaning of these passages. Look at the learning objectives of each of the six clusters and see that you are relating to genre, dramatic structure, timespace constraints, setting, sets and sequencing, levels of realism and plausibility, narrative styles and techniques, didacticism, themes and premises, character transformation and orchestration, descriptive language, concreteness of imagery, relationship of imagery to plot, character and structure, and finally stylistic techniques.:

What is the THEME of the book?
The theme can be implicit or explicit as it relates to the author's attitude towards the subject matter. It can also color the sequencing and the subliminal messages. In God Dies by the Nile, the theme is related to the sun, to the invisible god who sees and does not see the atrocities committed by the humans. Each chapter focuses on a different position of the sun. The stoning occurs in the dark. At the end, Zakeya says she killed god, implying that she killed the Mayor. Just as Mahfouz' Gebelaawi is not the real Muslim God, the god who dies in el Saadawi's book is not the real God either.

Analyzing the theme of a book leads to discussion of POINT OF VIEW
Long, complex novels may have a number of themes but if you analyze carefully you may find only one or two prevailing themes.
First person: I (some limitation. You may not have balanced character orchestration, as in a memoir like Red Azalea or Soul Mountain.)
Second person: You (rare, usually secondary) In Soul Moutain, some chapters are written in the second person as a way to deconstruct the self. I use it to connect with the Reader.
Third person: She, He, They; limited, (Hemingway), omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent (Tolstoi).
Narrators as characters or narrators as invisible seams. Pamuk uses 18 narrators, some non-human. I use 18 non-human narrators in a linear pass-the-ball narrative. Distinguish between omnipresent paychological narrators who move in for interior monologues like Molly Bloom's soliloquy and a real first person narrator.
Degrees of psychological penetration. Is the narrator reporting action like a camera or delving into the thoughts or even unconscious fantasies (Joyce) of the characters?
Multiple or single narrators: Pamuk and Mahfouz versus Nabakov (Arabic versus Russian and some Western)
Is the point of view consistent?

SEQUENCING: Evemts arramged in time and space
Linear (Ironically Ulysses is linear--one day in the life of three Dubliners but when it goes into stream-of-consciousness monologues if appears to be Linear with flashbacks)
Jumbled traditional dramatic structure, like Pulp Fiction
Recursive--(spokes of a wheel like psychoanalysis) Oedipus Rex is caught in the static present, investigating the horrors of his past where he killed his father and married his mother. The past then forces desperate action in the static present.

Description, Setting, Locales
What senses are evoked? Olfactory, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory For example, Pamuk is more visual than Mahfouz. Many Arab writers are auditory. Tahar ben Jalloun is very kinesthetic. Proust is very gustatory. You can also have synesthesia as in surreal poetry or Satanic Verses or a kind of psychic sense.
Detailed, Distracting, Spare, Symbolic, Suggestive, Minimal, Insufficient
My Name is Red has such detailed imagery that it does slow the pace, but so what? Is the description artistically integrated, linguistically and thematically? How does this description enhance the theme?

Analyze language in terms of denotative and connotative meanings, syntax or sentence structure, paragraph length and progression, rhythm, meter, rhyme, tone color, figures of speech (simile, metaphor, personification etc)

How does the THEME differ from the CENTRAL DRAMATIC QUESTION?
The Central Dramatic Questions classically is stated at the Inciting Incident in a traditional dramatic structure and is not answered until after the Crisis/Climax. Novels may have more thna one question for different plot lines. In My Name is Red, the CDQ is "Who committed this murder?"

Dramatic Structure is the orchestration of conflict, first based on Aristotle's Poetics, developed by Shakespeare and eventually Hollywood plot points.
Inciting Incident: Catalyst
Plot Point One: Commitment
Midpoint: Confrontation
Plot Point Two: Chaos, (all is lost)
CDQ is refined and developed and re-asked at every plot point which involves protagonist-antagonist conflict. In some non-EuroAmerican literature, multiple protagonists can confuse the dramatic structure but there is still usually one or two throughlines.
Throughline: Harry wants so badly to get Sally that he is willing to go through a sex change to pretend to be her guardian. John wants so badly to unclash civilizations that he is willing to go to Iraq and hang out in the streets, thereby risking his life. Throughline includes major objective through work as well as the potentially greatest sacrifice. Warren wants so badly to get his degree he is willing to wake up early every Saturday morning. But this throughline must last throughout the entire work. Every scene usually has minor conflicting objectives.

Campbell myth of Ordinary versus Special World
In God Dies by the Nile you have the Ordinary World of the town versus the Special World outside the town where the stoning, necrophilia, wild dances and exorcism occur. The threshold is seen with Zakeya's supposed madness.
Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Crossing the Threshold, Allies and Enemies, Approach the Inmost Cave or Belly of the Whale, Ordeal, Reward, Cross the Return Threshold, Resurrection, Elixr
This paradigm is similar to the Aristotelian mountain but it is a paradigm of space and resembles a circle while the former is a paradigm of time resembling a mountain.

Analyze characters in terms of archetypes: Hero or Heroine, Herald who announces the Call to Adventure, Threshold Guardians, Tricksters, Shapeshifters to complicate plot, The Shadow or antagonist who can also be aspects of the darker self, Allies and Enemies, Love interests
Archetypes differ from other ways of analyzing character because they relate to the Journey.
Are characters 3-dimensional, stereotypes, or what?
Balanced character orchestration
Character transformation---how, why and when do they change
Analyze dialogue: Is it naturalistic? Is it authentic to the actual character? Slang and expletives, informal and formal, jokes, plays on words,
Interaction: give-and-take, degree of listening and misunderstanding, coded conversation, interrupted or codependent conversation.
Evaluate empathy for characters, vulnerability and jeopardy
Character's layers of imperfections, secrets, lies, epiphanies, transformations, character development and choices
Dreams, nightmares, fantasies

Researching the World
Analyze degrees of reality: Documentary. Naturalism. Realism. Romanticism. Fantasy. Sci Fi.
Analyze subject matter: its accuracy, its relevance, levels of didacticism
For example, the subject matter in God Dies by the Nile ranges from ancient religious rituals, Islam, village politics, female mutilation, abuse of Sharia laws, necrophilia, bestiality, incest, adultery, family values, farming
How well did the author do the research?
Americans often reject didactic digressions as seen in Victor Hugo, Orhan Pamuk, preferring to show rather than tell. Many Americans and Europeans want all exposition to be ammunition.


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