Interpretation of the Text

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P A R T 1. A N A L Y Z I N G F I C T I O N
MODULE 1 1.1. The fictional world of a literary work Literature is writing that can be read in many ways. We can read it as a form of history, biography, or autobiography. We can read it as an example of linguistic structures or rhetorical conventions manipulated for special effect. We can view it as a material product of the culture that produced it. We can see it as an expression of beliefs and values of a particular class. We can also see a work of literature as a selfcontained structure of words - as writing that calls attention to itself, to its own images and forms. Viewed in this light, literature differs from other kinds of writing - expressive, persuasive, and expository. Expressive writing aims to articulate the feelings of the writer; persuasive writing seeks co influence the reader; expository writing tries to explain the outer world. By contrast, a work of literature creates a world of its own which makes no reference to the real world as we normally know it, thus it is not expository writing. Nor is it quite the same as persuasive writing - a work of fiction makes no direct appeal to us as audience, no systematic effort to shape our opinions on a specified point. Furthermore, while it looks like expressive writing, it is not the writer but the narrator or a character who is speaking, i.e. the figures the writer has created or imagined. What we have, then, is an independent little world made of words: a world of forms, images, and sounds that are all designed to work together. This does not mean that works of literature have nothing to do with reality. On the contrary, Walt Whitman's poems often address the reader directly; Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn has everything to do with the history of American slavery; and when Emily Dickinson writes, "1 never hear the word escape Without a quicker •blood," she is surely expressing her ovm feelings. The "world of literature is watered by many streams - by the writer's feelings, by the writer's desire to stir the reader, and by the writer's consciousness of the real world. But in a work of literature, all of these streams flow through the world the writer creates. 1.2. Literary genres To interpret a literary work, one needs to know something about its genre. The distinctions between genres of literary works are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups. The most general genres in literature are (in a chronological order): epic, tragedy, comedy, novel, short story, and creative nonfiction. They can all be in the genres of prose or poetry, which shows best how loosely genres are defined. This correlation is shown in Fig. 1.1. Additionally, a genre such as satire, allegory or pastoral might appear in any of the above, not only as a sub-genre, but as a mixture of genres.

Epic

Tragedy

Genres^ Comedy

Novel

... ....... : Prose 2 & O Poetry

Short story

Creative nonfiction

Fig. 1.1. Correlation of literary genres For practical purposes it might be worthwhile to adopt the point of view, according to which there are two main genres of literature - poetry and prose. Their types are shown in Fig 1.2.

Poetry is a comprehensive term which can be taken to cover any kind of metrical composition. It has three types - Narrative, Lyric and Dramatic. Drama in 'general is any work meant'to be performed on a stage'by actors. A more particular meaning is a serious play, not necessarily a tragedy. Prose covers literary works that do not adhere to any metrical structure, only to vocabulary and grammar rules. Prose is classified into fiction and non fiction. Fiction (from Lat.fictum - "created") is a rather vague and general term for an imaginative work, usually in prose. Fiction may also be given a more formal definition: "literature created from the imagination, not presented as fact, though it may be based on a true story or situation". In contrast to fiction, there is non-fiction which deals exclusively with...
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