West Chester University

Fall 2001

Spring 2002

West Chester University

Fall 2002





Course Information
  Lit 165 Syllabus
  About the Instructor

Notes for Introduction to Literature
  Approaching Literature
  Your Response and Mine
  Critical Approaches to Literature
  Fundamental Questions about Literature
  Four Short Stories (Considerations)
  Genesis of the Short Story
  Responding to 'The Birthmark'
  Notes on Nathaniel Hawthorne
  Bartleby - A Guided Reading
  Bartleby - Questions for Analysis
  A Few Notes on Herman Melville
  A Vocabulary for Fiction and Beyond
  Notes on Innovative Fiction
  Five Writers Define the Short Story
  A Study Guide for the Fiction Exam
  Ars Poetica
  Poets Define the Art of Poetry
  Reading Poetry
  Supplemental Poems
  The Craft of Poetry - Imagery
  The Craft of Poetry - Sound
  The Forms of Poetry
  Revisiting Theme, Ambiguity, Irony, Symbol, and Parodox in Poetry
  Study Guide for the Poetry Exam
  The Birth of Drama
  Aristotle's Tragic Hero
  Stepping Through Oedipus the King
  The Relevance of Oedipus Today
  Oedipus the King -- Study Questions
  Ibsen's Theater / A Doll House
  A Study Guide for the Drama Exam
  Study Guide for the Final Exam

General Announcements


Go Exploring
  A Weblog for LIT 165
  Writing Assistance on the Web

Join the Conversation
  LIT 165 Discussion List


~~ A Vocabulary for Fiction and Beyond ~~

Use your Bedford's Online Glossary to help you define the following terms.




Major / Minor
Protagonist / Antagonist
Round / Flat
Dynamic / Static
"Character Motivation"
"Character determines fate"

Point of View

Omniscient narrator
Limited omniscient narrator
Objective "camera eye" narrator
First Person narrator
Reliable / Unreliable narrator




When we engage in interpretation--figuring out what different elements in a story "mean"--we're responding to a work's "ambiguity." Defined simply, this means the work is open to several simultaneous interpretations. Language, especially when manipulated artistically, can communicate more than one meaning--it invites interpretation. Readers can enjoy interpreting literature, and stories, in ways the find individually satisfying.


The McGraw-Hill Book of Fiction (Robert Di Yanni and Kraft Rompf, Eds. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995) defines theme as "an idea or point formulated as a generalization. The theme of a fable is its moral; the theme of a parable is its teaching; the theme of a short story is its implied view of life and conduct. Unlike the fable and parable, however, most fiction is not designed primarily to teach or preach. Its theme, thus is more obliquely presented. In fact, theme in fiction is barely presented at all; it is abstracted from the details of character and action that compose the story."

The kind of literary works that have the most merit themeatically generally go beyond what's explecte dor predictable; the ideas they explore are not trite cliches. They are more likdely to be fresh ways of looking at old problems, or fresh interpretations of common experience. A work's theme is often related to what's happening in the larger culture; the author is giving voice to the spirit of the age. Authors may agree or disagree with cultural trends--maybe consciously, maybe subconsciously--but they can't escape the fact that their work is situated in a particular time and place. Enduring literary works can bring the truths inherent in that time and place and communicate them in ways that reach audiences beyond their immediate ones. They are able to express truths that are "timeless" and "universal," able to interest people across cultures and across the centuries. Theme is very involved here; it's the agent of that transmission. The more provocative the theme of the work, the more we have to think about it, the more likely it will be to last.


Language can also communicate on more than one level of meaning. Any person, object, image, word, or situation represented in literature may be capable of evoking a range of additional meaning, beyond its original, literal one. Symbols in literature evoke complex ideas without explicitly (tiresomely?) explaining them.


Defined simply, irony is the perception of a clash between appearance and reality, between what "seems" and what "is." When something strikes you as ironic, it's usually because the truth turns out to be quite different from what you might have expected.


Paradox involves two statements or conditions which seem incongruous and nonsensical on the surface--however, when you study beneath the surface, they turn out to make perfect sense.






Questions? Contact me.

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