April 26, 2010

1. Choose a novel and examine how one of the characters develops. How does the character change? What might be his emotional development? What things might he/she have learned about himself and/or life? How did he / she either triumph or fail, or both?

2. Choose a novel and conduct an analysis of one or more of the characters. What is the character like? How do other characters help to define the character you choose? What problems does the character face and how does the character deal with / cope / resolve or not resolve the problems? How might you “psychoanalyze” the character(s)?

3. Choose a novel and interpret its structure. There are many ways you can do this: how does the plot relate to / resemble a myth or a plot that we recognize in other places (life, other stories, movies,etc.)? Is the plot a comedy or a tragedy? Why? How does the ending affect the whole story? How does the beginning of the story align with the ending? Is there a plot twist, and how does the plot twist create a sense of meaning, or define it as a comedy or a tragedy? Does the author do anything that “defamiliaizes” the plot, such as time shifts, fragementing the story, shifting the point of view?

4. Choose a novel and explore its voice–its point-of-view (first person, third-person limited to one character; third person from more than one character; omniscient. From whose perspective do we see the events and experiences of the story? How does this perspective effect how we see and interpret events and experiences in the narrative? How does the point-of-view affect and create an interpretation of the story? Why do you think an author chooses one type of point-of-view over another? What are the benefits of certain points-of-view?

5. Choose a “theme” that you can explore in a story: Facing up to vs. denying death; coping with trauma; trying to escape from the past; the negative effects of “pride”; the struggle of religious belief; belief vs. atheism; the struggle to develop an autonmous identity; what it means to be British or American; the struggle to gain a voice and a sense of empowerment as a woman; the struggle of individuality in the context of family, society, history, politics, race; coping with post-war trauma . . . there are, of course, many more.

6. Write a paper in which you interpret the nature of a novel’s ending, the way in which the novel closes. What does the ending do to the narrative as a whole? What important funciton does it serve? Does it surprise? Does it frustrate expectations? Does it supply the novel with mraing or does it make us ask further questions?

7. Choose a novel and explore how the author plays games with time. Consider the passage of time: flashback, flashforward, repetition, condensing time, parallel time, time shifts, delay / suspense. Perhaps you can reflect creatively on the issue of time in narrative: what a novelist can do with time; the unusual nature of time; the similarities and differences between the time of a novel and time as we live it in life.

8. View the movie version of either Mrs. Dalloway or Slaughterhouse Five. Compare and contrast the ways in which the author and the filmmaker represent the story. What elements in the film version are effective, perhaps even more so, than the novel? Likewise, what elements in the film are less effective? How does the filmmaker depicts the games with time that either author creates?


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