All Questions

33
votes
7answers
6k views

The author of a literary work disagrees with critics about meaning—who's right?

I've just come up with a conjecture on what a piece of literature means, but the author has said that they didn't mean for their work to suggest that. For example, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is ...
16
votes
1answer
692 views

How much weight is given to authors' intentions in literary analysis?

When people analyze literature, one of the first things people seem to do is look for interviews or quotes from the author where the author describes the meaning they intended their text to have. My ...
10
votes
1answer
424 views

How much weight should we give authors' declarations of their intent after the fact?

Very closely related: How much weight is given to authors' intentions in literary analysis? Related (as an example of what I'm talking about): Is there any textual evidence to support that ...
10
votes
3answers
5k views

Were all of Shakespeare's plays fully in iambic pentameter?

Were the plays within The Complete Works of Shakespeare entirely in iambic pentameter? I seem to recall singing bits (when there were lyrics) from Twelfth Night and definitely from Much Ado About ...
4
votes
2answers
604 views

Catalectic trochaic tetrameter or acephaleous iambic tetrameter? Scanning “Kubla Khan”

I'm currently teaching myself to scan, and I'm practicing with Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" at the moment. You can read the entire poem online. I've arrived at line 32: "Floated midway on the waves;" and ...
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Why is Pechorin a hero of our time?

In Mikhail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time (Герой нашего времени), the main hero is Grigory Pechorin, a cynical noble army man, an example of superfluous Byronic hero. The title of the novel has to ...
23
votes
6answers
11k views

What is the benefit in the Prologue “spoiling” the play in Romeo + Juliet?

In the Act 1 Prologue to the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, ...
14
votes
1answer
1k views

What is close reading?

What exactly is "close reading"? How does it relate to the study of literature? Are there any instructions about how to do a close reading of a text/passage?
13
votes
3answers
2k views

Why does the poem “Naming of Parts” contrast war with nature?

Henry Reed's poem "Naming of Parts" (which you can read online) depicts a lesson used to teach soldiers the various parts of their rifles. (Hence the title "Naming of Parts"). Interspersed between the ...
3
votes
1answer
41k views

In what order should Rick Riordan's mythological series be read to make the most sense, and what is the chronological order?

As established in this question, all of Rick Riordan's mythological series take place in a single universe. I have not read any of his books, but this gave me a question. If I were to read the books ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

What's up with the colors of Delirium's speech bubbles?

In the prologue to Season of Mists (The Sandman #21), the Endless are gathered for a family meeting. Each of them talks with a different typeface, to help differentiate their manners of speech and ...
6
votes
1answer
3k views

Why are pronouns used in this way in Nalo Hopkinson's “Shift”?

I just read the short story "Shift" by Nalo Hopkinson, which is freely available online. It's a modern, Caribbean-themed story inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest. One thing which confused me on ...
55
votes
2answers
12k views

Did Arthur Conan Doyle code Holmes and Watson as a gay couple?

Given the Victorian era, a writer couldn't deliberately create an openly (or even quietly) gay couple for public literary consumption. But gay people existed, and had romances. Arthur Conan Doyle knew ...
18
votes
1answer
2k views

Can the Count of Monte Cristo's calculation of poison dosage be explained?

In Chapter Fifty-Two of The Count of Monte Cristo there is a discussion between the titular count and Madame de Villefort about exposing oneself to poisons: “Well,” replied Monte Cristo “suppose, ...
18
votes
1answer
1k views

When did men dressed as women stop being the norm in English theatre?

This excellent answer by Joshua Engel draws a comparison between men dressed as women in Shakespeare-era plays and perspective jumps in modern cinema: The audience would, of course, have been aware ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

Is Macbeth or Lady Macbeth the real villain in Shakespeare's play?

In Shakespeare's play Macbeth, it is Macbeth himself, the eponymous antihero, who meets the witches upon the heath and first conceives the idea to murder his king. It is he who kills Duncan, seizes ...
12
votes
3answers
13k views

Why does Meursault kill “the Arab” in The Stranger?

In Albert Camus' book The Stranger, Meursault kills a character known as "the Arab" for no real reason at all. Meursault even acknowledges that he doesn't have to kill "the Arab" It struck me that ...
9
votes
5answers
9k views

What did O'Brien mean when he said this at the end of 1984?

The boots were approaching again. The door opened. O'Brien came in. Winston started to his feet. The shock of the sight had driven all caution out of him. For the first time in many years he ...
22
votes
3answers
9k views

In Brave New World, what caste is Lenina Crowne?

In Brave New World, there is an extensive caste system. However, Lenina's caste is never explicitly pointed out. She is important to many of the male characters in the book, each belonging to a ...
19
votes
1answer
535 views

Did C. S. Lewis support the Ransom Theory in the Chronicles of Narnia?

Some critics have claimed that the explanation of Aslan's sacrifice in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe supports the ransom theory of the atonement. (Edit: There's also a much briefer definition ...
16
votes
1answer
405 views

Why are place names obscured in Charlotte Brontë's The Professor?

All place names in Charlotte Brontë's The Professor appear to be obscured. A few examples from the novel's first chapter: That gentleman and Lord T. knew well enough that the Crimsworths were an ...
14
votes
1answer
761 views

Why is the hero's journey so ubiquitous across world literature?

According to "The Hero with a Thousand Faces", Joseph Campbell argues that many mythologies follow an typical pattern involving the hero's departure from familiar surroundings to a unfamiliar setting, ...
14
votes
1answer
695 views

Whose were the “best minds” being destroyed in Ginsberg's “Howl”?

In Allen Ginsberg´s most famous poem "Howl", he claims he was witness to the destruction of the best minds of his generation: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving ...
14
votes
1answer
369 views

Why all those tangents?

Anyone who's ever read Victor Hugo's immortal masterpiece Les Miserables knows that it's a long read...mostly because Hugo goes on a bunch of random tangents in the middle--on such topics as the ...
11
votes
0answers
315 views

Which traits of Milton's Lucifer from “Paradise Lost” did Neil Gaiman carry to “The Sandman”?

Lucifer Morningstar, the Vertigo Comics character, was created by Neil Gaiman with influence from John Milton's Paradise Lost - at least that's what is written on his Wikipedia page, and even on the ...
11
votes
1answer
725 views

What's the significance of the witches' name change in Sandman?

As mentioned in another question, the three witches are very significant in The Sandman. While that other question asks for their significance in general, I have a much more specific question to ask. ...
11
votes
1answer
544 views

Origin of symbolic interpretation of Prospero's breaking of his staff?

At the end of The Tempest, which is generally believed to be the last plays that Shakesepare wrote alone, Prospero breaks his staff and drowns his book. This has often been read as Shakespeare telling ...
9
votes
1answer
565 views

Is the name Crowley in Good Omens a reference to the famous occultist?

The main demonic character in the humouristic-apocalyptic story Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman goes by the name Anthony Crowley - a name which instantly jumped out at me because of its similarity ...
9
votes
1answer
162 views

Accuracy of a translation: how to forge an opinion?

This question is directly inspired from this one on French Language stack exchange. To summarize it, the OP is wondering about the good translation for "chimiste" in Baudelaire's opening poem Au ...
8
votes
1answer
235 views

Doesn't Burns' use of parallelism reinforce “My Heart's in the Highlands” visual images?

Here is "My Heart's in the Highlands" by Robert Burns (https://www.bartleby.com/360/8/24.html). My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here; My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;...
7
votes
1answer
3k views

What's the difference between a five-act play and a three-act play?

Many stage plays - including all thirty-seven/thirty-nine of Shakespeare's - consist of five acts, while others consist of only three acts. (Are there any other common numbers of acts?) What's the ...
7
votes
2answers
704 views

Why is the Emperor Beyond the Sea named that?

Closely related: Why does the Emperor-Over-the-Sea play such a small role in the Chronicles of Narnia? Why is the Emperor Beyond The Sea in The Chronicles of Narnia named that? What sea is he beyond, ...
6
votes
2answers
312 views

Why does the Emperor-Over-the-Sea play such a small role in the Chronicles of Narnia?

The Emperor-Over-the-Sea is referenced at several points during the series. The Stone Table, Deep Magic and the Deeper Magic were all set in motion by him, and he is the father of Aslan. At the same ...
4
votes
2answers
257 views

How should we view Dan Conway?

Dan Conway, head of the Phoenix-Durango in Atlas Shrugged, was evidently a superb executive. He also receives (largely) positive treatment in the novel. However, the book also says that he initially ...
32
votes
2answers
756 views

Is Judaism represented in the Narnia books?

In C.S. Lewis's Narnia books, it's very clear that the Narnians are meant to represent Christianity, with Aslan symbolising Jesus (in fact, Aslan is literally Jesus in-universe), while the Calormenes ...
20
votes
1answer
176 views

Was pretending to be an abridgement of a made-up work invented by William Goldman?

William Goldman's The Princess Bride is famous (among other reasons) for a literary device it employs - it pretends to be an abridgment (or "the good parts version") of a longer work by S. Morgenstern,...
15
votes
2answers
22k views

What is the “Neon god” in “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel?

In Simon and Garfunkel's song The Sound of Silence1, there is the following passage in lyrics: And the people bowed and prayed To the neon god they made What is this neon god? Obviously, they ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Was Susan ever able to return to Narnia?

At the end of The Last Battle, Peter states that Susan has become 'too grown up' to return to Narnia. However, we do see grown-ups coming to Narnia, or Aslan's country - we see their parents. Also, it ...
13
votes
1answer
1k views

Should Go Set A Watchman be read before To Kill A Mockingbird?

Given that Go Set A Watchman takes place after To Kill A Mockingbird, we would think that we should read it second. However, Go Set A Watchman was probably a first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird. I am ...
13
votes
1answer
235 views

Why don't people in the Chronicles of Narnia have trouble “transitioning” back to their old life after extended times in other worlds?

In The Chronicles of Narnia, people often spend weeks, months, or even decades in other worlds. They return to their old life at the exact instant that they left as if they were never gone. For ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

What does this quote from The Great Gatsby mean?

Here's the quote: My commutation ticket came back to me with a dark stain from his hand. That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama ...
11
votes
1answer
487 views

Does “Animal Farm” explicitly state anywhere in the text that it is in fact a political allegory?

I first heard of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" in high school when a teacher mentioned that it was an allegory of the Soviet State. So I read it 2 years later with that understanding. While recently ...
11
votes
1answer
517 views

Is Winston Smith in Orwell's 1984 an unreliable narrator?

In a recent discussion in on online course about How to Read a Novel, someone suggested that Winston Smith in Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is an unreliable narrator. L. Kip Wheeler's glossary ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the reason for partial highlighting in “The Sandman”?

I was just re-reading Preludes and Nocturnes, the first volume of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. In the story titled The Sound of Her Wings, the following conversation takes place: Death: You are ...
11
votes
1answer
541 views

Did Robert Jordan name himself after Hemingway's character?

The fantasy author James Oliver Rigney Jr. chose the nom de plume Robert Jordan for many of his works of literature, including the magnificent Wheel of Time series. I recently read up on Ernest ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

How many of the Songs of Innocence and of Experience come in pairs?

Some years ago I studied many of Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Many of them are very clearly paired up, an Innocence song and an Experience song deliberately written to compare and ...
8
votes
1answer
236 views

Is alliteration adjacent words and/or close together words starting with the same letter? If words between are permitted then how many?

OK, I know this question isn't about literary analysis or anything but I posted this on ELU and it was put on hold (as off-topic) and I was advised to post it here. Is alliteration exclusively ...
7
votes
6answers
3k views

What is the distinction between “literary fiction” vs. “popular fiction”?

What are the defining features of literary fictions as compared to popular ones? Is it the way how characters are developed? Or is it some peculiarity in the use of language? Please feel free to ...
7
votes
1answer
142 views

Is there a canonical map of Thomas Hardy's Wessex?

Most if not all of Thomas Hardy's novels are set in the fictional(ish) English region of Wessex. He uses many real towns and locations as settings, but gives them fictional names: for instance, Oxford ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

Is there any deeper significance to Borges's “The South”?

"The South" is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges about a man, Dahlmann, who is injured by bashing his head against a window, but makes an almost miraculous recovery after a long stint in hospital. He ...

15 30 50 per page