All Questions

33
votes
7answers
5k 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
610 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
331 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
3k 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
360 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
13
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?
12
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
950 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
224 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 ...
52
votes
2answers
8k 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
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 ...
9
votes
5answers
6k 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 ...
21
votes
3answers
6k 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
406 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
294 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
525 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, ...
11
votes
1answer
395 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. ...
10
votes
0answers
222 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
254 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
388 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
226 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
213 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 ...
21
votes
6answers
4k 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, ...
18
votes
1answer
141 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
1answer
198 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
3answers
544 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
15k 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
665 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
400 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
499 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
196 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
2answers
1k 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
147 views

Why is the robin “sobbing”?

Blake's "The Blossom", part of his Songs of Innocence which you can read online, is a very short poem about a sparrow and a robin. The part about the robin reads as follows: Pretty, pretty robin! ...
7
votes
1answer
91 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
136 views

Why did Thomas Hardy fictionalise the place names in his Wessex?

Most or all of Thomas Hardy's novels are set in the region of "Wessex", which (as defined by him) covers a vast swathe of England, as you can see from the map provided in this answer: Notable towns ...
5
votes
1answer
194 views

Should Go Set a Watchman change our view of Atticus defending Tom Robinson?

I do realize that the passage of To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus defended Tom Robinson has been heavily analyzed elsewhere at this point. However, it seems like most people got the impression that ...
4
votes
2answers
114 views

Why did Owen Kellogg have a practical need for physics but Dagney didn't?

When Dagney Taggart spent time in the Valley, she asked to be allowed to attend John Galt's lectures on physics. He refused on the grounds that he didn't want to give her information or ideas that ...
3
votes
1answer
53 views

Need help finding book about a runaway kid who lives in a hollow tree

I found a survival-story chapter book in the library. I read the book, and loved it. Now I've moved, and the library is hours away and I can't remember the name of the book. I remember the following ...
40
votes
2answers
6k views

Does Dr. Manhattan have free will?

In Alan Moore's Watchmen, Doctor Manhattan is a superhero with godlike powers, including the ability to view his past, present, and future simultaneously. Manhattan believes that everything that ...
40
votes
1answer
2k views

What message is Bradbury trying to convey in Fahrenheit 451?

Fahrenheit 451 is one of Ray Bradbury's most famous works and possibly one of the most famous books in modern times. In my experience most people who read the book believe that Bradbury was warning ...
17
votes
7answers
6k views

Understanding political subtexts in the Turing test paper

Alan Turing's article "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" (which you can read online) is commonly interpreted as introducing the Turing test. Briefly, the Turing test is when you have two computer ...
32
votes
3answers
9k views

Does Snape talk in code?

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Snape asks Harry many questions during his first Potions class. The first thing Snape asks Harry is “Potter! What would I get if I added powdered ...
36
votes
0answers
414 views

History of Spoilers

I live in the USA, where people react poorly if you spoil a move or a book for them. However, the question What is the benefit in the Prologue "spoiling" the play in Romeo + Juliet? raises ...
22
votes
2answers
566 views

Why are Orcs associated with the colors red, yellow, and black in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings?

In Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series, Sauron, and characters allied with Sauron, are frequently associated with the colors red, yellow, and black. For example, here is a description of the ...
19
votes
2answers
639 views

Is a moral lesson a requirement for fairy tales?

Many of the fairy tales collected by the Grimm's have a moral. Is a moral lesson a requirement for fairy tales?
13
votes
3answers
3k views

Why does Portia say this in The Merchant of Venice?

In Act III Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, Portia : One half of me is yours, the other half yours. Mine own, I would say; but if mine then yours. Roughly translated it ...
7
votes
1answer
324 views

Why is “Oranges and Lemons” supposed to describe child sacrifice?

The popular nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons": Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement’s. You owe me five farthings, Say the bells of St. Martin’s. When will you pay me? ...
7
votes
1answer
186 views

'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu: When and where it was adopted first outside of China?

While of ancient origin and being still relevant today, much is speculation about the military classic 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu. Even the existence of the author is disputed. He allegedly served ...

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