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37
votes
7answers
8k 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 ...
17
votes
1answer
903 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
582 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 ...
12
votes
3answers
8k 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
823 views

Why did iambic pentameter become so 'standard' in classical English poetry?

Iambic pentameter is probably the most prevailing and widely used meter in classical English poetry, and it's the 'standard' form of verse in many forms of poetry such as sonnets. From Wikipedia (...
24
votes
7answers
32k 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, ...
26
votes
3answers
14k views

Why don't Mr. Bennet's daughters get to inherit the Longbourn estate?

In the book Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins comments that Lady Catherine de Bourgh's daughter will one day inherit the de Bourgh fortune. From previous chapters, we know that the five daughters of ...
15
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?
19
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
6k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
20
votes
2answers
3k 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
5k 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
6answers
14k views

What did O'Brien mean when he said “They got me a long time ago” in the book 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 ...
20
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
2k 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
5k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

Who introduced the sonnet to English literature? Wyatt or Shakespeare?

Who brought sonnet to English literature? Thomas Wyatt or William Shakespeare? Their contributions to English literature: Shakespeare wrote a book that contains 154 sonnets, but I couldn't find ...
11
votes
1answer
8k views

Why did Shakespeare write in iambic pentameter?

Shakespeare is incredibly famous for writing a lot in iambic pentameter. But why did he choose to write in this specific style of having ten beats and 5 stressed syllables per line? Considering it ...
11
votes
1answer
655 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 two years later with that understanding. While recently ...
9
votes
1answer
406 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 ...
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 ...
8
votes
2answers
5k 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
375 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: ...
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 ...
4
votes
2answers
857 views

Where is the Poe quote “Of puns it has been said that those who most dislike them are those who are least able to utter them” from?

While researching an answer for the question What does Dupin mean about a seal formed of bread?, I was looking up material related to the author Edgar Allan Poe and his use of puns. I found this quote,...
20
votes
7answers
7k 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
280k 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 ...
45
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
34
votes
1answer
3k views

Did Shakespeare write his own stage directions?

It's well known that Shakespeare had no part in publishing the text of his own plays - indeed, many of them were only published posthumously. I've read that a significant proportion of his plays came ...
58
votes
2answers
23k 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 ...
23
votes
2answers
511 views

Translation: Why are parts of the original language kept?

Inspired by this question. In many translated works (the first to come to mind are translations by Richard Pevear and the English versions of Isaac Bashevis Singer's writings) there are elements of ...
19
votes
1answer
995 views

What justifies the anti-Tess interpretation of “Tess of the d'Urbervilles”?

Upon its publication, Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles inspired much debate as to whether Tess should be perceived as an innocent young woman thrust too early into the cruel world of men ...
15
votes
1answer
1k views

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

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), Joseph Campbell argues that many myths follow a typical pattern involving the hero's departure from familiar surroundings to a unfamiliar setting, ultimately ...
14
votes
2answers
3k views

Did Homer base the Iliad and the Odyssey on mythology?

Homer's two epic poems follow the story of the Trojan War through various perspectives. Did Homer make up the stories, or was there some kind of historical/mythological predecessor that he retold (or ...
13
votes
3answers
458 views

Which flood story was first?

I have heard that the The Epic of Gilgamesh may predate the stories of Noah told in Abrahamic works. Is there any evidence to support which story came first?
9
votes
1answer
194 views

What is the history of the universe/canon/word-of-god approach to literature?

Over on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange, some participants apply the following theoretical approach to the interpretation of fiction: The role of fiction is to describe a fictional ‘...
8
votes
3answers
6k views

Do a lot of Shakespeare characters break the fourth wall?

Ralph Crown mentions in this answer that a particular line in the play Hamlet could be interpreted as Hamlet breaking the fourth wall, and implies that this is common in Shakespeare plays: Another [...
3
votes
0answers
57 views

Portrayal of Henry Bolingbroke through different Shakespeare plays

King Henry IV of England, also known as Henry Bolingbroke, appears in three Shakespeare plays, with two of them being named after him. In Richard II, he can be seen as the main antagonist of the play, ...
25
votes
3answers
16k 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 ...
23
votes
1answer
299 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. ...
20
votes
1answer
837 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
43k 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
1answer
1k 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 ...
15
votes
3answers
9k views

Why is black evil and white good?

This trope appears everywhere in literature - especially in fantasy. Everywhere you turn, black means bad and white means good. This is particularly true when applied to people, or the consequences of ...
12
votes
1answer
2k 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. ...
12
votes
1answer
956 views

Why are there three different versions of the “solid/sullied/sallied flesh” line in Hamlet?

While looking up about the passage asked about in this previous question, I noticed that there are different versions of the same line in Hamlet, Act I Scene II, line 333: O that this too too solid ...
11
votes
0answers
571 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
1k 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there any deeper significance to the Borges story “The End”?

"The End" is a very short story, not much over 1000 words, in Borges's collection Fictions. It describes a paralysed man, Recabarren, who observes an unnamed black guitar player avenge himself on ...

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