This section of the portfolio contains the four essays out of six that I see as most successful and that I have improved the most. They demonstrate not only what I consider my most fleshed out ideas and my best writing, but also the progress I have made over the semester. They show how I was able to craft theses and ideas not only out of the text itself, but also when I incorporate the work of other scholars and theorists. Each essay represents a different vein of literary criticism, each reflecting that criticism through the lense of The Tempest or Hamlet. Each had its own difficulties, but the end result is both a reflection of the ideas of the novel and vein of criticism, but also my own abilities and improvements.
The first essay in this part of the portfolio is the close reading essay, which is also the first essay we wrote in the class chronologically. This essay simply relies on just the text of The Tempest, including no outside sources like later essays would. In it, I discuss the motivation behind Prospero’s actions, using quotations from the text to back up how the way he treats Caliban and Ariel reflects his past and the lessons he learned from them. This essay helps demonstrate the basic ideas of constructing a claim, as well as finding and explaining evidence that supports said claim. In executing these ideas, they help demonstrate my understanding of the basic parts of literary criticism.
The second essay is the psychoanalytic essay, which was the fourth vein of analysis we looked at this semester. This is the first essay in this part of the portfolio to incorporate the ideas and methodology of another. Here, I compare the emotions of Hamlet and Laertes following their respective losses. I incorporate Sigmund Freud’s work “Mourning and Melancholia” to help explain the differences in the comparison. The skills on display here is tying a close reading to another methodology, which I struggled with at first, but do believe I have improved upon in the final draft of this essay for the course.
My third essay is the Marxist critique, which served as our fifth vein of literary analysis. It is the first essay where I actively critique something instead of simply prove something about the work. Within the essay, I discuss how Laertes may seem to go against Marxist ideas, his class standing actually do the opposite, perpetuating the status quo. For this essay, I bring in the ideas of Karl Marx and Louis Althusser as well as perform another close reading, this time only on Laertes and his actions. However, this time, instead of trying to explain actions like in the first two essays of this portfolio, here I am asserting the presence of ideas, in this case Marxist, within Hamlet through my analysis of Laertes.
My fourth and final essay in this part of my portfolio is my gender critique, which served as our final vein of literary analysis. In this essay, I discuss how the similarities and differences of Hamlet’s male role models help assert the idea of no one true gender norm, as asserted in Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. Like in my Marxist critique, I am using the actions of characters to point to overall societal structures present. However, this critique is much more personal to me, as I can have a greater impact on it than on Marxist ideas of an insurmountable structure. It pushed me to look at my own gender identity, demonstrating my skill to apply these critiques to my own life.
While I do not believe these essays to be perfect by any stretch, each represent the hard work I have put into developing my own ideas and tying those to established work. Without the hard work and ideas that have resulted from this class, they never would be anywhere near as presentable as they are now. My hope is that both my own skills and these interesting ideas all shine through in each essay, and I ultimately believe that they will.