With this particular set of papers, I was able to focus on stating my ideas more clearly and concretely. Often, I have several ideas for a paper topic and am eager to express them all at once; however, I have learned to create distinct, precise arguments in each of my papers. After I have solidified my argument and have completed what I believe is a “final” draft, I enjoy looking over all my process materials and reflect on the steps I have taken to write my paper. I wholeheartedly enjoy the level of critical thinking involved in writing literary criticism. The application of literary theory allows us to interpret the text’s reflective properties. It, essentially, becomes a mirror for innumerable images of humanity, whether it be personal, historical, sexual, cultural, or (most fascinating in my opinion): psychological.
Feminist and Gender
In my gender criticism paper, I choose to examine the gender performances of Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Instead of displaying Brett as a femme fatale or being careless, I focus more on the male characters’ failed forms of masculinity in reaction to Brett’s femininity. Hemingway wants the reader to see that his character of Brett is not a negative portrayal of a woman but is rather a test to the male characters and an opportunity to display their masculinity. The only true man of the text, ironically, is the impotent Jake Barnes who embraces feminization and embodies a new form of masculinity that does not rely on sexual performance or the traditional, pre-modern male gender role.
I have chosen to include my gender criticism paper in my portfolio because The Sun Also Rises is one of my all-time favorite texts and I find Hemingway’s take on masculinity to be simply fascinating. Gender criticism is quite new to me and I felt that this paper presented me with a great challenge; one I was eager to immerse myself in.
In my new criticism essay, I look at the use of light and dark in Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw to showcase the ambiguity of the text. The governess’s allusions to light, darkness, windows, and candles create a chilling atmosphere and also leave a lot of the horrors of the story open to interpretation. James purposely creates this ambiguity so that the reader does not know whether or not the governess is truly insane or if the children are indeed possessed by evil spirits. Therefore, the true contrast of light and dark is how much the reader is left in the dark, and what we are allowed to see clearly in the light.
I really enjoyed studying such a classic text as The Turn of the Screw. I love the haunting elements of the text; whether it is the evil spirits themselves or the insanity that lurks in the mind of the governess. I chose to include this paper in my portfolio because I truly enjoyed writing it and studying the text so closely.
For my psychoanalytic theory paper, I apply the theory of Jacques Lacan to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Instead of completely relying on the psychoanalytic theory to dissect the text, I also apply a modern diagnosis to Roderick Usher’s condition: Misophonia. The fact that the condition was unnamed at the time increases the intensity of his madness and therefore adds to the frustration of repressed desires. Using the symptoms and description of Misophonia to further define Usher’s madness, I am able to apply Lacan’s theory and clearly show the effects of repressing the failed use of language and Roderick’s desire to express his agitation.
Psychoanalytic theory naturally captivates me. Anything that concentrates on the darker processes of the mind holds my attention beyond any other topic of study. With the modern-day Misophonia diagnosis of Usher, I was challenged with performing psychoanalytic theory on the work but also incorporating the definition of a rather new mental disorder. I embraced the challenge with enthusiasm and really enjoyed revising my psychoanalytic theory paper until I believe it showcased my argument most clearly.
For my reader response paper, I chose to apply Norman Holland’s identity theory to my personal readings of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” I use the psychoanalytic properties of reading a text to showcase my own mental disorder and how I have reacted to the story. Using Wolfgang Iser’s theory, I fill in the “gaps” of the text using my own disordered mental processes and therefore can deeply relate to Roderick on a mental level.
At length, I debated including my reader response paper in my portfolio. My innermost fears and desires are laid bare on the pages and I feel naked. Quite frankly, I am horrified when I observe the level of self-reflection needed to write my reader response. The fear, however, is what makes me realize I need to include my reader response paper in my portfolio. My disorder is what makes me who I am, no matter how much I try and hide it or cope with it. It will always be with me; it is imprinted on my past, is achingly present each day, and it haunts my future ambitions, so I figure there is no logical reason why it should be left out of my portfolio.