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Bennett & Royle: Reading a Novel, Character, Mutant

by: Leah Notetaker

Bennett & Royle: Reading a Novel, Character, Mutant ENGL 150- 001 (, Blake R. Westerlund)

Marketplace > University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire > ENGL 150- 001 (, Blake R. Westerlund) > Bennett Royle Reading a Novel Character Mutant
Leah Notetaker
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These notes summarize three sections from Bennett and Royle's An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory. Sections covered are Reading a Novel, Character, and Mutant. Key notes, concepts, ...
Blake R. Westerlund
Class Notes
Literature, Literary Analysis, literary study, character, Novel, mutant




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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Leah Notetaker on Monday October 3, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ENGL 150- 001 (, Blake R. Westerlund) at University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire taught by Blake R. Westerlund in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 73 views.

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Date Created: 10/03/16
B&R Readings Reading a Novel  Getting lost in a novel: so immersed, lost sense of location, time, and even yourself  Novel reading is one of the most social of activities (getting into the heads of others) and one of the most anti-social (silent reading)  Novels emerged more than three hundred years ago out of journalism, letters, romances, chronicles, news, etc. o Diverse in subject matter, form, and style. No consistent rules set. (Or are the rules meant to be broken?) o French word nouvelle means “news”. News tells us something new, which may cause us to think in a new way. o In the modern sense, a novel is a long, fictional prose narrative. Yet many novels also contain realism. o Why realism? Novels describe the real world, or what could be/may be like ours.  Realistic and realist =/= real. It just follows certain conventions in describing the world.  Probability- a sense of realism; elaboration of a world we can believe, get lost in; unprecedented access into the minds of the characters o Interiority- convention in which a character talks to him/herself to be heard by the audience; much more comprehensive in a novel than a play o This is how we get lost in a novel. People spend a lot of time learning about what people think or even what others think about them. Success requires this, what we may call “mind reading”. o Allows us to understand what the narrator is thinking. (ex. first person or third person)  In first person, the audience “knows” the character better than the character does him/herself, so the narrator in first person may be considered an unreliable narrator.  Film and television adaptations often lose the personality, the voice, and the consciousness of the narrator. In novels, the voices echo in our heads.  To examine a novel, ask yourself some questions. o What is the title trying to say? o Which texts are evoked or challenged? Which genres? o How are characters represented and developed? What kind of language do they use? How do they speak? o What kind of narrator is there? How does it act? o How is the narrative focalized? o Which issues are discussed? Character  Characters are the life of literature. They often cease to be objects and are part of how we conceive ourselves.  Aristotle: Characters are secondary to the plot and are there for the action.  Henry James: plot and character are equal.  Characters are so important, they have become a part of everyday language and culture. o (ex. Hamlet, Jane Eyre)  Why do characters intrigue us? o Our sense of ourselves is developed through language and constructed by words. o “Who am I?”  Not just to be asked by the characters, but us, the readers.  Characters need plausibility. o Act like people in “real life”. o Complexity (characteristics, traits, etc.) o Complexity must mix into a single identity.  Mimetic model- character in a book is a copy of a real person o Sometimes, life copies fiction. o (ex. Catcher in the Rye, thought to have led to anti-social behavior) o Often happens among young people, although other media may play a role too. Person vs. Character  Person- a living soul or self-conscious being  Character- letter or sign, mark or writing, has “essential” qualities of a person  Stories often govern and direct our lives.  There is an inside and outside of a person, and both influence each other. o (ex. the way we dress ourselves) o But appearances are often deceptive. o Identity is like a mask. o People can never be fully singular; very complex.  To identify with a person in a novel or a play is to identify oneself, to create oneself as a character. Mutant  What are human beings? And what is a monster? A mutant?  Literature is full of these questions o (ex. Othello, Beowolf)  Mutant- from Latin for “change”, associated with otherness  We often yearn to be another object, whether it is animal, plant, dead, alive, or even a robot or a cyborg.  Literature is often about what it means to be human, non-human, and what not.  In cinema, this is evident as well. o (ex. E.T., Alien, The Matrix, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) o In the end, human will, imagination, feelings, and compassion survive. o We are unique, sentient, and compassionate.  But when we see “mutants”, we react with rage, disgust, rejection, and pity. o Selfish gene- what humans forget, cells remember.  Humanism- belief that humans have unique capacities and abilities to be cultivated and celebrated for their own sake; reduces both superstition and animal nature o Came between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, colonialization played a role.  Big question: What is NOT human? o This allows us to find ourselves. (ex. Frankenstein)  Literature “gives form to the dark, shapeless substances but cannot bring into the being the substance itself”. -Mary Shelley o Frankenstein, for example, made used of science and medical works, poetry, philosophy, the Bible, historiography, and the Enlightenment. o The study of literature involves mixing and a contamination of disciplines and genres, almost a kind of mutant. o Literary criticism and theory may be considered mutants too for this reason.  Monster- from Latin for “to warn, to show”. o A monster is not so much unnatural as something that comes out of nature. At least partially identical to a human, or it would not be so abhorred. They are almost the most natural things in the world.  We are all mutants, different from the last generation.


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