Friday, April 20, 2012

Critique Groups: How to Participate

Participate by listening for how to improve your writing.  Focus less on criticism which does not lead to improvement. In On Becoming a Novelist, John Gardner stated that English majors have one major problem: they forget they first and foremost have to entertain the reader. Gardner’s advice is another reminder Aristotle’s maxim: Literature must delight and instruct.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Literary Criticism: New Criticism

Broad topic, I know, too broad for a blog, but New Criticism reading should encourage you to find a copy of Critical Theory Since Plato, Hazard Adams. New criticism considers the art object in and of itself, apart from any other critical mode. Until the advent of New Criticism, for example, Hamlet had been considered a coward, a man who delayed dispatching his Uncle Claudius and who thus failed to avenge Hamlet's father's murder.

New Criticism--the consideration of the words on the page and nothing else--completely refuted Hamlet's delay. If you read Shakespeare's text only, and nothing else, every time in the first four acts that Hamlet comes upon his Uncle Claudius, Hamlet states the reason he waits to kill Claudius, and his reason is based in perfect Catholic theology. Denmark was part of the Holy Roman Empire. When Shakespeare was writing, England had broken from the Catholic Church; however, England was still Catholic in practice. When Hamlet finds his uncle at prayer, Hamlet states "If I kill Claudius at prayer, he'll be in a state of grace and he will go to Heaven, whereas my father is in purgatory (as we know from the first act). That's not the way to avenge my father's murder."  Hamlet waits until Claudius is in a state of sin.

Friday, April 13, 2012

When's the last time you stayed up to read?

The first two readers to read Jane Eyre stayed up and read the novel at one sitting:  See p. 29 “But when a Scotsman, not given to exaggeration, took it home and stayed up half the night to finish, the publisher decided to read it himself, and felt the praise lavished by the first two readers had not been exaggerated.” The Life of Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell. Oxford University Press, 1996.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to Critique

During a tour of the Bronte family’s parsonage in Haworth, Yorkshire, England, I learned that the Bronte sisters would put their manuscripts on the dining room table in the evening. They would walk around the table, critiquing each other’s writing. What was the nature of the critique? What was said? What was praised or discussed? And how does it compare to my critique group?

Monday, April 9, 2012


When I read the popular character name Katniss Everdene I thought the last name sounded familiar. I peeked at the author's acknowledgement, remembered an undergraduate paper I wrote on Gabriel Oak, plan to pull it out from under the bed to re-read soon. My thesis was Thomas Hardy describes Oak in terms used to describe medieval heroes. I'll look up the support I used for my assertion and see if they still make sense today: trial by fire, vanquish, staff, sword, water, triumph, and redemption.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mystery Topics

Who is your favorite mystery writer? This blog will cover some favorites. Appeal to the public will be one focus.  New mystery writers will be covered.  My favorite is M.M. Kaye. Of course, who can overlook Agatha Christie?  We cannot omit men. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will be the first male included. I visited his museum in London, England. A contemporary favorite is Stefanie Pintoff.