Monday, December 15, 2008

Class in Perspective

This class has covered numerous pieces of classical and modern literature which I have found quite edifying. We have covered a vast array of pieces of widely varying literary models and from all through history. Among these topics covered were short stories, dramas (plays), and poetry. These were very effectively taught by method of encouraging deep reading and analysis of the works presented.
For me, some of the best and most diverse of the featured works were those presented in the poetry section. They often demonstrated pertinent themes that have a universal nature. As such, they will always provoke deep thought about life from those who consider them. A prime example is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias”. Focusing on the meaning of this poem causes the reader to reflect on the fleeting nature of life and material achievements. The poem gives that the ultimate power is time; it is a force that nothing and no one, no matter how great, can withstand indefinitely. It was also interesting to note contrasting messages on similar subjects. A prime example of such a contrast can be found in “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen, and Richard Lovelace’s “To Lucasta, On Going to the Wars”. They both ruminate on the subject of war and being a soldier, however they share nothing in their message about it.
Unfortunately for me, the short stories presented did not invoke the same type of deep thought and rumination that the poetry did. I found much of the stories to be rather inconclusive and so they left me with little purposeful thoughts. Charlotte Perkins’ short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” was one I found particularly enigmatic. Its lack of perspective or a reliable narrator seemed to make the whole story (or what little plot there was) seem pointless; an insignificant fiction-within-a-fiction.
The unit on drama as literature featured a great work that invited my careful analysis out of a desire to gain understanding. That work was Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A work with social and mythical underpinnings, it contained a fascinated plot with a great emphasis on power and justice, and how the two intertwine in life. Though Shakespeare’s language is at times riddled with subtle metaphors and older English, it can be understood through close reading and examination of historical context.
This class has unquestionably increased my repertoire of classical literature knowledge. I also believe it has improved my ability to scrutinize literature through various scopes and lenses and draw reasonable, easily supported arguments from it. This is a skill which will never be unusable, as critical thinking and reading skill are vital in all walks of life.

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