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Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference
Literature: An Introduction to Critical Reading / Edition 1

Literature: An Introduction to Critical Reading / Edition 1

by Lee A. Jacobus


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780132826334
Publisher: Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference
Publication date: 08/28/1995
Pages: 1934
Product dimensions: 6.34(w) x 9.32(h) x 2.46(d)

Table of Contents


1. Introduction.
What Is Literature?

2. The Importance of Critical Reading.
A Close Reading of Robert Frost's “Fire and Ice.” The Process of Interpretation. Interpretation and the Author's Intention. Interpretation and the Search for Meaning.


3. Reading Three Stories.
A Story from The Decameron. Giovanni Baccaccio, “The Pot of Basil.” Close Reading: Beginning with Questions. Suzanne Jacob's “Two Cents.” Meaning: Implied and Explicit. Aesop, “The Rooster and the Precious Gem.”

4. Beginning with Close Reading.
William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily.” Responses for an Interpretation. Freewriting on “A Rose for Emily.” A Sample Interpretation of “A Rose for Emily.” Further Strategies for Interpreting “A Rose for Emily.”


5. Elements of Short Fiction.

Setting and Mood.

Edgar Allan Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death.” Doris Lessing, “To Room 19.” William Trevor, “The Ballroom of Romance.”

Character and Psychology.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The YellowWallpaper.” Richard Ford, “Communist.” Katherine Mansfield, “The Garden-Party.”

Style and Theme.

John Cheever, “The Swimmer.” Toni Cade Bambara, “The Lesson.” Ralph Ellison, “Battle Royal.”

Plot and Narrative Structure.

Katherine Anne Porter, “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.” Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini's Daughter.” Raymond Carver, “Night School.”

Point of View.

Charles Baxter, “Gryphon.” Fay Weldon, “Weekend.” Becky Birtha, “Johnnieruth.”

Irony and Tone.

Tim O'Brien, “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour.” Ursula K. Le Guin, “Sur.”

How the Elements Work Together.

Bharati Mukherjee, “Jasmine.” Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants.” Ann Beattie, “The Cinderella Waltz.”
6. Reading Anton Chekhov in Depth.
A Commentary on Chekhov's Career.

“The Darling.” “Concerning Love.” “The Lady with the Little Dog.”

Resources for Reading Chekhov.

Chekhov's Letters on Writing.
Leo Tolstoy, “Chekhov's Intent in 'The Darling.'” Eudora Welty, “Reality in Chekhov's Stories.” Vladimir Nabokov, “A Reading of Chekhov's 'The Lady with the Little Dog.'” Charles May, “Character and Mood in Chekhov.”
7. Reading Eudora Welty in Depth.

A Commentary on Welty's Career.
“A Worn Path.” “Livvie.” “Lily Daw and the Three Ladies.”

Resources for Reading Welty.

Eudora Welty, “One Writer's Beginnings.” Eudora Welty, “Is Phoenix Jackson's Grandson Really Dead?” Ruth M. Vande Kieft, “Technique in Livvie.” Peter Schmidt, “Lily Daw and the Three Ladies.”
8. An Album of Stories.
Sarah Orne Jewett, “A White Heron.” James Joyce, “Araby.” Franz Kafka, “A Hunger Artist.” Mary Lavin, “Happiness.” David Wong Louie, “Pangs of Love.” D. H. Lawrence, “The Horse Dealer's Daughter.” Gabriel García Márquez, “Eyes of a Blue Dog.” Alice Munro, “The Moons of Jupiter.”


9. Reading Six Poems.
Interpreting “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass.” Close Reading: Beginning with Questions.

Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess.”
Meaning: Implied and Explicit.

Lewis Carroll, “The Jabberwocky.”
Beginning with Close Reading.

John Masefield: “Cargoes.” W. S. Merwin: “Fly.” A Student Interpretation of Robert Frost's “Birches.” Freewriting on “Birches.” A Sample Interpretation. Further Strategies.


10. Elements of Poetry.


John Skelton, “To Mistress Margaret Hussey.” Edith Sitwell, “Sir Beelzebub.” e.e. cummings, “Poem, or Beauty Hurts Mr. Vinal.” Bessie Smith, “Empty Bed Blues.”


Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro.” Carol Rumens, “An Easter Garland.” Andrew Hudgins, “Gauguin: The Yellow Christ.” Walter McDonald, “The Food-Pickers of Saigon.”


James Stephens, “A Glass of Beer.” Judith Rodriguez, “Eskimo Occasion.” A. E. Housman, “Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff.” Ben Jonson, “On My First Son.”

Rhythm and Rhyme.

Aphra Behn, “Song.” A. E. Housman, “With Rue My Heart Is Laden.” e.e. cummings, “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.” Peter Meinke, “Miss Arbuckle.” Howard Nemerov, “Because You Asked About the Line between Prose and Poetry.” Stevie Smith, “Mother, Among the Dustbins.”

Metaphor and Figurative Language.

William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 73: That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold.” Denise Levertov, “Cancíon.” e.e. cummings, “She Being Brand New.” Randall Jarrell, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.” Edwin Honig, “As a Great Prince.” William Wordsworth, “London, 1802.” Gerald Costanzo, “At Irony's Picnic.”

Symbol and Allegory.

William Blake, “The Tiger.” e.e. cummings, “l(a.” Robert Frost, “Mending Wall.” Patrick Kavanagh, “To the Man after the Harrow.” William Carpenter, “Fire.”


The Song.

Richard Lovelace, “Song: To Lucasta, Going to the Wars.” Edmund Waller, “Go, Lovely Rose.”

The Sonnet.

Sir Philip Sidney, “With How Sad Steps, Oh Moon, Thou Climb'st the Skies!” Shakespeare, Sonnet 29 “When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes.” John Donne, Holy Sonnet 10 “Death Be Not Proud.” John Milton, “On the Late Massacre in Piedmont.” Peter Meinke, “The Poet, Trying to Surprise God.”

The Ballad.

The Ode.

Anne Stevenson, “The Fiction-Makers.”

The Epitaph.

Sharon Olds, “The Death of Marilyn Monroe.”

The Verse Epistle.

Anne Finch, “A Letter to Daphnis, April 2, 1685.”

The Villanelle.

Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.”

The Sestina.

Candice Warne, “Blackbird Sestina.”

The Prose Poem.

Carolyn Forché, “The Colonel.”

Free Verse. 11. Style and Theme.

Robert Herrick, “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time.” Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach.” Arthur Hugh Clough, “The Latest Decalogue.” Ishmael Reed, “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem.” Marilyn Chin, “How I Got That Name.” Maya Angelou, “These Yet to Be United States.” Muriel Rukeyser, “From Letter to the Front.”

12. The Elements Working Together.
Patricia Goedicke, “Wise Owl.” John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God's Grandeur.” Edward Hirsch, “Fast Break.” Countee Cullen, “Heritage.” Louise Glück, “Vespers.”

13. Reading John Keats in Depth.
A Commentary on Keats's Career.
“Ode to a Nightingale.” “La Belle Dame sans Merci.” “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be.” “On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.” “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles.” “The Eve of St. Agnes.” “Ode to Psyche.” “Ode on Melancholy.” “To Autumn.”

Resources for Reading Keats.

From Keats's Letters: “Negative Capability,” Dec., 1817. “The Thrush Said I Was Right,” Feb., 1818. “Keats's Axioms of Poetry,” Feb., 1818. “A Poet's Identity,” Oct., 1818. “I May Be a Popular Writer,” 1819. Aileen Ward, “The Eve of St. Agnes.” Walter Jackson Bate, “The Odes of April and May, 1819.”
14. Reading Robert Frost in Depth.
A Commentary on Frost's Career.
“The Death of the Hired Man.” “Home Burial.” “After Apple Picking.” “The Road Not Taken.” “The Oven Bird.” “'Out, Out—.'” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” “Acquainted with the Night.” “West-Running Brook.” “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep.” “Provide, Provide.” “Auspex.”

Resources for Reading Frost.

Robert Frost, Letter from South Shaftsbury, VT, January 6, 1929, to Louis Untermeyer, “Well, to Hell with Nearly Everything—with Everything by Poetry, Politics, and True Religion.” Robert Frost, Letter from South Miami, FL, February 15, 1950, to Louis Untermeyer, “Perhaps That's Enough About Me as a Teacher.” Robert Frost, Letter from South Miami, FL, February 21, 1950, to Louis Untermeyer, “All Right, Let's Have Some Sort of Chronology for Your Guidance.”
15. Sylvia Plath in Depth.
A Commentary on Plath's Career.

“Daddy.” “Ariel.” “The Elm.” “Metaphors.” “Mirror.” “Morning Song.” “Tulips.” “The Colossus.” “The Moon and the Yew Tree.” “Lady Lazarus.” “Paralytic.” “Mary's Song.”

Resources for Reading Plath.

Sylvia Plath, “A Comparison.” Sylvia Plath, From Her Journal: “On Suicide.” Sylvia Plath, From Letters to Her Mother: On the Mademoiselle Prize.
16. An Album of Poems.
Diane Ackerman, “On Looking into Sylvia Plath's Copy of Goethe's Faust.” Diane Ackerman, “Letter to Wallace Stevens.” Diane Ackerman, “Anne Donne to Her Husband.” Bella Akhmadulina, “Volcanoes.” Agha Shahid Ali, “Homage to Faiz Ahmed Faiz.” Anonymous, “Sumer Is Icumen In.” W. H. Auden, “Musée des Beaux Arts.” W. H. Auden, “In Memory of W. B. Yeats.” Imamu Amiri Baraka, “In Memory of Radio.” Grace Bauer, “Eve Recollecting the Garden.” Elizabeth Bishop, “Poem.” William Blake, from Songs of Innocence “Introduction.” “The Chimney Sweeper.” “The Little Boy Lost.” “The Little Boy Found.” William Blake, from Songs of Experience “The Clod & the Pebble.” “The Chimney Sweeper.” “The Garden of Love.” “London.” Louise Bogan, “Medusa.” Louise Bogan, “Women.” Arna Bontemps, “A Black Man Talks of Reaping.” Anne Bradstreet, “To My Dear and Loving Husband.” Anne Bradstreet, “The Author to Her Book.” Anne Bradstreet, “In Memory of My Dear Grandchild.” Gwendolyn Brooks, “The Mother.” Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “To George Sand a Desire.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “To George Sand A Recognition .” José Antonio Burciaga, “Berta Crocker's Bicentennial Recipe.” José Antonio Burciaga, “World Premiere.” Kathryn Stripling Byer, “Chestnut Flat Mine.” Juanita Casey, “Pegasus.” Lady Mary Chudleigh, “To the Ladies.” Amy Clampitt, “Beach Glass.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Kubla Khan.”
John Cotton, “Report Back.” Robert Creeley, “Ballad of the Despairing Husband.” e.e. cummings, “Buffalo Bill's Defunct.” e.e. cummings, “my sweet old etcetera.” Philip Dacey, “Jack, Afterwards.” Philip Dacey, “Jill, Afterwards.” Bernard Dadié, “In Memoriam,” from Africa Arise! Bernard Dadié, “I Thank You, Lord.” Carl Dennis, “Oedipus the King.” James Dickey, “On the Hill Below the Lighthouse.” Emily Dickinson, “Success Is Counted Sweetest.” Emily Dickinson, “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed.” Emily Dickinson, “I Felt a Funeral/in My Brain.” Emily Dickinson, “After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling.” Emily Dickinson, .“I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died.” Emily Dickinson, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” Emily Dickinson, “Tell All the Truth, But Tell It Slant.” Sheila Dietz, “Not Remembering More.” Birago Diop, “Viaticum.” John Donne, “The Flea.” John Donne, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.” John Donne, Holy Sonnet 14 “Batter My Heart Three-Personed God.” H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), “Heat.” H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), “Helen.” Rita Dove, “Used.” Gretel Ehrlich, “The Orchard.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Hamatreya.” Faiz Ahmed Faiz, “Before You Came.” Anne Finch, “A Song of the Cannibals.” Margaret Gibson, “Out in the Open.” Margaret Gibson, “Unborn Child Elegy.” Allen Ginsberg, “Howl.” Louise Glück, “Brown Circle.” Louise Glück, “Brooding Likeness.” Louise Glück, “Matins” (Forgive Me If I Say I Love You). Lorna Goodison, “My Last Poem.” Lorna Goodison, “Jamaica.” Lorna Goodison. “My Last Poem (Again).” George Gordon, Lord Byron, “Maid of Athens Ere We Part.” George Gordon, Lord Byron, “She Walks in Beauty.” Jorie Graham, “The Hiding Place.” Jorie Graham,
“History.” Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” Linda Gregg, “Whole and without Blessing.” Marilyn Hacker, “Did You Love Well What Very Soon You Left.” Marilyn Hacker, “Sonnet Ending with a Film Subtitle.” Thomas Hardy, “The Darkling Thrush.” Joy Harjo, “Santa Fe.” ” Joy Harjo, “Nine Lives.” Michael Harper, “Last Affair: Bessie's Blues Song.” Seamus Heaney, “Punishment.” Seamus Heaney, “The Tollund Man.” George Herbert, “The Altar.” George Herbert, “Easter Wings.” Geoffrey Hill, “September Song.” Christine Holbo, “Gomorrah.” Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Windhover.” Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty.” Langston Hughes, “Harlem.” Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” Langston Hughes, “The Weary Blues.” Langston Hughes, “Madam and the Rent Man.” Langston Hughes, “Theme for English B.” Ted Hughes, “Examination at the Womb Door.” Ted Hughes, “Crow's First Lesson.” Lynda Hull, “Midnight Reports.” T. R. Hummer, “The Rural Carrier Discovers That Love Is Everywhere.” T. R. Hummer, “The Rural Carrier Stops to Kill a Nine-foot Cottonmouth.” Elizabeth Jennings, “Fragment for the Dark.” Elizabeth Jennings, “The Child's Story.” June Jordan, “Letter to the Local Police.” Jenny Joseph, “Warning.” Donald Justice, “A Map of Love.” Brigit Pegeen Kelly, “Young Wife's Lament.” Dolores Kendrick, “Leah: in Freedom.” Rachel Korn, “Keep Hidden from Me.” Mazisi Kunene, “From the Ravages of Life We Create.” Mazisi Kunene, “Place of Dreams.” Mazisi Kunene, “The Political Prisoner.” Philip Larkin, “Faith Healing.” Philip Larkin, “Church Going.” Denise Levertov, “O Taste and See.” Denise Levertov, “Matins.” Jan Heller Levi, “Sex Is Not Important.” Amy Lowell, “Venus Transiens.” Robert Lowell, “Robert Frost. ” Wing Tek Lum, “At a Chinaman's Grave.” Wing Tek Lum, “Minority Poem.”
George Ella Lyon, “Salvation.” George Ella Lyon, “Progress.” Mekeel McBride, “If I'd Been Born in Tennessee.” Walter McDonald, “Father's Straight Razor.” Claude McKay, “The Harlem Dancer.” Naomi Long Madgett, “Midway.” Naomi Long Madgett, “The Race Question.” Christopher Marlowe, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress.” W. S. Merwin, “For a Coming Extinction.” Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Childhood Is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies.” John Milton, “How Soon Hath Time…” John Milton, “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent…” John Milton, “I Thought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint.” Cheng Min, “Student.” N. Scott Momaday, “Comparatives.” Marianne Moore, “Poetry.” Larry Neal, “Ghost Poem #1.” Sharon Olds, “Things That Are Worse Than Death.” Sharon Olds, “The One Girl at the Boys Party.” Mary Oliver, “Some Questions You Might Ask.” Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day.” Simon Ortiz, “Juanita, Wife of Manuelito.” Wilfred Owen, “Dulce et Decorum Est.” Wilfred Owen, “Arms and the Boy.” Wilfred Owen, “Spring Offensive.” Dorothy Parker, “General Review of the Sex Situation.” Dorothy Parker, “Incurable.” Dorothy Parker, “Men.” Dorothy Parker, “Observation.” Dorothy Parker, “Symptom Recital.” Marge Piercy, “Secretary Chant.” Katha Pollitt, “Old Neighbors.” Katha Pollitt, “In Memory.” Alexander Pope, “Ode on Solitude.” Ezra Pound, “Ancient Music Winter Is Icummen In.” Ezra Pound, “The River-Merchant's Wife, A Letter.” Sir Walter Raleigh, “The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd.” Henry Reed, “The Naming of Parts.” Carter Revard, “What the Eagle Fan Says.” Adrienne Rich, “Trying to Talk with a Man.” Adrienne Rich, “Diving Into the Wreck.” Edward Arlington Robinson, “Richard Cory.” Theodore Roethke, “Elegy for Jane.” Theodore Roethke, “My Papa's Waltz.” Christina Rossetti, “Song.” Christina Rossetti, “Remember.” Christina Rossetti, “Echo.” Christina Rossetti, “In an Artist's Studio.” Muriel Rukeyser, “Myth.” Leopold Senghor, “Night of Sine.” Anne Sexton,“Red Riding Hood.” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18 “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day.” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 30 “When to the Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought.” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 64 “When I Have seen by Time's Fell Band Defaced.” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 106 “When in the Chronicle of Wasted Time.” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116 “Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds.” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 129 “Th'expense of Spirit in a Waste of Shame.” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130 “My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun.” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 135 “Whoever Hath her Wish, thou Hast thy Will.” William Shakespeare, Sonnet 144 “Two Loves I Have of Comfort and Despair.” Fily-Dabo Sissoko, “Brush Fire.” Charlotte Smith, “Pressed By the Moon, Mute Arbitress of Tides.” Stevie Smith, “The Galloping Cat.” Stevie Smith, “Scorpion.” Stevie Smith, “Away, Melancholy.” Gary Snyder, “Riprap.” Cathy Song, “The Youngest Daughter.” Marcia Southwick, “Owning a Dead Man.” Maura Stanton, “Childhood.” George Starbuck, “On First Looking in on Blodgett's Keats's Chapman's Homer.” Wallace Stevens, “The Emperor of Ice Cream.” Wallace Stevens, “The Idea of Order at Key West” Anne Stevenson, “Cain.” Anne Stevenson, “By the Boat House, Oxford.” Ruth Stone, “Where I Came From.” Mark Strand, “Where Are the Waters of Childhood?” Jonathan Swift, “The Progress of Beauty.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott.” Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill.” Dylan Thomas, “Poem in October.” David Wagoner, “The Shooting of John Dillinger Outside the Biograph Theater, July 22, 1934.” Marilyn Nelson Waniek, “Emily Dickinson's Defunct.” Belle Waring, “What Hurts.” Belle Waring, “Children Must Have Manners.” John Weiners, “The Eagle Bar.” Walt Whitman, from “Song of Myself.” William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow.” William Carlos Williams, “Danse Russe.” Terence Winch, “The Meanest Gang in the Bronx.” Terence Winch, “Six Families of Puerto Ricans.” William Wordsworth, “The World Is Too Much with Us.” William Wordsworth, “Lines Composed above Tintern Abbey.” James Wright, “At the Executed Murderer's Grave.” William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium.” William Butler Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”


17. Reading a Play.
Interpretive Strategies. A Student Interpretation. Susan Glaspell, Suppressed Desires. Beginning with Close Reading. Keeping a Response Journal. Freewriting. Developing an Outline. Sample Essay: An Interpretation of Suppressed Desires. Further Strategies for Interpretation.


18. Elements of Drama.
Close Reading of Tragedy.

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex.
Close Reading of Comedy.

Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Close Reading of Tragicomedy.

Athol Fugard, “Master Harold” …and the Boys.
19. Henrik Ibsen in Depth.
A Commentary on Ibsen's Career.

A Doll House.

Commentary on Ibsen.

Henrik Ibsen, “Notes on A Doll's House.” Janet Achurch, “On the Difficulty of Being Nora.” Joan Templeton, “The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, and Ibsen.”
20. An Album of Plays.
Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard. Maria Irene Fornes, Conduct of Life. Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman. William Shakespeare, Hamlet. Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie. August Wilson, Fences.


21. The Importance of Writing About Literature.
Developing Insights. Beginning with Close Reading. Percy Bysshe Shelly, “Ozymandias.”
Taking Notes and Summarizing. Keeping a Response Journal. The Process of Writing an Interpretive Essay: Prewriting. Freewriting, Brainstorming, and Listing. Narrowing the Topic. Trying Out Interpretive Strategies. Formalist/New Critical. Reader Response. Psychoanalytic. Historicist. Developing a Thesis. Principles of Evidence. Backing Up Your Thesis with Details from the Text. Finding Patterns, Implications, Silent Gestures, Codes, and Subtleties. Using Outside Sources. Finding Available Resources. Resources Online: The Internet. Gathering and Using Sources. The Writing Process Continued. Outlining. Drafting and Revising. Editing. The Interpretive Essay's Structure. The Mechanics of Quotation and Documentation. Quoting from a Literary Text. Incorporating Short Quotations Setting Off Long Quotations. Documenting Quotations from a Literary Text. Quoting from an Online Source. Proper Form of Citation. Compiling a Works Cited List. Citing Works in Your Essay In MLA Style. Details of Manuscript Preparation. Sample Essays. A Formalist/Historicist Interpretation Using Sources. A Reader Response Interpretation.


22. Introduction to Interpretation.
Formalist Interpretations. The Formalist Approach: New Criticism. Psychoanalytic Criticism. Reader Response Interpretations. Reader Response Criticism. Contextual Interpretations. Feminist Criticism. Political-Economic Criticism. Cultural Criticism. Historicist Criticism. Combining Interpretive Strategies. Interpreting Nikki Giovanni's “Master Charge Blues.” A Formalist Interpretation: New Criticism. A Psychoanalytic Interpretation. A Reader Response Interpretation. A Feminist Interpretation. A Political-Economic Interpretation. A Cultural Interpretation. An Historical Interpretation. A Final Point.


Literature: An Introduction to Critical Reading, Compact Edition, is designed for the introduction to literature course and concentrates on developing skills associated with close reading. At the same time, it permits a variety of critical approaches to short fiction, poetry, and drama. The selections engage the interest of the modern student while offering a remarkable range of nationalities, historical periods, and authors: canonical, marginalized, and contemporary. The collection includes 40 short stories, 318 poems, and 11 plays.


The primary strategy used in this book is traditional close reading. Close reading begins the process of interpretation and criticism of literature. In this sense, the book encourages us to consider what is truly important in any given work of literature, regardless of its genre. Most of the works that appear in these pages have a strong impact on the reader and all of them benefit from a careful reading and interpretation. In each of the genres of fiction, poetry, and drama, I have spent time detailing a close examination of the primary elements, such as style, theme, plot and narrative structure, point of view, tone, form, imagery, symbol arid allegory, figurative language, setting, character, as well as the elements of tragedy, comedy, and tragicomedy. I have chosen works that excite ideas by virtue of their treatment of the elements of literature. I emphasize elements because it is important to see how they intersect, complement each other, and ultimately serve a higher literary purpose: to make a lasting literary statement.


The first chapters of the book explorethe importance of critical reading and offer a close examination of Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice." The process of interpretation by means of a sample reading and its resultant notes, outlines, drafts, and final essay completes the first part of the book. The essay on Frost's poem demonstrates one way in which close reading begins the process of interpreting a piece of literature while at the same time pointing to a number of ways in which a critical examination of the poem might be carried out. Naturally, critical reading will differ from reader to reader and the process of interpretation depends in some measure not only on close reading of a text, but on the preparation and background of the reader.


Each part of the book dealing with a specific genre begins with the title Interpreting Short Fiction, Interpreting Poetry, or Interpreting Drama. Each of these emphasizes the process of close reading and demonstrates a wide variety of ways in which close reading moves us toward an interpretation of the piece of literature. Interpretation implies a coherent reading that clarifies the work's significance. The examples offered in the book point to a range of interpretations, which reflects the fact that different readers will produce different interpretations depending on their critical approach, whether it is the method of formalist new criticism, historicism, feminism, or any one of a number of cultural criticisms. Making good sense of complex works of art takes time and practice as well as the opportunity to examine useful models of criticism. Each of the parts of the book offers such opportunities and such practice. In short fiction, the close reading and interpretation is developed around William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily." In poetry several poems are discussed in detail, but the close reading and interpretation is reserved for Robert Frost's "Birches." Susan Glaspell's amusing comedy, Suppressed Desires, provides the opportunity for close reading. In each of these cases, short essays illustrate useful interpretations and critical strategies.


Literature: An Introduction to Critical Reading, Compact Edition, gives more emphasis to the elements of each genre than does the fuller edition. For example, three short stories illustrate style and theme, plot and narrative structure, as well as each of the other basic elements of fiction. These stories use their respective elements to wonderful effect and help the reader see how powerful the given elements can be. Poetry and Drama are illustrated in similar fashion, tailored to each genre. For poetry, a group of five to ten poems illustrates their respective elements, such as language, imagery, tone, rhythm, rhyme, figurative language, and form. In the section on drama, a group of plays offers the opportunity to see all the elements at work together.


In this new compact edition, several authors are represented in depth with a number of their works as well as commentaries either from the authors themselves or from their critics. Anton Chekhov and Eudora Welty each have three stories in this collection and also a number of commentaries that will help students interpret the stories in relation to one another. This strategy helps readers see how individual writers rework similar ideas and use the elements in a way that determines their individual style. In poetry, generous selections from the works of John Keats, Robert Frost, and Sylvia Plath offer opportunities to see how poetic styles develop and how poets establish their own attitudes toward language and style. Henrik Ibsen is represented by A Doll House as well as by his notes on the play. Janet Achurch, the first actress to play Nora, comments on the role while Joan Templeton examines the way critics have treated the play. These critical opportunities offer a model of how outside commentary can shed light on a whole body of writing in addition to the individual piece of writing.


Each section of the book ends with a representative album of important and exciting stories, poems, and plays. In these albums, students can approach a given work from any angle they choose. Armed with an understanding of how the elements function in short fiction, they may begin with Sarah Orne Jewett, James Joyce, David Wong Louie, or a number of other ranking authors. Each of the nine stories in the album will reward close reading and critical interpretation. In the album of poems, more than two hundred examples, including eight by Emily Dickinson, five by Langston Hughes and Dorothy Parker, and eleven of Shakespeare's sonnets, offer a wide range of style, thought, and technique. The album of plays includes six major dramas: Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, Maria Irene Fornes's The Conduct of Life, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Tennessee Williams's <>The Glass Menagerie, and August Wilson's Fences.


Supplementing the examples of writing in each of the sections on literary genre, Chapter 21, The Importance of Writing about Literature, details all the steps involved in writing an interpretive essay on a piece of literature. The chapter takes Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias" as its example, then offers an illustration of the process of developing material to support a thorough essay on the poem. Exercises follow in prewriting, freewriting, outlining, drafting and 'revising, editing, and the use of outside sources. In addition, the chapter describes the mechanics of citation and MLA style. Two essays end the chapter, taking two different critical approaches. The first is a formalist/historicist interpretation, while the second is essentially a reader response interpretation.


The final chapter of the book details some of the most important contemporary approaches to critical examination of texts. The formalist new criticism approach is followed by considerations of psychoanalytic criticism, reader response criticism, feminist criticism, political-economic criticism, historicist criticism, and a note on how to combine these methods for best effect. A careful reading of Nikki Giovanni's "Master Charge Blues" shows how a single poem can yield very different interpretations depending on how one approaches it.


An extensive Instructor's Manual of more than 450 pages offers a range of important resources, such as sample syllabi, video and audio recordings of writers in the collection, and detailed treatments of stories, poems, and plays in the text. Almost every work in the book has questions for close reading appropriate for in-class discussion. A second set of questions for critical interpretation helps engage the student in interpretive consideration of the work. These questions can be used by directing class discussion or for assignments in writing. They are open-ended questions designed to stimulate discussion, not close it down.

I was assisted in the preparation of the first edition of the manual by four doctoral students at the University of Connecticut: Catherine Nevil Parker, Julie Pfeiffer, Marianne Sadowski, and Mary Ann Reimann. My own contributions to the manual are in every section. They are based on my more than 40 years of teaching, much of that time teaching Introduction to Literature classes at several universities.

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