Showing posts with label character. Show all posts
Showing posts with label character. Show all posts

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Character Definitions and Creative Techniques



An Examination of the role of CHARACTER in literary texts

Superficially ... “A person in a story, someone we can relate to, or identify with ...”

But Note:

Caricature – 2-dimensinal, simple, represents one value, e.g. the angry man, jealousy = related to allegory and satire = distortion for effect of one quality, or exaggeration of certain features; stereotypes

Narrative functions – hero/villain, trickster, false hero, magician, father/son, mother/daughter, outcast, rebel.

In real life people that we come to know well are seldom just functions or caricatures.

Real living people in the media, or celebrities, often have an assumed character or role that might be quite different from how they are in their personal life. In texts, an assumed role is called a persona, in the media we even talk about ‘personalities’ to express the public projection of a role. Perceptions of role or character can also be manipulated e.g. spin doctors and propagandists may want to present a politician with ‘strong leadership qualities and empathy.’

First person – autobiographical, “I”, my story.

Third person – author/omniscient narrator may provide insights into what they are thinking and feeling – free indirect narrative (author comments). “ ‘Yeah,’he muttered, feeling guilty about what he had done.”

You do not have to describe a character in full at the outset – you can build up the sense of a character through the accumulation of details, observed behaviour, speech patterns ...

Historical – based on real people
Realistic – true-to-life, psychological, inner life and physical appearance;
3-dimensional, complex
Fantastic – imaginary – don’t even have to be human.


Development – some are static, others grow and develop from birth through childhood and adolescence to adult life. A Bildungsroman has the development of a central character across his/her life as a central preoccupation. An example of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations or David Copperfield.

Leading or primary characters – occupy key roles and focalise points of view. Often linked to the idea of the hero/heroine.

Supporting / secondary characters – help to illustrate the main theme, or to develop sub-plots.

Note the key role of dialogue to SHOW and REVEAL characters and their relationships

- accent/dialect                           
- lexis
- grammar                                
- colloquialisms, slang, blasphemy, coarse
- polished and elegant, urbaned and civilized
- tone
- monosyllabic or oratorical (speeches)

Conflict and relationships are essential for building character, and for moving the story forward.

The hero’s JOURNEY / progress involves – threats, obstacles, reversals, tricks, irony, metamorphosis, tests, deviations. Many stories have these structural elements.

Too much inconsistency leads to incredulity (disbelief) in the mind of the reader.

Wider Contexts:

characters display causation as a result of factors such as environment/ family/ social class; these aspects allow the development of ideas and themes.

Avoid confusing a character’s voice, or that of the narrator, with the author's. Don't try to guess authorial intentions! This called the inentional fallacy!

Remember that some characters are ironic – perhaps the narrator/author is having a laugh at their expense?

In Gulliver’s Travels, author Jonathan Swift manipulates the voice of Gulliver so that the reader sometimes supports, and at other times opposes Gulliver's point of view.

This means that there is a degree of inconsistency, and perhaps we should refer to Gulliver as a satirical persona, mouthpiece, or rhetorical device, rather than a character in the tradition of the realist novel.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Intro Shakespearean Tragedy




The publication of a new edition of Bradley’s Shakespearean Tragedy (1904) presents a timely opportunity to explore a classic expression of the theory and practice of tragic drama. This is also an opportunity for new readers to encounter a distinctive appreciation of Shakespeare’s work in the context of more recent literary and cultural theories. In the process, the obstacles to a clear understanding of what Bradley thought are explored, and we seek to explain why many critics were often hostile to his writings on Shakespeare. We then proceed to an interrogation of Bradley’s philosophy of tragedy in the context the wider project of the development of English Studies as an educational discipline since the end of the nineteenth century. This frame of analysis will also be informed by recent post-colonial theories which will be positioned within the context of literary study understood as a distinctive project of enlightened humane education. [...] One of the predicaments for Bradley, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century is how to accommodate a true representation of Shakespearean tragedy that responds to the ideology of the nineteenth century. He is writing in the context of the British imperial project and mass industrialisation, but ten years before the cataclysmic events of the First World War (1914-18). In this regard, the virtual absence of any historical particularities is a noteworthy silence in the text. One criticism might be that the romantic timelessness of Shakespeare seeks to naturalize a world order that is already showing signs of political if not ideological crisis. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Writing about ‘represented speech’ in Shakespeare


In the exam you are typically provided with a short extract from one of Shakespeare plays. This blog provides a checklist of the key points that you will need to write about. This exercise is an opportunity to show off your understanding and your critical vocabulary, and to demonstrate your awareness of how literary and rhetorical techniques contribute to effective dramatic writing.

Finding your bearings

Keywords: conflict, drama, character, theme

Who are the main protagonists, and who are the subsidiary speakers? Which characters prompt or lead the discussion? Who dominates?

Think about

the context for the action,
the sense of conflict or rapport and dramatic situation
how the extract helps to develop a character/psychology/motivation/emotion
... or to advance a theme.

Think about what has happened before, and what will happen after the selected scene/extract

Is there an emotional highpoint or specific dramatic moments that have more emphasis than others? Identify precisely where these happen in the extract, and think about how they are achieved.

Are there transitions between different emotions? (Anger, Greed, Confused, Joy, Fear, Surprise, Sadness, Hate, Desire, Hope, Dejection, Love, Wonder, Irritation, Pride, Disappointment, Happiness, Embarrassed, Anxiety, Jealous, Glee)

Are the speakers balanced in equal exchanges? Are they engaged in verbal combat, or witty wordplay (puns/innuendo/logical games)

Is there a power difference between speakers (age/class/gender/situation)

Check for dramatic irony in relation to characters and the audience.

Speaking Voices

Shakespeare’s plays are not a transcript of conversational speech, but they may employ colloquial elements and slang, sexual jokes, rudeness and less formal, less poetic speech rhythms. Sometimes he employs prose, or irregular verse. You should comment on these aspects of the extract.

Sounds - Beat and Rhythm

The usual pattern is iambic pentameter – a 10 syllable line, five feet, with alternating unstressed (-) and stressed (/) beats ( -  / )

Rhyme

Shakespeare tends to employ unrhymed verse, but sometime the final two lines of a scene are a rhyming couplet. This provides a more emphatic closure.


Pace

How does Shakespeare vary the pace? Look for shifts in rhythm and timing, and don’t just pause at the end of very line. Shakespeare’s verse is very flexible, and presents many cues for actors, as well as opportunities for variations in volume, pitch and pace.

Look out for short, transactional exchanges, and phatics (polite introductions/ salutations), interruptions, overlapping

Contrast these to more rhetorical speeches that outline and develop thoughts and feelings, often using longer more complex sentence structures.

Look for evidence of rhetorical techniques (such as repetition, tripling, parallelism, listing, pronoun shifts [ I/we/you/they/he/she/it ], contrast and antithesis)

and figurative language (simile/ metaphor/ personification/ pathetic fallacy)

Pitch and Volume

Is there a sense of rising or falling (e.g. louder/quieter)
Dramatic elements: e.g. trumpets announce a character ... or whispering ...

Compare and contrast public speeches, court and noisy crowd/street scenes to ...
smaller, more intimate gatherings (a bedroom scene), a private monologue (soliloquy), or an ‘aside’

Renaissance and Rhetoric

Because renaissance writers were trained in the classical rhetoric you will find many of the literary devices and rhetorical techniques which are frequent in formal public speeches.

This artificial formality (prepared speech) many contribute to a sense of linguistic performance and dexterity (verbal skills). Polished and eloquent speech was the sign of an educated gentleman or a courtier.

The deployment of rhetoric provides a sense of wit, intelligence and refinement, but it was also used to present deeper thoughts and feelings of the character.

Language and style should be related to issues of power, but remember that Shakespeare can be quite effective and dramatic in the way that he satirises and mocks the powerful, and the way that he gives a voice to women, the poor, and the outsider.

Shakespeare’s audience delighted in the playfulness, mobility and resourcefulness of language.

Rather than just identifying and naming a rhetorical or literary technique explain how it functions to produce emphasis, more vivid pictures or imagery, or amplifies, deepens and develops an idea. Explains its impact and effectiveness.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)