My Reflection on Criticism

During this class, I was astounded at the various ways one can look at a piece of literature, or any written material. One word can change how one reads a poem or novel, or even the order the words in a sentence and what words come, the author’s background, the historical context, and the societal structures can influence interpretations of what the text means and what the author intended to write. In addition to learning about different ways of studying literature, I discovered that I usually pay a lot of attention to the authors, and am used to thinking from a biographical critic’s point of view. This class was a chance for me to look at text differently. The biggest change this class brought to my thinking of literature was that text could be analyzed independently from the author or the society, as the new critics do.

I learned about the importance of the words, their repetition, and their double meanings most when looking at Mrs. Dalloway. From small things like the usage of the name “Mrs. Dalloway” versus “Clarrissa,” to indirect discourse and stream of consciousness in this book, I realized that the text provided me with all that was needed for analyzing the text. It is possible to argue that Clarrissa’s life can be compared to that of Virginia Woolf herself, but the fact remains that the text tells you the inner thoughts of Clarrissa and describes her sufficiently to build a character for which we do not really need a real-life match.

When reading the poetry of Robert Frost, I discovered how fascinating it is that the structure of a poem, mainly the rhyme and meter, can provide us insight about the meaning of a text and give away the doubts, paradoxes, ironies and tension that exists in a single piece. New criticism allowed me to see that using a rhyme scheme of AABBCCDD not only is a technique, but can also portray the deeper meanings of the text; maybe it brings an emphasis on change.

Even though this class was eye opening for me in terms of the importance of looking at text independently to discover some meanings in the book and analyze paradoxes or ironies that exist in the writing itself, I have also realized that there is no wrong way of looking at a piece of literature. New Criticism might allow the reader to stay focused on the text and analyze it as an independent object; there are many right ways of reading and analyzing literature. After looking at various methods and theories of criticism In future, I will most likely use New Criticism as my method of studying text to not overwhelm myself with historical, societal or biographical context that may or may not be relevant to the text, but I believe the one thing this class definitely teaches students is to be open to learning about diverse ways of looking at literature.




Robert Frost’s Feminist Poem?

Christian traditions argue that Eve is the reason for the damnation of human soul and their exile from heaven because she tempted Adam in committing the “original sin.” In this tale, Eve is blamed for the misery of humankind. “Never Again Would Birds’ Song be the Same” is a poem about the influences of Eve on nature and on the world. In this poem, Frost indirectly questions this story by focusing on the positive legacies of Eve on earth. By criticizing the discriminatory and unjust perceptions about Eve, who exemplifies women in this poem, Frost makes one feminist claim, but whether or not this text a feminist one is debate worthy because Frost does not question the story of the “original sin” directly; in fact it is not even mentioned in the poem.

In “Never Again Would Birds’ Song be the Same,” the narrator writes about Eve’s sound as if it is a gift to nature. The phrase “an eloquence so soft” and the references to the interweaving and sharing of sounds between the birds and Eve portray the legacy of eve, women, in the world as a collaborative addition to the beautiful sounds of the woods in contrast to the portrayal of women’s participation in the history of human kind through the “original sin,” and the eternal doom of human soul. However, this contrast is not mentioned in the poem and we cannot assume that the poet meant to criticize the unjust views about women that exist in the story of creation. In addition to that, this poem defines Eve, in other words women, from the point of view of a man and the woman’s view and perception about herself or womanhood is completely ignored from the text. Even, the intention of Eve’s existence, to share her song with the birds, is defined by a man, therefore even in this text, the woman is not given the chance to explain her intentions and define her impact on the world. A man, limited by his own perceptions of the woman, tells the story from his point of view. Granted they story is flattering and positive, but it still excludes the woman’s voice.

On the other hand, Monique Witting, in One is not Born a Woman, argues that women are not a natural group and that the idea of womanhood exists because we re-enforce it through our actions everyday. Based on this principle, Monique would argue that to destroy one perception and definition for womanhood, in his poem, Frost has presented a another one, that may be more positive but it still re-enforces gender definitions and roles. Monique would argue that Frost has taken a materialist approach towards gender, because a materialist feminist sees women and men as separate classes, which she argues will mean that if there is no longer a group called “men,” there won’t be one classified as “women.” Unlike Frost, who attempts to redefine womanhood as a positive contribution to the world, Witting calls for the rejection of the myth of “woman” altogether because she believes that equality will be reached when sex is destroyed completely and humans are defined based on personal identity.

A feminist text, according to the Dictionary of Critical Theory, brings to light the inequalities that exist in the society. Therefore, even though this poem portrays a positive picture of Eve, because it does not even discuss the injustice that exists in the story of the “original sin,” we cannot assume that the author has written the positive story with the intention of making a feminist criticism of how Eve is portrayed in the story of creation. The poet could have written this poem simply to portray the relationship between human beings and nature or the grief of a man who has lost a woman who was important in his life. The lack of direct references to the injustice of human perceptions about women and the one-sided-ness of the story of the “original sin” that holds women responsible for human misery and banishing from heaven, and the fact that the poem defines womanhood and women’s contribution to the world from a man’s point of view, prevent this text from being a feminist one. A feminist text, according to Witting is one that eliminates sex and gender interpretations and because Frost identifies gender and defines womanhood, Monique would argue that Frost’s text is not a feminist one.

A Rare Occasion on Morgan Field

With my books in hand, I sit on an Adirondack chair.

I let the winds flirt, flirt away with my hair.

Joyously, I glance at the great green field

It sparkles back at me, celebrating a day so fair.

There is light moving through the dark green leaves

 And thin, short plants reaching for it like little thieves.

 Now, sit back and enjoy the beauties revealed

On a campus where the sunshine is so rare.

This was my first attempt to write an English poem with rhymes. I believe the rhyming scheme, AABACCBA, in this poem causes it to sound simple, almost like a nursery rhyme and improves the flow of the poem to be more story-like, which is what I intended it to do. I used imagery to describe the location, Morgan Field, to make the help the reader imagine it. Personification was used to give a sense of movement and celebration in nature, for example in the poem I said the green field sparkles at me or the short plants reach for the light. In the second line of the poem, I repeated the word “flirt” to portray the repetitiveness  of act of wind playing with my hair a used the rather cliche phrase “now, sit back and enjoy” because it was cliche and I am using it in a sarcastic way, given the two last lines of the poem are bitter, in opposed to the celebratory lines above them. I used alliteration on line six, “like little thieves” and line three, “glance… great green”  because I though it would make those line flow better.