Many people have claimed to have figured out the proper way to analyze a text; many of whom are profound writers, critics, and figures in literary society. Many people have preached that their descriptions of the way to analyze texts are the “right” way and that those who doubt them are wrong. Only I, however, have figured out and will explain to you the true meaning of text, the learner’s guide for comprehending lyric, literary criticism for dummies.

            As a literary critic, there are four categories that a work of writing are broken down into and analyzed by. These categories include; author, critic, reader, and text. Each category is important to the actual literature, however some more than others. Also, it is imperative to understand that different works of literature have different priorities; an autobiography may have more of a focus on the author while the critic can play a big role on a contemporary novel. The four categories exist in all literature, and through the lens of New Criticism, the proper analysis can be made.

            Most important to the work of literature is text. Everything and everyone reading, writing, and understanding the literature depends on the text for information. The only thing that the reader has to even look at is the text. The author spends hours laboring over the text, editing it and perfecting it to make it sound perfect, exactly like they want it to, to readers. As other New Critics would conclude, for a critic to interpret specific meaning from the author and apply that to the text or general understanding of the work would be to commit intentional fallacy. People tend to read too far into the author’s state of mind, and this is why the author needs to be reduced on the hierarchy of what makes up a work of literature. Just like when Colson Whitehead visited our classroom, he told us about how one person had asked him if he had named a character in one of his novels after a post-racial theme because of certain characteristics and actions that character exhibits throughout the novel. He simply replied that the name of the character came from the street name on a sign that was present outside his window. This is not the only fallacy that New Critics attempt to avoid.

            Being the most innovative and brilliant thinkers about works of literature from wide ranges of canons is not easy; it requires much work and thinking. Thus, New Critics developed a concept similar to that of intentional fallacy called affective fallacy. The term was developed in order to prevent readers and critics alike from making a judgment about a text based on the emotional effects it has on the reader, claiming that affective fallacy is the mistake of judging a work in such a way (Wismatt and Beardsley). It is only appropriate when criticizing a work to keep the concepts of intentional fallacy and affective fallacy in mind.

            In his influential work for the “genre” of New Criticism, Cleanth Brooks helped to define the meanings and key concepts behind New Criticism. He stated, “Moreover, the formalist critic knows as well as anyone that literary works are merely potential until they are read- that is, that they are re-created in the minds of actual readers, who vary enormously in their capabilities, their interests, their prejudices, their ideas” (Brooks 74). This concept can be applied to Whitehead’s Sag Harbor, specifically the section when Whitehead uses the powerful watermelon reference. In this section of his novel, the narrator states, “We were all of us stuck whether we wanted to admit it or not. We were people, not performance artists, all appearances to the contrary” (Whitehead 108). This is an incredibly powerful section of this novel, one that sends strong messages of African American race and culture that are unavoidable when analyzing the racial aspects of the book. It would be easy for a reader to feel bad for the narrator because of the negative racial connotations that this passage possesses, however when analyzing them it is very important to remove the author from the racial analysis. The ideas that he presents are and had been around much longer than he had, and it is necessary to make sure that one does not confuse this idea of the racial tension they feel with Whitehead’s own ideas.

            A work of literature has various parts that must be individually analyzed and broken down, and it starts with the text itself. Although it is hotly debated, the text is the foundation of all literature. Therefore it must be placed atop this hierarchy of literary aspects. To state that the author is more important than the actual text would be intentional fallacy, a concept New Critics have created to stress the importance of text over the author. The reader has the right to interpret the literature as he/she will, but relies on the text as the basis of his/her argument. Allowing emotion to run in the way of analysis of the work would also present a case of fallacy that is unacceptable when attempting to analyze literature. Lastly, even though critics may be able to present arguments such as this one to a reader, it is ultimately the reader’s goal to formalize these ideas for themselves.

Works Cited

Brooks, Cleanth. “The Formalist Critics.” The Kenyon Review 13.1 (1951): 72-81. Print.

Whitehead, Colson. Sag Harbor. New York: Anchor Books, 2009.

Wimsatt, W.K & Monroe Beardsley, “The affective fallacy”, Sewanee Review, vol. 57, no. 1, (1949): 31-55.

Born on an island, but not the coast. Neighborhoods, nothing else. Little boxes on the hilltops and they’re all made out of ticky tacky; almost but not quite. Everyone was Jewish, competitive in nature. Who had the biggest house, car, most kids? If you’ve never been, you’ve never experienced anything like it. I promise. This is Roslyn, where our superintendents steal millions from the kids. If you don’t go to a name brand school, you’re a nobody. Greg Goldman; the first kid from Roslyn to go to Dickinson College in over 5 years. Farleigh Dickinson? No, just Dickinson, it’s in Pennsylvania not New Jersey. “I normally only recommend that school to girls,” my guidance counselor says. When I go back, I realize why I chose to escape that atmosphere. A fake, a sham, a front to impress others. If a tree falls and nobody hears it, did the tree actually fall? Absolutely not. I don’t completely regret it. They made me realize, uncovered the blinds. Those who live through the eyes of others never live to see the light of day.

I thought that Whitehead’s visit was boring and he brought nothing interesting to the table. His lack of enthusiasm was profound, and it was very apparent that the only reason he came to Dickinson was probably because we paid him an absurd amount of money. APRIL FOOLS! (hah, bad joke? sorry!)

Considering I have the “advantage” of being able to write my reaction a week after Whitehead visited, I think that I may have less of an impulse reaction and more of a longer lasting reaction. What I mean by this, is that after all the hype simmered down, I can now think about the one thing that really stuck with me from Whitehead’s visit to class and his “performance” in ATS. The main aspect of his personality and aura that resonated with me is the type of humor and sarcasm that he uses: always. His general tone and demeanor was not like any that I had ever really experienced and makes me wonder what the personalities of authors of other books and works we’ve read are like. Overall, I thought that his visit was very insightful and incredibly entertaining.

For the second paper we are writing, I definitely want to write about Sag Harbor. I’ve yet to sit down and figure out exactly which theory papers I will use, but I highly anticipate that Gates’ work will be somewhere along, if not, exactly right on with what I want to elaborate on. I really want to examine the use of language throughout the book, specifically in the interactions that the kids have amongst themselves and counter that with the interactions they have with their parents.

The question I would most want to ask Colson Whitehead (to this point at least) is:

“What’s the best insult you’ve come up with and why?”

Without knowing the guy I can say that I feel like this is a question he would appreciate because it is informal and will probably take him back a couple years. Also, I would get the privilege of being the recipient of Colson Whitehead’s favorite insult, which may or may not scar me. For life.

Personally, I believe that the original version of the Ariel collection of poems is the one that should be read. The binder that Sylvia Plath left on her table before she died had different possible titles (of poems inside the collection) crossed out. Ultimately, she left the title “Ariel” on the collection. If Plath wanted to have it just read Ariel, I feel she would have just used a new piece of paper to cover the work. However, by leaving the crossed out poems on there, she leaves a strong message with her work: Plath did not want her poems to be read in the negative light that some of the poems in the collection portray. If the title of the collection was Daddy or Lesbos, the whole collection would be read in a different sense than Ariel.

This poses a problem because it is much easier for one to get their hands on a mass produced copy than a traditional transcript from Plath herself. However, to get the best possible understanding of the poetry and the poet, it is only right to read the original version from Plath.

One particular element that I noticed when reading (and re-reading) Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is the imagery he uses at this fork in the road. To describe the literal road not taken, in lines 7 and 8 he says, “And having perhaps the better claim/ Because it was grassy and wanted wear”. Frost gives a visual representation of the path in order to describe the fact that this is the path that is less traveled than the other one. In the next stanza (lines 11 and 12), he says “And both that morning equally lay/ In leaves no step had trodden black”. He uses imagery again to describe that the leaves laid equally on both paths in the morning, signifying that both of the paths showed no mark of being traveled upon. The use of imagery in this poem shows how Frost was lead to believe that he was taking less traveled path, however once he had started to travel, he realized that the paths were actually traveled quite equally.

Lines 9-10: “Though as for the passing there/ Had worn them really about the same”

The poem that I am going to write about is called “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. I am not a huge Frost follower, however the name of this poem really caught my eye. The idea of having to choose between two plausible options at a fork in the road is extremely interesting and one that I can relate to; literally when I drive in and out of NYC (extremely confusing) and figuratively in life in situations when you can’t “have your cake and eat it too”. There is also a particular uncertainty about this poem that attracted me from the minute I saw the name.

When it comes to hip hop artists, it is common knowledge that one of, if not, the best of all time is Biggie Smalls. He was known for his style, size, and most notably, his flow. In hip hop, flow technically means to rhyme consistently in the same line. Big’s various and complex uses of single line rhyme schemes add flavor to his songs.

One of his biggest hits was a song called Hypnotize which was released in April 1997. When it was released it debuted on Billboard’s top 100 as number two and eventually made its way to number one. It was used as the theme song to his biopic Notorious. Unlike Biggie’s other radio success Juicy, which talks about the struggle of making it as a rapper and how his life is a big example of the American Dream, Hypnotize talks about the lavish life he lives after reaching super-stardom as a hip hop artist.

One thing that stands out in the song Hypnotized, as well as almost all of his other songs is Biggie’s extensive use of internal rhymes. Out of a total of 52 lines in the song (not including the chorus), all but 10 of the lines in the three verses contain internal rhymes. Most artists and lyricists use the usual and effective rhyme scheme of rhyming the last word of a line with the last word of the next line. To use this many internal rhymes while speaking considerably fast is not only a testament to how great of a rapper he was, but it shows that he was ultimately a great poet.

Many times throughout the song when internal rhymes are present in lines, there are multiple examples in single lines. This incredibly impressive technique is present in the first verse when he says,

“Poppa been smooth since days of Underroos,

Never lose, never choose to, bruise crews who…”

The second line in this example is packed with internal rhymes. Six of the eight words in the line are part of a rhyme sequence, four of which are part of the same one. He preludes into this with the first line by mentioning Underroos (very old-school underwear for children)  at the end of the line and matching that up with lose, choose, bruise, and crews.

What you can’t see in the lyrics and must listen to the song in order to be able to recognize is the ease that Biggie spits these rhymes out with left and right. He makes it all seem so effortless. It’s called flow.

My name is Greg Goldman and I am currently a sophomore at Dickinson. I am currently undeclared but will probably declare an English major this semester. Also, I play on the club ice hockey team throughout the winter and spring.