Short Lit Crit Response
his assignment is an introduction to research and incorporating that research into a short written response.
Start with the Using Library Resources for English Research tutorial. Additionally, consult the English Research Guide and/or MGAs Literature Research Guide for assistance in locating a strong secondary source.
Choose a strong essay (called a secondary source) about one of the texts we have read in class. The resource must address something we have already read for class. Use the English Research Guide and/or find a book of essays in the library (there are plenty). While there are good general resources available on the web, including my own writing, you may not use them for this assignment.
Read the essay you choose and take notes. What is the critics central argument about the text; how does she support that argument? What points does she make that are particularly insightful (or which seem unconvincing)? How does it help you in your understanding of the text?
Summarize the critics main points or arguments in no more than a paragraph. Be sure you cite the secondary source correctly with parenthetical citations.
Respond to the essay and add your own analysis of the text. This is the important part: spend at least a page responding to the essay do you agree or not? Why? Be sure you use evidence from class discussion and the primary text to support your reading.
Responses should be two pages (you will be penalized for more) and formatted correctly using MLA format (you must include a works cited section where your secondary source is listed correctly). Please review Writing in the Liberal Arts and implement these conventions when writing about literature. Errors will cost you points.
See an Example.
A Response to Penelopes Perspective: Character from Plot
In the essay Penelopes Perspective: Character from Plot, Felson-Rubin asserts that, despite traditional interpretation of the character of Penelope, Odysseuss awaiting wife in the Odyssey, as one-dimensional and associated with a singular plot, that the character is instead multifaceted, complex, and the subject of multiple plots simultaneously. Felson-Rubin states that traditionally Penelope is seen as the subject of a marriage-avoidance plot with a subplot of return of husband, recovery of wife as bride, and vengeance against suitors, but says this lacks autonomy, and its heroine seems to act more to suit her husband than out of personal desire (Felson-Rubin 163).
Felson-Rubin asserts that Penelope is more complex than just a faithful wife and foil to Agamemnons unfaithful descriiption of his wife Klytaimestra. She says that most interpretations see the eventual contest set by Penelope to determine her chosen suitor is another cunning ploy or last ditched effort to delay the process of choosing until Odysseus can and does return home.
Felson-Ruben instead interprets this scene as Penelope actually accepting that she will wait no longer and conflicted between her choice to potentially commit infidelity in the unlikely return of her husband, and that Penelope may in fact enjoy the company of the suitors. She uses the passages from the epic depicting Penelopes regret for her actions, begging Odysseus forgiveness, and her acceptance of gifts from the suitors and grief over the dream of the suitors deaths as evidence to show that the character is more complex and morally torn then she is usually described.
I agree with Felson-Rubin in the assertion that Penelope can be interpreted in a more complicated way than just the faithful wife and believe it makes her a much more interesting character. I think the interpretation of the character through more modern eyes has increased this complexity from what may have been originally intended.
It is possible that the original intent of Homer was to make Penelope a one plot character, whose only struggle was how she would continue to delay the suitors until Odysseus eventual return. With modern perspective and evaluating Penelope as a complex character in her own right we can acknowledge that she may have been conflicted in her waiting. She may have learned to find comfort in the company of her suitors who may have helped fill a void that the absence of her husband for decades had created. My interpretation of the character is that while she may have felt conflicted, she never gave up hope completely.
I think Felson-Rubin does a great job of illustrating her internal conflict depicted by her tears over her husbands weapon and her begging his forgiveness for her decision once he reveled himself. I think that she set up the contest not from a desire to give up and find a suitor but from a last ditched effort to delay them. She knew it would be difficult for them and it was her last hope that her husband would return to her before they completed it. It was big gamble as eventually one of them would complete it and she would have to follow up on her word and I believe this is where her conflict came from.
I also think the interpretation of the dream of the eagle slaughtering the geese in her home and prophesizing Odysseus return can have multiple implications. While I think, as a complex character with a range of emotions, that it is possible that after 20 years she did find comfort in the precense of the suitors and did not want to se them slaughtered that the comfort she felt after waking was not at the sight of the geese and the dismissal of the dream but in the assurance of the eagle that represented her husband. With that being said, I think it makes Penelope and the Odyssey much more interesting to view her character from her perspective rather than from Odysseus. She is not just his faithful wife and his reward for finally making his way home, she is instead a complex and morally torn character who is battling her desire to remain faithful to her husband and doing what she must to ensure the protection of her and her son