Friday, April 15, 2011

Analyzing Fiction

I've wondered throughout the semester what role an author's life play in analyzing fiction or nonfiction. We've seen how authors can almost be seen as "ghosts" through time in that they are able to step out and see things nobody else can see. However, for example, John Winthrop, author of the sermon City Upon a Hill, was a lawyer before delivering his sermon. He uses legal language throughout the sermon. Walt Whitman, an assumed homosexual, reveals hints of his homosexuality in his poetry specifically in Leaves of Grass. How much does an author's life or even life experiences shape the literature they write? How much of it is something we subconciously seek? Are author's truly "ghosts" through time or are they humans like the rest of us?


  1. I feel like this is a very important question that will spark a lot of discussion. I remember Professor Fisher saying how pretty much all of us started our class presentations with background information on the authors of our given texts. So, clearly, we think that the author's life does play a crucial role when analyzing literature. Writers are oftentimes inspired to write because of observations they have made or experiences they have had. So, I think it's difficult for authors to step back entirely from the influences of their background, or from their time period.

    However, I think we take the author into too much consideration sometimes. Literature, especially renowned literature, transcends time no matter who wrote it because it conveys universal themes that appeal to everyone. So, we should not get too sidetracked by the information about the author, otherwise we might become too narrow, or even misled, in our analysis.

    So, to me, authors are humans like the rest of us because they can't really escape from their pasts. But they can also be seen as "ghosts" through time, since their novels have remained part of our psyche...we can still, surprising, relate to literature written by authors who lived thousands of years ago.

  2. I agree with Sam. This is a really great question and something we have often brought up in class...can you ever really remove an author's background/life from their work? It definitely brings a new perspective to the literature and once you know parts of the author's life, it is impossible NOT to connect it back to their wok. This makes sense because good writers usually are writing about something they know or have experience with, even if it is manifested in different forms. They are human in this way, but they are also like ghosts because, as Sam said, they can transcend time.

  3. I agree that author's draw on their own life experience, opinions, and observations when they write, which obviously leads to them being inserted into the text. However, most writers remove themselves from their literature when writing and draw on other people's views and opinions as well. I think that by the end of the piece of work, there is a large range of views and ideas in each novel or essay so the author's voice is predominant but at the same time blended in.

  4. I've seen Stranger than Fiction and I love that movie! Such a good cast...and a really different sort of role for Will Ferrell.