PURPOSE: To begin applying critical lenses (theory) to both the literary reading and writing processes. You’ll analyze a piece of fiction using the fundamental premises and rules of interpretation outlined by a school of criticism. In this first paper you will focus on intrinsic analysis, doing a close study of the various literary elements, language and patterns that create meaning in the text. While the two critical lenses differ considerably, both function on the premise that analysis of the “text and the text and alone” best reveals meaning. (Psychoanalytic criticism does include several components that emphasize extrinsic analysis, but several of its modes of interpretation subscribe to or allow for intrinsic analysis.)

ASSIGNMENT: In a 4-5 page, MLA-formatted paper, analyze one of the short stories selected for the paper using either New Criticism or Psychoanalytic Criticism. (Below-page 2- you will find a list of short stories on which you can base this first paper. I will post a list of additional stories and their attending summaries in another document that goes with this prompt.) Your paper should include direct quotes that support your examples, a clear and thoughtful thesis (you’ll find examples of an intro/thesis for both schools of criticisms in the theory folders on Blackboard – the New Critical example is already posted).


(If you want the opportunity to submit a revision, you need to turn in a completed paper on the draft due date – one that meets length and topic requirements.)

FINAL DRAFT DUE DATE:One week after I return the paper to you


The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas: “One child is chosen from the population to serve as a sacrifice that will allow the rest of the city to live in peace and plenty. The child is placed in a small, windowless room without any amenities and is completely cut off from the rest of society except for the short visits from those who come to view the child. When they learn of the child’s existence, the people of Omelas battle with the knowledge of The child, who suffers for them, and the guilt they feel as a result of their knowledge.

Red Card: “What if the government gave everybody one free pass to shoot one person, any person, for whatever reason? . . . S.L. Gilbow says that the idea for “Red Card” actually came from a conversation he had with his daughter, Mandy. “One day after a driver cut me off in heavy traffic. I . . . turned to my daughter and said, ‘Everyone should be allowed to shoot one person without going to prison.’ My daughter thought for a second then turned to /me and said, ‘Dad, if that were true you would have been dead a long time ago.”

“Just Do It”:Heather Lindsley.“Chemistry has a bad rap these days.  The late twentieth-century is riddled with environmental and health disasters stemming from human abuse of chemistry.  From thalidomide babies to endangered eagles, it’s difficult to see a good side of the chemical industry.

And our next tale turns a scathing eye upon it.  Lindsley says “it’s about desire and how easy that is to manipulate.  But I’ll go a bit further and say I was also thinking about the ongoing conflict between doing the right thing and doing the comfortable, pleasurable thing.  It’s about having a compelling excuse to take the easier, ethically questionable path.  To just do it and blame somebody else’s chemical.”

“Resistance” : Tobias S .Buckell. With an estimated 61% of all registered voters choosing to cast votes, the 2008 election stands as the highest voter turnout in more than three decades. Of course, that means 30% or so of all voters didn’t bother to turn up. And who knows how many U.S. citizens never got around to even registering in the first place? . . . There are thousands of explanations for voter apathy, but in the world Buckell portrays in our next story, none of these excuses really matter; it’s a techno-democracy failed by its own voters. But Buckell knows first-hand about systems that begin with high hopes only to crumble into disaster. He wasborn during a 1879 coup d’etat in Grenada, where the new government, according to Buckell, “fell into the spiral of quashing opposition to the point where it became draconian and people ended up lined up against walls and shot.”

It would appear that a utopian government is only as strong as the voices of its resistance.

 2BRO2B: Kurt Vonnegut. “All of society’s ills have been cured: wars, famine, disease, and death from aging. The population is maintained at 40 million. When there is a birth, someone has to volunteer to die. Edward Wehling finds out that his wife is going to give birth to triplets.”

The Cull: Robert Reed. “To cull” is a verb. It comes from the Latin word colligere, which means “to collect,” and it describes the process of sorting out a group into those constituents the collector wants to keep and those constituents that no longer belong. A stamp collector might cull her collection of stamps when she decides she only wants to collect holiday-themed stamps. A button collector might take all his two-hole buttons to the Salvation Army, keeping only the four-holed varieties in his button display.

But of course, the word cull is most commonly used by animal breeders and wildlife officers, who remove the undesirable animals from their breeding populations. In most cases, a culled animal faces a kind of death penalty. And in that sense, “to cull” is a verb that most people hesitate to use.

In our next story Robert Reed has created a society ready for a cull. But you might just ask the question: What is the collection—and who is the collector?”

“The Lunatics”: Kim Stanley Robinson. “At the end of the nineteenth century, coal mining had become one of the biggest, meanest industries in the United States. Unhealthy working conditions and a reliance on child labor caused accidents and blackened men’s lungs. Crooked business practices like debt bondage and wage-cheating were just part of the misery. But it was dangerous to stand up against the mining companies. Miners didn’t just face losing their jobs—their lives were often at stake, as mining companies fought against unionizing with violence.

The coal miners’ struggles for better conditions were captured in photos and songs that have become a warning for the workers of the world. But in the future, miners might not be so lucky.

What could be worse than working deep beneath the ground, never seeing the light of day? What could be worse than knowing the money in your paycheck was a token worthless outside the company’s store?

[“The Lunatics”] gives us a vision of a mine worse than anything in Pennsylvania. Powered by slavery and jump-started by torment, this mine might as well be hell.”


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