Analytical Essay on Grotesque Realism in the novella The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Analytical Essay on Grotesque Realism in the novella The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Analytical Essay Assignment
In his 1802 Preface to Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth defines poetry as
“the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion
recollected in tranquility” (273). Those last words are important: emotion recollected in
tranquility. He suggests that the language of a successful poem—for a successful and
attentive reader of poetry—can create an emotional state in the otherwise peaceful reader
that is as passionate and powerful as the experience of an event in real life.
How is this possible? For Wordsworth, it begins in well-chosen language.
Readers of literature—not only poetry, but prose and drama—are often mystified by the
ways that a work of literature makes meaning. This is often because we are looking at the
big picture only, at the whole novel or poem or play, hoping that a simple moral to the
story will jump out and give us the “right” answer. But interpreting literature is really
about the details and moments that can create emotion recollected in tranquility.
To achieve that understanding, we’ll look closely at the language and choices of
the author, and we’ll apply the most appropriate interpretive tools to our work of
knowing. Trying to interpret the whole of Garcia Marquez’s Memories of My Melancholy
Whores or Byatt’s Angels and Insects only confuses the reader. But when she begins to
examine the individual words, the descriptive details, the figurative language that makes
a strong impact, and when she begins to make connections between those moments, a
reaction begins: she begins to recognize patterns, ask questions, and experience moments
of emotion that illustrate the spark of knowing that literature ignites. Our goal in this
essay: how is your spark of knowing ignited in the reading of a literary text?
The Assignment:
In a 7-10 page essay, analyze the meaning, themes, or experience of a literary text
from any one or two of our class readings. You may choose one text as your focus, or you
may choose to compare and contrast two texts that share a common theme. The goal is to
show not only what the text means to you, but how the text means through
1. direct quotations and your analyses
2. outside research (3-5 authoritative sources) that support your analyses
3. literary tools that we are practicing this semester (realism; modernism; reader
response, psychoanalytic, feminist, new historical criticisms; carnival; and
others).
As you begin to understand and make a claim about the meaning of your text, you should
look for:
• Diction (word choice)• Descriptive language
• Metaphor and other figurative language
• Allusions to other literary texts, to culture, to religion
• The role of the speaker of the poem or narrator of the story, and his/her attitude,
tone, emotional state, or involvement
• Relationships between individuals in the text
You can use personal experience and the first-person pronoun “I” in this essay to
trace a narrative of your own experience of reading the text and discovering emotion
recollected in tranquility. The purpose of research in this essay is to support your
thesis and interpretations. Bring in others’ analyses of the text, but remember that the
core of the essay should be your understanding of the text and the narrative of your
discoveries of meaning. So you’ll need a strong intro and thesis to orient your readers
to your ideas.
Frequent and meaningful direct quotation of the text will be very important in this
essay. To show how you discover meaning, you need to quote the lines of poetry or
sentences of prose directly, following them with your explanation of their meaning or
importance. We’ll review MLA style, both for in-text quotations and the Works Cited
page.
As you begin to explore texts and your ideas, ask yourself which novellas you’ve
responded most to; which texts seem to create an emotional response for you?  You
may want to skim ahead to see what the upcoming novellas are about or what their
writing style is like. Writing about a text that moves you will be key to a successful
essay.