Over the past couple of weeks we have looked into tragedy a lot. Because of this I have been thinking and learning about that form of literature. Therefore, I think that it is only fitting that I should write this week's reflective learning blog post on the subject.
Tragedy is a form of play or performance of some sort that is centered around a tragic event or, more commonly, a series or multitude of tragic events. There are rules to tragedies, things that dictate whether a piece of literature is actually a legitimate tragedy or just a piece of tragic fiction. For example, to be a tragedy a play must focus on a main character, or hero, who is relatable to his or her, usually his, audience. This so-called hero must have some sort of character flaw or hindrance or something that makes them feel human and connectable. Then, there must be some tragic events that befall upon said hero. Usually there is some kind of magic, prophecy, God or Goddess, fate, etc. involved in this process. It was ancient Greece that made this stuff popular back in the day after all. Another thing that sets tragedies apart from plain old tragic literature is the fact that the hero of the story must be faced with the possibility of success, otherwise the tragedy will not pack its full punch.
So, tragedies are a unique and very interesting form of literature. They have rules and guidelines that set what is and what absolutely is not a real tragedy. Tragedies are most definitely worth learning about, and I find them to be completely enjoyable to read, even if it is a little bit ironic!
This week, we spent most of our time working on our essay project. While most people seemed to be fed up with the whole thing, I actually found the process to be both fun and educational. Despite the fact that, as Shakespeare said, "the pen is mightier than the sword," the pen itself is not enough to make an effective writer. We've learned a lot about writing an essay over this week, and the practice has certainly made me improve my skill level.
One of the things that I really got from this week's project was not only the ability to analyze a piece of writing, but to be able to express my thoughts in a way that seems (more or less) to make sense to my peers. My group chose to do humor and structure as our elements of literature to analyze, and I decided to do the structure essay. As my group was reading what I had written down, even though it was all still a very early-on draft, they were making comments on how they had never even thought of what I had found. They thought it was cool, and I was really happy, because I had never gotten that reaction from my peers before.
This week has been a wild ride of trying to get things done, but I'm extremely happy with how everything has turned out so far. I'm happy we have the opportunity to complete a project like this.
This week, we had a presentation from science-fiction writer, James Jackson. I enjoyed his presentation quite a bit. He had some very useful tips on how to write, and how to improve your writing. It's so cool that we got to hear from a published author.
James talked a lot about how you need to keep writing, and make the time, no matter what. That really resonated with me, because whenever I write, I tend to over-analyze everything, and end up using my writing time doing anything but what I should be: writing. James told us that revision is a separate process to writing, and what's important is getting your ideas down. If it's something you truly are passionate about, the words will come eventually. Even if you feel like no one cares what you have to say, or that no one will want to read it. If you ever catch yourself thinking "I'm wasting my time," keep going. Remember that your audience is very small compared to the large amount of people that will read your work. Of that audience, too, not everyone will like it. That's okay.
I find that it is very important to write every day, even if it's just for an hour or so. I agree 100% with James Jackson; you should write what and when you can. It doesn't mean, however, that you can't or shouldn't have a social life, just that you may have to give up some of your less important hobbies in order to fit it into your schedule.
All in all, the presentation was extremely helpful to me, and I left with a lot of good ideas as to how to become a better writer. The first step in to do just that: write.
This week, we focused a lot on revising and commenting on our drafts of writing. What really stood out to me was the whole idea of making comments on your own work. I hadn't really thought that it made sense to leave comments on your own drafts, because if you knew what you wanted to change (and thus left a comment stating such), you could simply save yourself the trouble of commenting and just change it right away. I learned, though, that commenting is actually quite a useful tool when it comes to revising your work.
Many people think that commenting is pointless for revising because they believe that the process of revising is going through and adding commas and such, but that’s called proofreading. Revising is much more complex, and leaving notes for yourself is very beneficial. When you set out to critique yourself, it is very helpful to leave notes and comments to yourself as you go. That way, you won't get caught up in trying to make one specific sentence or thought perfect, and can move on to look at the rest of your piece of writing. It helps you to make sure that you get through what you need to, so that when the time comes for you to actually change and edit your writing, you have all of your ideas neatly laid out for you to easily go through and implement. It helps you speed up the process, while also making it neater, better, and easier.
This week, we focused a lot on analyzing art, and how it can give us a window into literature.
One of the things that we talked about, and I feel is quite important, is the desire for humans to tell stories. Whether it is for entertainment or to explain something, we have been at it for hundreds and hundreds of years. By looking at a painting, for example, you can often get a deeper understanding, or at least a deeper appreciation, of the piece by looking into the story behind it.
One of the paintings we went over, Girl With A Pearl Earring, becomes a lot more interesting, and captivating, when we examine the story behind it. Because there is very little information about Vermeer and his paintings, it is up to the admirer to craft context for his works. This aspect of his art appeals to the storyteller in all of us, which is part of the reason so many people adore his work. By forcing people to invent a story for his paintings, they make it their own in a way, which is a very satisfying thing to do.
Of course, there are certain contextual aspects within his paintings. Referring back to Girl With A Pearl Earring, there are signals that it is in fact some kind of a sexual piece, judging by the way her mouth is slightly agape. However, I feel this only adds to the quality of story crafting folks can do around his painting. Who was she? How did they meet? Were they simply in a business relationship or, perhaps, was there something more there? The answers to these questions change by the individual, which is so neat.
I believe that what truly makes something a work of art is how much people can relate to it. If it speaks to no one, who cares? But, if a painting or sculpture can make the masses feel something, then, I think something amazing has taken place.
Anything that you read is literature, right? It's actually a bit more complicated than than. For many, the word literature suggests a higher art form; merely putting words on a page doesn't necessarily mean creating literature.
While I believe that literature is not a "higher form" of art than story, it is important to keep in mind the differences between the two. When we discussed this in class, there was a particular definition that really seemed to jump out at me. In short, 'story' is the part that can be made into a film, and 'literature' is the part that cannot.
To further expand upon this, think back to the last book you read. There was probably a part (or many parts) that examined the characters' inner feelings, thoughts, reactions, desires, etc. to some sort of external thing. Now, in a movie of said book, the external thing (whatever it may be) would obviously appear, but what cannot be expressed well in film (the inner thoughts, etc.) would be left out. The external is the story, the internal is the literature.
Now, like I said above, literature is not higher, or better, than story. Sometimes, you don't need to read a literary masterpiece. Regardless, story can, on it's own, be captivating and fun.
Literature and story are equally important in the experience of reading. You will rarely find one without the other, and while it is important to understand the difference, you should still enjoy both.
This week in class, we really got in-depth with the poem "The Eagle", by Alfred Lord Tennyson . We spent some time getting into what the poem was saying, or could be saying, as opposed to it simply being about an eagle.
Going into depth with poetry is always an adventure. Once you start talking about diction, connotation, and other literary devices, it is easy to see all of the hidden themes and meanings that you may have missed before. Reading a poem at face-value is fun, but it doesn't give you the meaning that the author was perhaps trying to convey.
While doing your analysis, however, you must keep in mind a few things. As we learned from the discussion in class, there are many different ways to interpret a poem. Poems speak to us in many ways.
By deep-reading into the poem, you are able to notice all sorts of things, as well as get a better understanding of how to write poetry yourself. It becomes more apparent which words work, which don't, which convey certain ideas the best, and which should be avoided at all costs. By looking into the choices of a poet, you may discover a whole lot more than you originally bargained for.
As I stated before, taking a poem at face-value is fun, simple, and quick. But not only do you miss out on a possible "diamond in the rough", you also lose the sense that you really accomplished something. Some poems are not easy to dig into, but that is what makes it all the more tempting to try. The gratification of answering questions and comprehending challenging literature is often what drives me to analyze poems or novels.
So, I think it is safe to say that it is always worth while to at least make an attempt to understand the deeper meanings behind poems, especially if you want to get all there is to get out of them. Whether you "succeed" of "fail" is really up to your own interpretation, as there are many meanings and motivations you could get out of a single piece of work.
A huge focal point for the last couple of weeks has been tragedies and the literature that goes along with tragic pieces. Naturally, because we have been reading and listening to so many things aimed in the direction of tragedies, I have been pretty focused on the subject for a while now.
An interesting part of the tragic genera is the things that must be present in a story for it to qualify as a legit tragedy. For example, to be a tragedy, a play must have a hero with some relatable flaws or bad aspects to them in some way. They have to have something about them that stops them from being perfect, otherwise they would no longer be relatable to anyone who reads their story. The piece of media must also be in play format and contain, obviously, a series or multitudes of tragic, unfortunate, or otherwise bothersome events that the hero of the story must deal with or face the consequences of. A hero must always have the possibility of succeeding in whatever they are attempting to do as well, if the play is to be a tragedy. If these requirements are not met, the story will be tragic but it will not be a literary tragedy.
I found this interesting because I had always just kind of assumed that any sad piece could be viewed as a tragedy. Upon delving deeper into this subject, however, I have realized that that is not correct in the slightest. There is a big difference between a sad story and a tragic one.
I think that tragedy is a unique and interesting art form. There are rules to it, of course, and though it is sad, it is still one of the most iconic forms of literature from the BC era. It is definitely worth learning about.
This first week, we discussed many different topics, all relating to writing or reading in one way or another. One that really stuck with me was that in order to improve in anything (during the discussion, reading and writing were the subjects) you must push yourself to practice. In order to gain a skill, or develop yourself in any particular area, you must keep doing it.
Practice doesn't make perfect; we've learned that early on. It does, however, make progress. If you hope to develop your skills, you must practice every day. According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become expert at something.
Whether or not you enjoy reading or writing is irrelevant. Of course, you should strive to find enjoyable aspects in the thing you practice, but in order to improve, practice is the only route to success. Perhaps, when you practice (and subsequently improve), you will be able to enjoy the topic. People that say they hate writing or reading often are not at a high enough level to truly understand the depths and complexities of the art of reading or writing. They will look at the task at face-value and immediately decide 'I don't like this; I'm not doing it.' Once you put a bit of effort into it, though, you may just find that that thing you so despised is actually quite enjoyable.
Overall, practice won't make you perfect. It may not even help you to enjoy reading or writing. By the end, you could still very well hate the activity, but you will be better. If you consistently put quality time and effort into improving your reading or writing skills, you will be a completely different reader or writer by the end. Practice is the best, and only, way to progress.