ENGB34 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Countee Cullen, Thesis Statement, Earl Stevick

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Published on 30 Sep 2011
School
UTSC
Department
English
Course
ENGB34
Professor
Lecture 4
Characterization in “Gutted”
Origin of literary epiphany
Stevick: “The whole significance of such stories, their whole justification for
being, is invested in that moment of insight around which the rest of the story
deploys itself” (419)
Workings of literary epiphany
Short stories tend to deal with characters who “are constantly attempting to
establish identities their worlds do not support.”
Epiphany and unknowing: the epiphanic moment often marks “a challenge
to knowledge,” constituting “a means of unknowing rather than a means to
knowledge”.
Epiphany’s double structure: the epiphanic moment can “provide a stable
sense of closure and adumbrate a new order.”
Epiphany and illusion: The insights often “disabuse [characters] of their
illusions about the world the story presents.”
Epiphany in “Gutted”
What is the narrator’s epiphany? What inspires it?
How is this epiphany represented? (For example, compared to the respective
epiphanies in “The Lady with the Dog and “Sonny’s Blues”)
Does the narrator change? Is he a static or dynamic character?
“Sonny’s Blues” The Stories within the Story
Setting (time and place)?
Central characters?
Central conflict?
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Born and raised in Harlem
His aptitude for writing at a young age attracted the attention of Countee Cullen
He explored issues of race and sexuality
Critics have written that Baldwin’s power resides in “discovering that sphere of
commonality where, although differences exist, those dissimilarities are stripped
of their power to block communication and stifle human intercourse”
Considered one of the greatest American writers
Thesis statement 1
The narrator of “Sonny’s Blues” recounts stories about his failure to wonder
“about the life that Sonny lived inside” (27). These stories demonstrate that the
narrator’s failure to “wonder” (27) was the result of his skepticism about Sonny’s
eager and active imagination.
What are two of the stories the narrator tells?
The story of Sonny’s fantasy about mystics in India (26)).
The story of the narrator’s conversation with Sonny (after their mother’s
funeral) about Sonny’s future (31-4).
What goal or intention unites the telling of both?
“When I saw [Sonny] many things I thought I had forgotten came
flooding back to me. This was because I had begun, finally to wonder
about Sonny, about the life that Sonny lived inside (25-6).
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Document Summary

Stevick: the whole significance of such stories, their whole justification for being, is invested in that moment of insight around which the rest of the story deploys itself (419) Short stories tend to deal with characters who are constantly attempting to establish identities their worlds do not support. Epiphany and unknowing: the epiphanic moment often marks a challenge to knowledge, constituting a means of unknowing rather than a means to knowledge . Epiphany"s double structure: the epiphanic moment can provide a stable sense of closure and adumbrate a new order. Epiphany and illusion: the insights often disabuse [characters] of their illusions about the world the story presents. Sonny"s blues the stories within the story. How is this epiphany represented? (for example, compared to the respective epiphanies in the lady with the dog and sonny"s blues ) His aptitude for writing at a young age attracted the attention of countee cullen. He explored issues of race and sexuality.