Lewis Carroll: JABBERWOCKY
Ethical (and Philosophical) Criticism:
How do we go from the abstract to the actual meaning of the text?
Jabberwocky-a ‘nonsense’ poem
Sound is essential to poetry—this poem has capitalized on this element of poetry—part
of the reason that we find this poem beautiful and meaningful
It is a quest narrative—may be nonsense but it tells a familiar story. The boy is a hero.
The relationship between sounds and meaning is arbitrary—in this poem we are struck by
the ‘nonsense’ langu age, nonetheless they have meaning in a way
Why? Because the poem follows the r ules of grammar and syntax in the English
language. So, although they are nonsense, we recognize them as words.
Eg. “Beware the frumious Bandersnatch”—frumious is not a word in the English
language, however it follows the for mula for a proper sentence, taking the role of an
Value of a poem of this kind?
Ethics: a system of moral pr inciples, deals with values and refers to r ules of conduct
Ethical criticism thinks of literature as a representational structure that negotiates the
relation of ‘is’ and ‘ought’
Some literature’s (fictional literature) purpose is to reproduce reality (realism)
The pur pose of this type of “snapshot” literature is the unstated/implied “ought-to-be”
within the writing/story
Plato’s Dialogues: Plato was very interested in the function of poetry(classical term for
literature) as a social function, in particular it’s effect and value for t he yout h and their
role as future “statesmen”.
Is it true or false? Does it educate them and properly prepare them for their future. Is it
beneficial and appropriate for learning pur poses
How does literature represent the divinities and heroic men (classical role models)
Should we allow poetry(literature) that misrepresents the divinities or heros? In Plato’s
eyes, no, these are inappropr iate, and he developed rules by which
The divinities only author/autho rize the good (they do not create everyt hing—including
evil) and should not be por trayed as such
The divinities are never deceptive
Good poetry should dramatize the spirit of bravery and courage and war
The hero must be por trayed as someone who exercises restraint and discipline (moral
The hero is better than the average man
The Dithyramb: very concerned with the adventures of Dionysus. Spoken by the writer as
Tragedy and comedy: The writer assumes the role of the person t hat they are writing
about (a form of imit ation)
The Epic: the writer speaks in his/her own voice, but at times assumes the voice of the
character being portrayed