When you’re reading a work of fiction, how much do you think about it? Not just the basic stuff, like: Is the plot interesting?, or who are the characters going to eventually hook up with? I mean, how much thought do you put into what is going on in the story, what the author is trying to say, and what the themes are? Well, that is a huge part of what goes on in literary criticism. Readers examine texts to find themes, ideas, and subtexts in the work. They may even relate the work to the world outside the story, and what the book has to say about the world. If any of that sounds interesting (and as an English major, this is the stuff I live for), then you might be interested in the four new books in Salem Press’s Critical Insights series. These books are available to Rice Library users in both print and electronic formats. They include discussions of classic literature, such as The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Frankenstein, rather typical literary pieces, but they also analyze more contemporary works as well.
One volume which includes a discussion of contemporary works is entitled Technology and Humanity (REF PN56.T37T43). As an example, one essay references the movie Tron and its sequel Tron Legacy as it examines the relationship between programs and programmers. This isn’t just about computers and robots; it’s also about how technology has changed over time. The volume entitled Dystopia (REF PN56.D94D97) contains a series of essays about works that deal with a future gone amuck, often focusing on a growing issue in contemporary life. The Natureand Environment volume (REF PS169.E25N38)deals with how we feel about nature, and how nature has been used literature. It has essays on both poetry about nature and fictional accounts of man’s struggle with nature, or man’s interest in it. In The Heros Quest Heros Quest volume (REFPN56.5.H45H53) contributing authors investigate one of the great literary themes, in fact one of the earliest plots in literature. It often involves a hero traveling great distances to achieve amazing feats of heroism.
So take a look at the books, in print or online, and spend more time analyzing what you read every day. It will not only help you in class, but also in appreciating whatever entertainment you happen to enjoy.