Uncertainty and Truth in Literature
Lesson 11 explores annotated bibliographies and Uncertainty and Truth in literature.
Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to;
- Demonstrate an understanding of literature that addresses uncertainty and truth.
- Analyze, interpret, and evaluate a variety of texts for the ethical and logical uses of evidence.
- Respond to literature with rational judgments supported by evidence.
To successfully complete Lesson 11, please do the following:
- “The Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka (textbook)
- “The Lives of the Dead” by Tim O’Brien (textbook)
- “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien (textbook)
- Complete discussion: Introduction to Critical Approaches
- Complete Module 11 Reflective Writing Assignment
Presentation: Uncertainty and Truth in Literature
Uncertainty and Truth as a Literary Theme
Reading is an interactive experience. Authors create a story with the expectation that someone will read it. Most fiction authors want to make the reader feel something as they experience the story: fear, happiness, dismay, joy, etc. They want to appeal to the reader in some way and offer a sort of escape from reality. In turn, the reader agrees to be manipulated, in a way, and believe what the story is telling them. Just like getting lost in a movie- even though you know you’re sitting on your couch in your pajamas.
Uncertainty (refers to the state of being unsure or doubtful about something. It can refer to characters’ feelings, the plot, or the themes of a story) and Truth (refers to the state of being accurate or in accordance with fact. It can refer to characters’ beliefs, the plot, or the themes of a story) are important literary themes that have been explored by many writers throughout history. They are often intertwined and can be found in various forms such as characters’ inner thoughts, dialogue, and plot events. In this lesson, we will explore how these themes are used in literature and how they can be analyzed. The nature of truth within a fictional story can take many roles and can be affected by many things:
- It can be influenced on a character level depending on the point of view (POV), or who is telling the story.
- This is where narrative style is important and whether or not we have a reliable narrator. Remember unreliable narrators often distort the truth.
- In “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, the main character is uncertain about whether to believe the ghost’s story about his father’s murder and whether to take revenge. This uncertainty drives the plot and reveals the theme of the uncertainty of truth.
- It can be manipulated by the author and can reflect personal beliefs or the beliefs of a society.
- So many times fiction is a reflection what a culture or society is going through in that moment. Civil war, political strife, feast or famine are all reflected in the literature being written during that time.
- Stories can definitely be influenced by the personal beliefs or internal struggles of the author, which can affect the truth or purpose of a text.
- Authors can also intentionally mislead readers by warping reality. There is an example of this below.
- In “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, the main character Holden is uncertain about the truth of adult life and the meaning of life. This uncertainty reveals the theme of the uncertainty of life.
- It can depend on the genre.
- Is the story supposed to mirror reality?
- Is it fantasy fiction set in a mystical place where the reader’s perception of “real” or “true” is completely dependent on the story?
- In “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the characters are uncertain about the true nature of Gatsby’s wealth and past. This uncertainty creates tension and reveals the theme of the uncertainty of identity.
- It can be a literary device: reality vs. illusion
- This is a method authors use to trick the reader into one reality while something completely different is actually happening.
- Authors will give clues that the action of the story isn’t really happening.
- An example of this would be Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”. The story is told in three different sections:
- In the first section, a soldier is about to be executed.
- The second section is a long winded flash back.
- The third section is the solder’s very detailed escape. For example, the protagonist is able to see the veins of leaves on trees on the shore while being carried away down a rapidly flowing river. However, the reality was that the soldier imagined his escape. These were his final thoughts. Bierce used the second section to completely distract us, the reader, so that when the “escape” began, we were on board and cheering him on with a distorted reality.
- Truth in fiction can even be affected by your own experiences and what you bring to the table as a reader.
- The purpose and message of some stories are interpreted differently depending on a reader’s personal belief and life experiences.
- Analyzing uncertainty and truth in literature:
- Identify instances of uncertainty and truth in the text.
- Consider the characters’ thoughts and actions in relation to uncertainty and truth.
- Consider the plot events and how they relate to uncertainty and truth.
- Consider the themes and how they relate to uncertainty and truth.
Important notice for next week: Your annotated bibliographies are due.
Next week you will be turning in your annotated bibliography assignment. Remember that we practiced for this in Module 8. This assignment is for research that you are doing towards your final paper. Since research can get overwhelming at times, this is a really good method to stay organized. Researching literature is also a good way to learn how you personally conduct research. Considering that most college majors and many professions require some elements of research, it is something that is important to know and you can only get good at it through practice.
A few things for your upcoming Annotated Bibliography assignment:
- It is important to know that research takes time. Do not wait until the last minute to start this project. Research is not something that can be done well when it is rushed.
- Start thinking about your paper topic now and determine which text do you want to work with.
- Do a basic, general research (just “Google it”) about your idea before you start doing scholarly research. You will need to know any terms that are specific to your topic. It will help you narrow your research.
- Do that same basic general search on whatever text you are working with. I will always encourage you to read about the story so that you understand the story. However, you must still read the actual story.
Review following documents (previously given in Module 8):
Example formatting for Annotated bibliography
Go ahead to Module 12 and look at the assignment so that you are aware of the requirements and can get started!
Discussion Board: Introduction to Critical Approaches (300-400 words)
DISCUSSION BOARD ACTIVITY
The study of literature is more than just reading and enjoying a story. It requires a critical approach that allows us to analyze and understand the text on a deeper level. A critical literary approach involves examining the text through various lenses such as historical, cultural, and social contexts, as well as literary elements such as characterization, symbolism, and themes.
After reading about the different critical approaches to literature, choose one of the stories that we have read this term and apply one of those approaches. Examples of a critical approach can be historical or cultural significance, feminism, gender studies, etc. In 300-400 words, discuss which approach you chose and support yourself. Be sure to include the following:
1. Title and author of the text.
2. Critical approach and a brief (2-3 sentence) definition.
3. Provide 2-3 specific examples from the text that support your choice. This could include:
· Analyzing author’s intentions and biases. Examining the author’s background and the social and political context in which the text was written can provide insight into the author’s perspective and how it may have influenced the text. Kate Chopin has often been studied with a feminist filter.
· Analyzing word choice based on meanings, connotations, and the effect they have on the text as a whole.
· Analyzing character actions and beliefs in relation to the text’s themes, literary elements, historical and cultural context, and the author’s intentions and biases.
· Examine how the themes reflect and challenge societal norms and power structures.
· Examine how literary devices reflect and challenge societal norms and power structures.
· Anything that made you think, “Oh! This could be feminism/historical context/cultural studies!”
4. Why did you choose this particular critical approach? Is it one that you are particularly interested in?
Your original post should be written using academic language (though some use of first person may be appropriate) and be written clearly in complete sentences. Be sure to proofread carefully.
No outside sources should be consulted for this assignment. You are welcome to attach images or links to related items to help your classmates visualize or understand the story. (For example, if you were writing about Harry Potter, you could include an image of Hogwarts.)
Be sure you write in complete sentences. Remember to stay school appropriate.