The Art of Fiction
ENGL 273G: Section 1
Room: M02-0213 M/W/F 11-11:50 A.M.
Paper Assignment #2: Juxtaposing Texts and Concepts
What does juxtapose mean?
1. The placing of elements side by side, leaving it up to the reader to establish connections and impose meaning.
2. A literary device used to bring out the similarities and differences between two situations, thoughts, characters or emotions by placing them together. The characteristic of one makes those of the other prominent without the author having to sketch out the nuances of both separately. The word juxtaposition means placing two things in proximity. Such placement of two objects, in literary terms, brings out the characteristic features and individuality of each by way of comparison. For instance, if you place a black scarf beside a white one, the difference would be instantly evident – even if you donÕt point out the differences verbally or descriptively. Literature and popular media usually employ juxtaposition to mark the contrasting differences of two characters, emotions, situations or thoughts. Think film for a second: the classic, rapid-fire switch back and forth between two pieces of action – that are somehow at odds with each other and are part of an overall story – is juxtaposition. Example: Indiana Jones trying to jump across the gap in the tomb (first scene) while the gate to the outside of the tomb closes (next scene).
How will we use juxtaposition?
For the second essay, you will find elements of two texts to juxtapose, reflect on the juxtaposition, and determine what it means. Unlike the example above, in which an author contrasts two characters or situations in a single work, you will use juxtaposition to draw connections between two stories that may, initially, seem unrelated. This assignment requires you to analyze the relationship between two different short stories that we have covered thus far in the course. Think of the two stories as a couple ballroom dancing. Both the male and female dancers must work cohesively together. The cohesion, however, is rarely airtight. In fact, your two stories may not ÒfitÓ together at first; they will contrast. Nevertheless, you will be working with two different, complex stories, just as each person in the dancing couple is a separate, whole individual. To take the metaphor a step further, the dance the couple performs will end up being the meaning you create in your essay – the uniform thread, the idea, the thesis, that holds your prose together. Each dancer must contribute to keeping the dance alive. The dance occurs only when the two individuals come together in a new context. If this sounds familiar, good, but please note: There is a difference between comparing/contrasting of the high school days and the more sophisticated act of juxtaposing. In juxtaposing, a vital part of the process is to create meaning from your comparison. You must no longer be content with saying that X is different from Y and hereÕs why; instead you need to explain how the differences work together to create a new, unified message.
How do I begin to juxtapose?
Step 1: Start by brainstorming a list of themes in works we have read. Then locate specific works that explore these themes. Find similar themes between stories weÕve read. Remember to be open to themes and ideas that on the surface may seem dissimilar, but upon a closer look produce new meaning. Choose ONE theme you would like to explore further within the context of TWO stories. Notice anything that strikes you in the works you have chosen; also observe how they work as fiction. In each story, how does the plot, point of view, character, symbol, tone and style relate to the theme you have chosen? Include as many observations as you can; be bold and discuss figures of speech such as metaphor, irony, and allusion. HereÕs an example: Suppose you are drawn to two authorsÕ ways of revealing (or not revealing) conflict through dialogue. One author may have very chatty characters, but not much is being said, whereas another author may use dialogue sparsely, but the characters have a well-developed intimacy. Each author uses dialogue in a very different way. In spite of this, however, characters change and conflict in both stories. This conflict, which occurs through the use of dialogue, is your central thread – the dance, to return to our ballroom metaphor. The authorsÕ contrasting styles are what you juxtapose in order to bring attention to the real meaning of your essay – that dialogue can be a powerful tool, in the hands of an author, to communicate conflict – even if that dialogue comes in many different forms.
Step 2: Working separately within the texts, examine how the theme (in our example), works in each. Re-read relevant passages and close read for meaning. Come up with a theory on how/why each author is using the theme/idea.
Step 3: Looking at the texts side by side, juxtapose! We can assume that since the texts are written by different authors and in different time periods, they most likely do not fit perfectly. Therefore, create meaning as to what the authors are saying and how they get their messages across. What is the common thread woven throughout that we can use to keep our observations relevant? To continue with our example, the common thread would be that dialogue is a powerful tool that authors use to display conflict in stories. Part of your job, then, is to help another see what youÕre seeing. Go out of your way to be clear and restate your points. You also might see new facets the second time around, which is why, to arrive at a sound argument, you must engage with the work at least twice – remember: A Re-Read Rewards.
How do I structure this thinking?
When you are comparing two works of literature, it is tempting to try to dump observations about the works into paragraphs slotted for specific purposes. For example: in this paragraph, IÕll discuss the use of awkward silences in Author AÕs dialogue. In the next paragraph, IÕll discuss awkward silences in Author BÕs dialogue. In the next paragraph, IÕll compare the two, etc.
Try, instead, to use your paragraphs to explain ideas/concepts/literary devices that connect to the overall theme – regardless of whether the examples of the concepts come from Author A or B. In doing so, you will be able to more clearly focus on the intersections where you see the two books colliding. The argument is given precedence, which allows you to move smoothly from Book A to Book B. A paragraph is about more than just Book A or Book B; it is about one thematic element that engages both works.
For those of you who like diagrams, the structure of your essay might look like this (again, using the above example of conflict through dialogue):
The Art of Fiction
ENGL 273G: Section 1
Juxtaposing Concepts Across Short Stories
Due: Wednesday, October 12, at the beginning of class
Length: 4-5 pages, must go onto the fifth page
Texts: assorted short stories
Format Details: double-spaced, 1Ó margins, 12-pt Times New Roman font, refer to MLA handbook or ÒPurdue Owl MLAÓ for an online resource regarding header format, citation format and works cited page format.
Background: Over the past few weeks weÕve moved from examining elements of fiction while focusing on short stories. Your first paper required you to focus on close reading skills and representations of character. For the second paper you will be further developing these skills and your understanding of literary elements from our anthology, however, now you will juxtapose two short stories based on a connecting element.
Task: In a 5-page paper, create an interpretation centered on ONE specific concept/theme based on the juxtaposition of two short stories of your choice. How do both works engage the concept/theme that you have chosen to focus on? Why do they engage with the concept/theme in the way that they do? It is your job to create meaning from this juxtaposition. As a class, letÕs brainstorm some possible concepts or themes. IÕll write them on the board, and you can jot them here:
Please note: This is not a typical compare/contrast paper, in which every element of how the two stories are alike and different is identified. Instead, remember to focus on a specific concept/theme that connects the works. Then juxtapose the works to see how they present a concept similarly or differently, and what each work reveals about the concept.
The Art of Fiction
ENGL 273G: Section 1
Paper #2 Workshop/Peer Review
Writer: ____________________________ Responder: ____________________________
1. THESIS: Underline the writerÕs thesis. Is the thesis clear? Does it reflect a thoughtful connection of a concept or theme across the selected works? Does the writer continually expand upon and support the thesis, from the readings and with interpretations, throughout the paper?
2. CLOSE READING WITH EVIDENCE: Underline areas where you see the writer offering a detailed analysis and interpretation of selected passages. Does the analysis include an understanding of literary elements (theme, characters, setting, point of view, style/tone)? Does the writer fully describe the effect of their close reading? Do the selected passages and interpretations support the writerÕs thesis?
3. JUXTAPOSING: Is the writer moving beyond comparing/contrasting? Does the writer present a connecting concept/theme for the selected works? Note by marking up areas in the paper where you see strong juxtaposition.
4. CONCEPTUAL THINKING: What ideas or concepts does the writer explore? Which ideas or concepts seem particularly strong?