Monday, 4 August 2014

LITERARY CORNER: Let Literature Be

                                      The reader became the book; and summer night
                                      Was like the conscious being of the book.
                                                                                   - Wallace Stevens
Using the Iceberg Principle of Ernest Hemingway’s Theory of Omission in his introduction to the 1st edition of The Literary Detective, Glen Paul Hammond explained how storytellers use plot (which is analogous to the visible, smallest part of the iceberg that floats above the waterline) as a means to allow a good reader to perceive the deeper meaning of the text (which is analogous to the largest part of the iceberg that resides, invisible, below the surface of the water).

In the 2nd Edition of the The Literary Detective, this essential part of the communicative relationship, between writer and reader, is more fully articulated in an expanded Introduction that demonstrates how layers of meaning embedded in the text creates an experiential connection that allows a book to speak to the modern reader and come alive!

The author uses Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to explain the process (Hammond, 4-6):

                    In a diagrammatical iceberg, Twain’s great literary masterpiece
              can be viewed in the following way:

          Above the waterline is the plot.  In the case of The Adventures
          of Huckleberry Finn, this can be summed up as involving a runaway
          white boy and slave, who travel down the Mississippi River together; it
          is simplistic and mundane.  Moving just a little deeper below the surface,
          however, is a common and acknowledged understanding of the basic
          theme of the novel, the great American sin of slavery.
                The theme of slavery is based in the historical time period or setting
          of the novel, which is pre-civil war United States.  In order to achieve the
          best position to understand the work, the reader must research the time
          period and culture being represented.  This will inevitably lead to an
          investigation of the culture’s deeply rooted racism.
               At this point, the reader begins to understand that by exploring the
          historical time period presented in the novel, the reader is able to free the
          novel from the constraints of a strictly historical perspective.  Essentially,
          by placing the novel in its historical time, the reader can bring it out of
          that time period and into the present.  The fact that the novel itself was
          written well after the end of slavery, suggests that the institution of
          slavery was not the essential matter that Twain was exploring.
               Indeed, racism as a fatal characteristic of human nature, which
          transcends time and place, can now be viewed as a deeper underlying
          theme.  Even though many discussions of the novel will delve no deeper
          than this important layer, it is evident from the very first chapter that
          Twain’s book means to go much further in its exploration on how societies
          operate.  Through repetition, the author introduces the existence of what
          social scientists now call functional requisites, which are basic functions
          that each member of society must observe if the society is to function in a
          particular way.  For a slave state society to accept the institutional law of
          slavery, racism had to become a basic function.
              Colonel Sherburn’s famous speech in chapter 22 and a cross reference
          to how it reflects Twain’s own view on “man’s commonest weakness, his
          aversion to being unpleasantly conspicuous,” introduces the even deeper
          theme of moral courage.  Once the individual recognizes that society
          requires them to observe certain basic functions, the individual is made
          cognizant of issues that involve the morality of accepting immoral
          societal norms.  As Twain remarks, only one individual in 10,000 is
          capable of the courage to stand alone against the larger group and, in
          the novel, that individual is the delinquent Huckleberry Finn.
               Since functional requisites, moral cowardice/courage and the dilemmas
          they represent are things that all individuals potentially face in various
          ways and in various degrees on a daily basis, the book is now completely
          relevant to the reader’s immediate life, and the deepest layer of any read
          has been accomplished: You!

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Now with tables, additional text and exercises at the back, The Literary Detective, A Guide to the Study of Great Literary Works, 2nd Edition is more essential than ever before. Anyone can become an expert reader!  Anyone can have great literature come alive!  In twenty short chapters, The Literary Detective shows you how!

"This book is so me!"

Hammond, Glen Paul.  The Literary Detective: A Guide to the Study of Great Literary
            Works.  2nd ed.  Charleston: Create Space Publishing, 2014

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