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Essay: Explore Human Nature and Understand the World Through Literary Criticism: ENG4U’s Impact on My Interpretation and Understanding

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  • Published: 23 March 2023*
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  • Words: 792 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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The skill of literary criticism has significantly enhanced my interpretation of texts and understanding of this world. Through ENG4U, I was able to be introduced to such concepts which only allowed me to further my analysis in different texts. I was taught to evaluate texts and the world through various perspectives and to read beyond the surface of what is seen to the naked eye.

Given several opportunities to improve in critical thinking and reflection throughout the course, it has allowed me to further expand my thinking while reading Lindsay Wong’s The Woo-Woo. I was able to examine the memoir through the lenses of both archetypal and feminist criticism. While archetypal criticism interprets a text by focusing on recurring archetypes (through symbols, narrative, characters), feminist criticism focuses on gender roles through feminist ideologies. While reading Wong’s memoir, I learned to explore power-relationships represented in the book and the struggles women face in a traditional household. Additionally, I learned to identify archetypal roles which allowed me to discover any underlying themes and motifs the characters may have. For instance, without looking through an archetype lens I would’ve never been able to identify an underlying theme of Good vs. Evil not only between Lindsay’s own family, but within herself as well. The archetype for Good vs. Evil also made me think, based off her parent’s actions, what part is motivated by illness, and the other, just the person? Even though Lindsay’s father didn’t experience much of the Woo-Woo for himself, he displayed the same amount of ignorance towards Lindsay as her mother did. The lack of empathy he had for his children would ultimately lead to his inability of being a proper father figure. Moreover, literary criticism has expanded my imagination, allowing me to raise questions when reading (such as the one above). I definitely began to wonder how various lenses would interpret character development and how it may provide a deeper understanding in terms of plots. Through the process of questioning and deep thinking, literary criticism has definitely provided a significant impact in this text.

Personally, poetry and Shakespeare were definitely harder to comprehend and analyze. Despite this challenge, literary criticism has taught me to not merely interpret them but to read beyond the surface of words. At first glance within the story of Hamlet, I wasn’t able to recognize how Hamlet’s speech towards Queen Gertrude could have reflected traditional gender roles. However, through the lenses, I was able to recognize how the play focuses more on the male perspective rather than the female perspective. Without the use of a Gynocentric Narrative, both female roles could be seen as less than main characters and do not hold any sort of authority position at all. While some may say that Gertrude’s actions were wrong, the feminist lens allowed me to sympathize with her and establish a connection on how she may have felt in that situation. Within History Lesson by Jeannette Armstrong, the use of Literary Lenses also allowed me to recognize how some parts of the poem allude to certain parts of history. The lack of respect and recognition the Europeans had for the Aboriginals because of ignorance has cost several innocent lives. The constant ignorance of other cultures only reminds me of current events that are happening today. With events such as the Black Lives Matter movement, it really goes to show how history has a habit of repeating itself and that we must take action to hopefully create a better future.

Through the use of Literary Criticism, I was able to go through a process that would eventually allow me to weigh the social values of a written idea. Whether or not it applied to me personally, the underlying messages would often allude to current or past events in the real world. I was able to connect Wong’s memoir and the reality of racism to the discrimination faced by female Chinese individuals like myself. Analyzing several texts through different lenses has allowed me to realize that there are several valid sides to any major issue – not just a right and wrong. As I approach further complex problems in life, I can do so with greater self-awareness and tolerance for the contrasting perspective of others. Putting myself in the shoes of contrasting perspectives may open my ideas to new possible ideas and also provide deeper insights on a certain topic. Interpreting literature through lenses also allows me to take what I know about human nature from personal experiences and connect it to the author’s ideas. By combining my own ideas with other existing ideas, this can result in a richer and more complex understanding of the world around me.

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