Tag Archives: Part Two: Creative Writing

Assignment 2: Reflective Commentary

Looking back on the creative writing part of the course as a whole and my essay I think it’s clear to see that I have incorporated a degree of what I learned into the content of the assignment. Even my choice of author, Kazuo Ishiguro, and novel, An Artist of the Floating World, shows some effort on my part to engage actively with the theme of time/place from a post-modernist perspective. His writing is not a style I am familiar with or massively fond of so I pushed myself out of my preferences to try and fulfil the course requirements.

I think I worked hard to make use of literary terms learnt earlier in the course in the progress of my essay. The most obvious example of this is the referral to poetic devices and the effect they have on the shaping of the theme’s of time/place. I think I swayed towards referring to the theme of time a little too heavily, as I struggled to expand on the theme of place from the extract. In my preparation for the essay it’s also clear that I put into practice methods like annotating extracts and picking out poetic devices learnt in earlier exercises.  Perhaps what was most influential to my reading of the extract was the forth exercise on The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In particular I think I used what I’d learnt from that exercise to shape my analysis of the style of prose and the form of narration. The preparation of the exercise helped me to understand how an author might manipulate or play with our sense of narration or the structure of the prose to dramatic effect.

However I do think I struggled to utilise what I’d learned about Aristotle’s theory of the four elements in my essay. I think I explored theme and expression but didn’t expand massively on character. Looking back now I wonder how I would ‘fit’ the character from the extract into a archetype, he doesn’t seem to be neatly fitted into any of the one’s I looked at earlier in the course. Perhaps to improve the essay I could spend time considering the kind of Character presented by the extract and explore how he seems to break with the tradition of character archetypes. I think towards the end of the essay I began to touch upon (admittedly briefly), the plot, asking questions about ‘why’ we were seeing the world the character described and making some commentary on the greater context of Japan. As with Character analysis I think I could’ve given greater time to my analysis of the plot but struggled to in such a short extract. I could’ve taken more time to make a more expansive commentary on the plot.

So overall I think my essay shows I’ve learnt from the exercises along the course, but that I could do with being a bit more thorough in putting everything I’ve learnt into practice.

 

 

Assignment 2: Close Reading of a Novel

I decided to try and chose a piece of post-modernist fiction to pick an extract for my assignment. I know Kazuo Ishiguro’s name was mentioned earlier in the workbook as an example of post-modernist fiction so it seemed like a good starting place.

I read his series of short stories, Nocturnes, and the novel An Artist of the Floating World. I felt that An Artist of the Floating World dealt more closely with themes of time and  than the stories of, Nocturnes (which focussed heavily on the theme of music and time), so chose to select an extract from that for my essay.

I found it difficult to chose a section from the novel that would have enough substance for my essay so selected two extracts and did a brief annotation/analysis roughly to help me decide. You can see these below:

Annotation of extract from p.7 of 'An Artist of the Floating World' by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Annotation of extract from p.7 of ‘An Artist of the Floating World’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annotation of extract from p.27-28 of 'An Artist of the Floating World' by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Annotation of extract from p.27-28 of ‘An Artist of the Floating World’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose the second longer extract as the basis for my essay because I felt it had more examples of imagery, poetic devices, and was a good sample of the style of prose throughout the novel. I read the whole novel before picking the extract, so I found it hard to keep my comments to the extract itself given that I knew the trajectory of the story. The style of the novel was entirely new to me, I guess I’m more familiar with modern authors as opposed to post-modern. So it took awhile to get used to the way the book drifts in and out of the past and present day, but I thought this was highly effective in giving a sense of the character trying to gain sense of his past in the midst of a rapidly modernising world around him. I also found that reading Christopher Butler’s, Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction, helped with understanding the paradigm the author may well have written in.

I allowed myself some time to go back and look at the questions from exercise 3&4 and used those as platforms in my physical learning log to answer some questions about the extract. I found doing this before typing the essay helped me to decided what I wanted to say and made connecting all the points together far simpler. In terms of the essay itself I managed 1,292 words, which was less than the recommended 1,500. But I felt like to try and meet the 1,500 word limit I would either be repeating myself or start to make commentary on the rest of the novel. Neither of those seemed like good things to do, so I kept it slightly below the word count. Hopefully this was a wise choice!?

 

Project 4: The Road ~ Exercise 2

I wanted to make sure I documented my notes for the exercise, which was essentially a close reading of an extract of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

I started by annotating the extract before starting to make my own rough notes on the questions from my work book:

Annotation of extract from The Road by McCarthy

Annotation of extract from The Road by Cormac McCarthy

 

 

 

 

 

And here are my notes:

Notes on the road p.1

Notes on the road p.1

Notes on the road p.2

Notes on the road p.2

Notes on the road p.3

Notes on the road p.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project 4: The Road ~ Exercise 1

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – re-writing the narrator:

First Person Narration:

“I pushed the cart and my boy and I carried knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things in case we had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that I used to watch the road behind us. I shifted the pack on my shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley , I saw the still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and Precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? I said. My boy nodded. We set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, we were each others worlds.”

Second Person Narration:

“You pushed the cart, you and the boy carrying knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things in case you had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that you used to watch the road behind you. You shifted the pack higher on your shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley you saw a  still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore there was a burden of dead reads. Are you okay? You asked. The boy nodded. You set out together along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, you were each other’s entire worlds.”

If McCarthy had chosen the third person limited point of view, think about the difference between telling this story from the boy’s POV or the man’s. 

It could be really interesting to see the story from the boys point of view, just to see his emotional response to what seems to be a tense or dangerous world. But I wonder if the world would seem limited by the boys vocabulary, would we end up feeling like we missed the depth provided by an adult perspective?

I think told from the man’s perspective we would miss some of the description or scene setting provided by the omniscient narration. The extract says that the man and the boy were ‘each other’s world entire’, so I feel that from the man’s perspective we hear a lot of thoughts and considerations for the boy and visa versa.

What impact does changing the narrative angle have on the story? Why do you think McCarthy decided to use an omniscient narrator?

I’m surprised by how different the story feels told from different narrative angles. The first person narrative feels very close, like you’re up seeing everything through the eyes of the man and it makes the story feel a little predictable.  The second person narration seems to have the effect of adding more distance, it reads as though you’re hearing an older person re-living or recounting a past experience. I think the effect is that it makes you less involved in or concerned with how the story unfolds. I wonder if McCarthy chose to use the omniscient narrator because it gives you a broad sweep of the landscape or things around the characters whilst closely tracking their movement. I think it gives the effect of watching their development intently, perhaps because you care but without getting so close as to intervene. I think the slight distancing from the inner thoughts or emotions or perspective of the characters helps the reader to keep tolerating a story set in such a bleak world.

 

 

Project 3: Exercise 3 ~ Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas

I read the poem Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas a few times before listening to the following readings:

  1. Fern Hill read by Dylan Thomas
  2. Fern Hill read by Richard Burton

I found that reading the poem, even reading it aloud to myself it came across differently when read by different people. Dylan Thomas’s reading of the poem has a lilting melodious quality. At moments during the reading it sounds more like it’s being sung, it reminded me of the sound of chanting or spoken liturgy in catholic churches. However listening to the reading by Richard Burton the poem feels more sombre and dramatic, it takes on a mournful quality.I actually prefer hearing the poem read aloud to reading it and trying to grasp it in my mind.

Notes on the poem:

Annotation of Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas p.1

Annotation of Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas p.1

Annotation of Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas p.2

Annotation of Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas p.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the poem is quite wistful, it captures a sense of longing for care-free days, capturing the beauty of rural life and the experience of youth. I think it takes the reader along a journey from the delight of the freedom and carelessness of youth to the sadness of the affect of time or ageing.

The poem is rich with poetic devices, Dylan uses personification so frequently in relation to ‘time’ that it becomes a character within the poem; “time let me hail and climb. Golden in the heyday of his eyes…Time let me play and be Golden in the mercy of his means”. Time becomes this altering force that impedes upon Dylan’s freedom; “Time held me green and dying. Though I sang in my chains like the sea”. The use of frequent assonance and alliteration lends the poem a song like quality, you feel the rise and fall of words like the rising and falling of notes in a tune; “house high hay….simple stars…wander white with…windfall light”.

 

The use of repetition particularly of the words green and golden add to the theme of time and place. Green being a symbol of youth and fresh life, and golden being a symbol of favour or good times and also the sun, a way that we measure the passing of time; “happy as the grass was green…Golden in the heyday of his eyes….Golden in the mercy of his means…fire green as grass…children green and golden…”. In the final lines that imagery is used as a juxtaposition, “Time held me green and dying”, no longer green and golden, green sat next to the word dying takes on other connotations, I think of mould or decay, and reinforces that idea of the passing of time or ageing.

The poem explores place guiding the reader on a journey through rural life, we ride along with the poet as he “rode to sleep the owls…bearing the night away”. We have this picture of rural life “apple boughs…green grace…the farm was home…”, rural practices/farming, “I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves sang to my horn….the hay fields high as the house”. The inclusion of animals associated with the countryside completes this picture of idyllic rural life; “the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold…the owls were bearing the night away…blessed among the stables the nightjars…lamb white days”.

There is also some religious imagery which seems oddly placed, “And the Sabbath rang slowly, In the pebbles of the holy streams…fields of praise”. But most oddly I find some imagery relating to birth or pregnancy, “it was Adam and maiden, The sky gathered again. And the sun grew round that very day. So it must have been after the birth of the simple light…”. I wonder if the imagery of birth or pregnancy is to enhance the idea of youth, and also to remind us of the inevitability of death.

The ‘speaker’ of the poem seems important, the poem is based around the speakers experience and feelings it seems at the passing of time and of his youth. His views are generally clear and if not plain they are inferred heavily through the use of the poetic devices already mentioned.