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The Adventure of the Speckled Band By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

December 19th, 2011 December 19th, 2011
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Dear Reader,

The website before you is a comprehensive analysis of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Speckled Band.  You will also found the site includes a semester’s worth or course work completed for English 170W: Introduction to Literary Theories taught by Professor Ferguson of CUNY Queens College.  Though the site is dedicated to delineating the accomplishments of Sherlock Holmes and the demise of the cunning Dr. Grimesby Roylott, I have left my work outside of this subject on my site in an effort to effectively articulate my comprehension of the literary theories I used in my analysis of The Adventure of the Speckled Band.  You will find here a short summary of  The Adventure of the Speckled Band as well as the full text of the short story provided by Readbookonline.net.  Additionally, I have provided a brief biography of Sherlock Holmes, his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  and an entry defining the sub-genre, the locked room mystery, to which the short story belongs.  Plot problems and a detailed map of the crime scene, including more detailed visual aids on the “photo gallery” page to assist readers in further understanding Holmes’ observations, and solving of the mysterious death on Stroke Moron.

Through this class, I was introduced to of a number of literary theories of critical analysis and how to deliver this vast new information through the usage of digital tools.  Digital literary devices are relatively new — Google’s Ngram Viewer was generated in 2009 and allows users to visualize the rise and fall of phrases and concepts across five centuries of books (that’s five million texts!), and the Wordle, debuted about a year earlier, creates a lovely “word cloud” composed of a provided text, giving prominence to the text’s most common terms — and will certainly become increasingly more relative to literary education as academia, together with the world at large, continues to advance technologically.  Therefore, these are tools I will continue to learn, manipulate and appreciate as a student and productive member of our intellectual society.

My ability to recognize (and appreciate) rhetoric has heightened dramatically over the semester.  You will find a page entitled “Glossary of Terms” displaying my accumulated skills through an analysis of randomly gathered Tweets.  You’d be surprised how present rhetoric is (used consciously or, as is more likely, not) in just 140-character-ed spurts.  I was.  An understanding of rhetorical devices thus allowed me a deeper grasp on the literary theories we later discussed in class, including New Criticism, Semiotics, Structuralism and Freud’s Psychoanalysis and its applications to literature.  Each method is so widely different, often opposing even, to the methods before and after it.  I learned to appreciate that before me (New Criticism) that that is not (Semiotics) and that this is but, but not obviously so (Psychoanalysis).  I then used a number of these theories to develop my shared analysis of The Adventure of the Speckled Band.

As a writer, I’ll forever be a student.  Sharpening never ends.  Though I’ve gathered skills and used tools and theories in this class that were once widely unrecognizable to me, there is still, and always will be, much to learn.  There are certain challenges I continue to face as a writer — aside from the throngs of rhetorical terms I have yet to commit to memory.  Critically analyzing my own writing, for instance, remains something on the To-Do List.  I find it difficult to distinguish between effective and overeager writing, and fear that I sometimes border heavily on the latter.  I can separate New Criticism from Semiotics, but often fail to recognize worthwhile, helpful writing from useless.  And because practice makes perfect, though I’m told no one/nothing is perfect(?), practice is what I’ll do.

Lastly, I would like to thank Professor Ferguson for a most enjoyable learning experience, one whose learned tools have already proven themselves helpful outside the realms of English 170W.

Enjoy the (metaphorical!) fruit of my labor, and leave your comments letting me know what you think.  I hope you find perusing this site as useful as I did in its construction.


Revising My Site

December 7th, 2011 December 7th, 2011
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More Than Just a Detective . . .

December 6th, 2011 December 6th, 2011
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. . . you might call Mr. Sherlock Holmes a raging Semiotician!



Moth-eaten Mania

December 4th, 2011 December 4th, 2011
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Though Thesaurus.com lists “mania” as a synonym for “obsession,” “obsession” doesn’t appear as a synonym for “mania.”  I wonder what the New Critic would say about that.  A denotation-connotation complex of sorts?

One of themes apparent in Jeffery Eugenides novel The Marriage Plot is that of a mania.   Each of the main characters manifests this obsessiveness differently.  Leonard literally suffers from manic depression, “mania” in its connotatively clinical sense, and exhibits bipolar behaviors characteristic of manic depressives.  Meanwhile,  the Hannas’ obsession is not one that might be responded to with a prescription for Lithium.  Their “mania,” though, as Thesaurus.com’s would suggest, would  ordinarily be characterized as an “obsession” for its non-clinical connotation, is a fixation on the maintenance of originality and antiquity.

 The Hannas’ house was a hundred-year-old Tudor. . . Inside, everything was tasteful and half falling apart. The Oriental carpets had stains. The brick-red kitchen linoleum was thirty years old. When Mitchell used the powder room, he saw that the toilet paper dispenser had been repaired with Scotch tape. So had the peeling wallpaper in the hallway. (74)

Everything about their home reflects its age: the stained carpet, the peeling wallpaper.  Eugenides uses the words “power room” not because  he avoids racier terms — he has no problem in the rest of the novel — like, heaven forbid, b-a-t-h-r-o-o-m, but because “powder room” exhibits an older, outdated (like their red-brick kitchen) connotation, a word long ago abandoned by most by this time.   Most every descriptive word in the above paragraph is a paradigmatic options for something old and out-of-date.  Words like “falling apart,” “stains,” “tape,” “peeling” develop this elderly imagery Eugenides creates.  Plus, linoleum and wallpaper have long gone out of date.  My grandmother tell me this all the time,  and she’s old enough to have been around to see the Hannas’ house being built.

Thank G-d for Scotch tape.

Symbolic Snake: Partially-Opened

November 17th, 2011 November 17th, 2011
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Dr. Roylott succeeds at deceitfully killing one of his two step-daughters by the bite of India’s deadliest snake, the swamp adder, and ironically accounts for his own demise at the same source while attempting to bring death upon his second step-daughter some time later.  The Doctor devises an elaborate, complex scheme involving a faux pulley, a tainted vent and the very dangerous creature.  Why?  What’s the significance of the choice snake?  Does it represent something more than an “idea of using a form of poison which could not possibly be discovered by any chemical test” or examining coroner?

To achieve results, I will search for literary symbolism, specifically that of the snake.

In fact, I’ll test it out right now:

I entered “symbolism” under “SU Subject Terms” and “snake” under “TX All Text.” The first listed article result: One Snake or Two: The Symbols of Medicine.

Dr. Roylott, I think I’m on to you . . . (and have partially closed the open-ended question).

Next, I’ll incorporate “deceit” into my research and further gather information on the symbolic representations of the snake using keywords, such as “medicine” and “doctor” — meanwhile, keeping my fingers crossed for useful results.

Addicted: Duplication, Triplication, Quadruplication

November 13th, 2011 November 13th, 2011
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It’s like doubling a yield-four recipe for a party of eight: more eggs, more omelettes.  Too, more “same sequence” yields a more structurally- apparent myth.   “Duplication, triplication, and quadruplication of the same sequence” within oral literature is essential to the myth’s structure.  The two work hand in hand and, Levi-Strauss asserted, should be read accordingly, in vertical rows arranged by theme.

Demonstrated by Rumpelstiltskin, the repetition of themes is the growth that develops the myth’s structure.  The theme of loss runs through the start and is revealed though multiple reincarnations, both potential (the Daughter’s potential loss of life if she was to fail her assigned task) and actual (the loss of the Miller’s leg).  The story’s structure is built by this collection of ‘losses.’

Another looming theme in the story is joy, though at the loss of another’s.   In order for there to be a winner, the story needs a loser.  At the story’s close, the Queen redeems her child and is, accordingly, joyous, but only at the cost of the Miller’s happiness (and leg).  Likewise, the King is joyous when he is given boundless access to gold, but that is  accomplished at the cost of the Daughter’s freedom.  Read in the traditional fashion, one mention of the joy-theme exists at the start of the story and the other at its end.  Read Levi-Strauss fashion, mentions of the joy-theme are arranged and read in a single row.

Repetition is the growth that yields Rumpelstiltskin‘s structure and is revealed by ever-apparent, conspicuous duplicated (triplicated, quadruplicated…) themes.  The more, the merrier (and more difficult to miss/mistakenly overlook).

L-S Reads R

November 10th, 2011 November 10th, 2011
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Freud on Literature: Dig Deeper

November 6th, 2011 November 6th, 2011
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“A dream-thought is unusable so long as it is expressed in an abstract form; but when once it has been transformed into pictorial language, contrasts and identifications of the kind which the dream-work requires…can be established more easily than before between the new form of expression and the remainder of the material underlying the dream” (Freud).  Similarly, Freud might suggest, a multitude of word-based thoughts running rampant through the mind’s halls are noncommunicable without a cot on which to settle.

Dreamers arrange dream-thoughts in pictorial dream-content; writers arrange thoughts, ideas, stories, etc.  in literature.   “This is because in every language concrete terms…are richer in association than conceptual ones.  Stories reserved to the mind have  limited accessibility to others other than the story’s store-er.  Written, the words and sentences are concrete, palpable representations of the author’s internal world.  The written story is a “most succinct and unified” results of the author’s “dispersed” thoughts.  Accordingly, to most successfully read literature it is recommended that you treat the text in the following ways:

1.  Read that which is before you as representative of something larger.  The text is merely a brief arrangement of the author’s more-abundant thoughts.  Therefore, look for rhetorical terms which have the capacity to hold something greater than just face value.  Certain comparisons, like the metaphor and synecdoche, have the ability to condense multiple thoughts into a smaller holding shell.

2.  Note the difference between denotation and connotation.  Be careful to shy from defining words too literally, as they might actually hold more bounding, richer content and meaning.  You might want to do some research on the text’s author, and a little more on the time period in which the author wrote his/her text.  Specific words have different connotations according to the time period to which they belong. Knowing a little about this time period and about the author can assist you in your quest for connotation.

In summary, look at the text as not as a listing of  the most valuable or least important words (run far, far from the Wordle), but as each word, individually, as having the capability to mean so much more than what it initially might seem to.


Condensation = Synecdoche; Synecdoche = Condensation

November 6th, 2011 November 6th, 2011
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The rhetorical element of synecdoche is similar to Freud’s theory of condensation. The synecdoche is a comparison in which a mentioned part  stands for the whole of an item, idea, etc.   A comparison of this nature condenses the entirety of an object into a partial representation.  Because in a synecdoche, for instance, an artery might represent the whole heart, the complete organ, the act of calling on the heart as just as an artery is something like concentrated orange juice:  all water removed,  dense sugar or pulp left as illustration of what once was.  In the condensation of dreams, a portion of our dream-thoughts are wrung out, leaving just the envisioned dream-content.  Though it is the dream-content that we see in our dreams (and, naturally, one might confuse most visible with most valuable), according to Freud, it is crucial to successful dream interpretation that we recognize that the dream-content is merely a limb of the more-important whole of dream-thoughts it represents.  “What is clearly the essence of the dream-thoughts need not be represented in the dream at all.”  In other words, go beyond the pulp.

Semiotics: The How Tos

October 27th, 2011 October 27th, 2011
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1. See the text as a unit. Read the text as linear culmination.

2. By process of elimination (that of selecting what it is not) assign a definition or mental image to word(s).

3. Sound out the words that create the poem. Notice that the “Rrr” in “Red” is unrelated to the blush hue. Can you find other examples where this theory true? (If you’ve identified the poem in its entirety, you’re on the right track.)

4. Progress through the poem and continue to locate signifiers and their signified, which together form a sign. Recall that signifiers can precede the signified, or vice versa.

5. Consider each word for what it is not. Can you locate rhetorical cues for help?

6. Read through the poem again.

7. Understand the poem based on those terms and ideas you have not discovered, based on that which is not written.

8. Optional: Identify the text as a specific genre is this literature (which will be the result of conducting a process of elimination of what it  is not). Once you recognize it a poem, use that as a soundboard for comparison with other texts in its genre.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65:
Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

In reading the first line of Sonnet 65, the Semiotician concludes that each word can not be the same as those to the left or to the right of it, nor any other word in existence.  By process of elimination, he/she defines each word as something different than all others, although it’s actual mental image has nothing to do with the chain of letters issued to represent it.  The Semotician identifies this “random” beading of letters as the signifier of the mental image, which is the signified. These are signs. The Semiotician progresses through the entire poem, keeping in mind previously identified signs as means for further comparison and, consequently, identification of other signs.  After all he/she was able to define has been, the Semotician reads through the poem again, allowing for a linear “teamwork” flow of the words (those that have been identified based on what they are not) to aid in his/her conclusion of what the words he/she was till then unable to identify might mentally look like.  All these words together combine to let the Semotician know what the poem does not mean, and from she/he can decipher what it does.

Semiotic reading of Sonnet 65:

“Brass” is not “stone,” and “stone” not “brass,” and neither of the two mentally look like any other word in the poem, or any other word at large.  “Brass” is the signifier for the signified mental image of metal alloy, which the Semiotician deciphered based on the the word’s irrelation to a mental image of mineral matter which is “stone,” a mental image of a body of water which is “sea,” or a mental image of a bristled cleaner of the jaw’s bony protrusions which is “toothbrush,” etc.  Note, though,  any associated correlation between the mental image of metal alloy and b-r-a-s-s is socially-constructed.

After completing the entirety of the poem in this way, the Semotician concluded that Sonnet 65 speaks about the destroyer, Time (“Time” being the signifier of the signified, limited period) who ravages “brass, “stone,” etc.  These words are but unions of letters that represent everything they are not (as mentioned previously).  Nothing is immortal.  Not “beauty” or love — which the Semotician recognized based on their irrelatedness to “brass, “stone,” etc. — unless b-l-a-c-k i-n-k rescues them.  Upon reading these two words, recognizing them as nothing  other than themselves, via process of elimination, the Semotician understood that they signify the dark colored fluid used for writing.  Then, upon reading the poem again as a linear progression and understanding the poem for what is not written, the Semotician concluded that the poet hopes to save love and beauty from the destroyer, Time, by writing this poem.

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