1. Choose one of the stories we have read and discussed, and interpret the story by using a biographical approach to literature.

Biographical criticism focuses on explicating a literary work using the insight provided by knowledge of the author’s life. This knowledge may change or even strengthen our response to the work. For example, learning that Kafka had an extensive (and dark) porn collection may change our interpretation of Gregor’ transformation and/or sense of shame and guilt. Conversely, research may affirm that Kafka’s relationship with his father parallels Gregor Samsa’s relationship to his. Sometimes even knowing one single important fact illuminates our reading of a story. For example, learning that Hemingway was “notoriously fond of drinking” and at sixty-two years old committed suicide may shed light on “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” a story that he published when he was twenty-seven.

However, we must be careful to distinguish between biographical criticism and biography. Biography is a branch of history; it provides a written account of a person’s life compiled from all available information, including works the author created. For this assignment, you are not asked to compile a report of an author’s life; as explained above, you’re asked to focus on an author’s experiences that may have influenced elements of the story you’re interpreting.

2. Choose one or more characters from any of the stories we have read and discussed, and explain how the character (or characters) mirrors an archetypal figure (or figures).

Mythological criticism examines recurrent universal patterns underlying most literary work. A central concept in mythological criticism is the archetype: a symbol, character, situation, or image that evokes a deep universal response. When we identify archetypes, we almost inevitably link the story we’re interpreting to a broader context of works that share an underlying meaning. For example, we could link Gimpel to Job, the biblical archetype of undeserved suffering. Conversely, we could identify the Outsider as the archetype of the undead and explore in what ways the character fits the prototype and in what ways he transgresses from it.

You may also choose your own topic related to the works that we have read and discussed. I encourage you to propose you topic prior to writing and submitting your essay.

Length Requirement: ~3 – 4 pages

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