Unit6 theme - Unit 6, Lesson 1: Theme In this unit we will...

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Unit 6, Lesson 1: Theme In this unit we will take a closer look at themes. Discussion of theme is often at the heart of literary study. Even in previous units with different focal points we have looked at theme. The first lesson explores definitions.
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What’s it about? One of the first questions people ask about a story is “what is it about?” That is a trickier question than it seems to be. Some students answer that question with a plot summary. But what happened in a story isn’t what we are looking for when we discuss theme. Some answer by naming the subject. “It is about love” or “It is about a guy who meets the devil in the woods.” But again, that isn’t quite it. In literary study, the question asks for the main idea of the story. It is looking for the deeper, the bigger picture. It is asking for the theme.
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It begins with ideas • When you study literature you are studying ideas. • Without ideas you can’t really have meaning, interpretation, explanation, or much discussion. • You can state an idea in a single word. Edgar V. Roberts’ example is Chekov’s The Bear . The idea is “love” (117). • That doesn’t really say much of anything, does it? • To make us think, to increase our understanding, you have to take it further.
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Ideas to assertions • In literary study, the statement of idea needs to move from a word to an assertion. • An assertion articulates an idea that makes a claim. (You may recognize this from composition classes). • It is the foundation for an argument, for a discussion of the ideas. In Roberts’ example, “love” moves to a statement like “This play demonstrates the idea that love is irrational and irresistible” (117). • You can see a “map” of the argument that may develop from that statement. It has direction.
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Theme • Most texts contain a lot of ideas. That is part of the beauty of a text and why it can stimulate so many readers and readings. • “When one of the ideas seems to turn up over and
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This note was uploaded on 04/03/2011 for the course ENG 227 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '10 term at Purdue University-West Lafayette.

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Unit6 theme - Unit 6, Lesson 1: Theme In this unit we will...

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