Thursday, October 13, 2016

Riley's Prewriting on King Lear

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Note on screenshots:     [These two texts highlight the comparable elements of christianity and paganism. Taken from Act V, Scene III; the speech on the left evokes the use of a singular god in a scene that is both hopeful and optimistic while the following speech from Lear evokes the use of pagan gods who are cruel and indifferent. ]

Prewriting for a Literary Analysis on "King Leer"

While reviewing my ebook annotations I've noticed I tend to rely heavily on character analysis and themes in regards to literary analysis. Therefore, I should focus more on rhetorical devices and how they help in the overall progression of the themes - thus my annotations are lacking and I should go back and review the text. Nevertheless, I also noticed that my book is littered with questions about the text which has since inspired a great deal of research and has helped me develop my various theme statements.

Furthermore, I have been inspired by various conversations on Slack - i've been particularly motivated by the discussion of the various depictions of paganism and christianity in the play and how paganism has been associated with themes of nihilism. While reading Act V I came across a usage of "god" that puzzled me; in scene 3 (when Lear is talking with Cordelia about the happy life they'd have together in prison) he says "as if we were God's spies." To me this appears to be a mention to a singular god as opposed to multiple - is this the understanding of others? If so, then the only nod to a christain god is during the only truly optimistic and hopeful scene in the play - the reconciliation of Lear and Cordelia.

[Causal Claim]: Within Shakespeare's thematicacally christain play, "King Lear", the overt use of paganism illuminates the text's theme of nihilism and juxtaposes with the play's salient relationship between christianity and hope.

[Comparison Claim (although it contains a causal claim as well, the thesis will compare Shakespeare's doubling to gothic doubling)]: Shakepeare's use of the literary double exaggerates the text's dramatic irony by subverting the gothic tradition of good and evil and revealing the complex humanistic nature of each character evident in their metaphorical blindness.

[Evaluation Claim]:  By subverting a common and accessable tradition of grecian tragedy, Shakespeare's christian themes become more recognizable to a nation on the cusp of religious division.

[Definition Claim]: To be read as a microcosm of international development, "King Lear" is a heuristic text that transforms it's characters into representations of the core and the periphery - illuminating the complex power dynamics through the various divisions of kingdom, class, and religion. 
(note: I'm an international development minor and I think it interesting to find relationships between the literature I study and the development theories I study). 

[Policy Claim]: Contrary to popular publication, Shakespeare's "King Lear" should be read as a feminist text that illustrates the power and capabilities of women as opposed to harping on the patriarchal elements as a bases of an unfeminist reading - the power bestowed on women by Shakespeare exemplify an agency and selfhood that was beyond the given time period. 

P.s. I appreciated (albeit, not at first) the task of developing a unique theme statement for each claim type; it revealed to me, as a writer, that I tend to rely on one form of analysis by only writing papers with causal claims. It forced me to reevaluate, not only how I write thesis statements, but also how I engage with a given text. 


  1. A lot of my annotations were like bookmarks to tell me exactly what was going on with the characters, so I guess I had a similar experience to yours. PS I love your evaluation claim! didn't really thin about Shakespeare subverting grecian tragedy.

  2. I also thought that some of the slack conversation about nihilism was fascinating! But I think I was most surprised to enjoy your last thesis, which I hadn't expected to read! This could easily be a feminist read, due to the great power the women of the story really had. It is interesting that they all end up dead, though.

  3. Woah, your theses totally grabbed my attention! I love the idea of looking at feminism and international development in King Lear- that's not something I had thought of before. I think your theses look strong and leave themselves open to more in depth analysis throughout your paper.