If you’re looking for the ultimate fruits of my labor this semester, you’ve come to the right place–this presentation portfolio houses the four essays (out of six total written) that I deemed the most successful of the bunch. They demonstrate various combinations of the skills I learned over the course of this three month adventure, and prove that I am now able to wield these skills and various literary perspectives like a particularly wordy, metaphorical weapon. They also evidence the way I have grown to develop my own original ideas outside of the ideas of scholars and theorists, which is the most valuable skill I learned. In these essays, I argue from four different veins of literary criticism, with each final paper being the product of learning a about particular school of literary thought and then applying that perspective to either The Tempest or Hamlet. Each one harbors its own hurdles and victories, and each is the end result of a successful round of learning, critical thinking, application to the play, organization, arguing, and perhaps a little bit of luck, too.
The first of this essay collection is the historical contextualization essay, which was my first chance at applying outside sources to a text. This essay uses The Prince by Machiavelli to inform a reading of King Alonso in The Tempest, and exhibits the knowledge of how to carefully close read, how to summarize primary sources for use in an overall argument, how to ask a sophisticated question about the text, and most importantly for this assignment, how to use a historical context (Machiavelli, in this case) in order to answer the question. It goes beyond just analysis of a contextual source, for it allows that source to inform an original close reading. This essay ultimately proves that I can take a historical source outside of Shakespeare’s own writings and link it to the events and characters of The Tempest in order to better understand them and make a new claim about them.
The second essay here is my critical conversation essay, which is perhaps the most original of these papers simply because it required me to look at what scholars had to say about a text and then come up with something to say in response to them, using close reading to back up my claim. This allowed for it to be the most creative of my essays this semester, a personal achievement for me, as a primarily creative writer. I examined the colonial and postcolonial perspectives surrounding the enslaved Caliban in The Tempest, and demonstrated that I could find my own footing and say something new among the discourse, which I believe I did rather successfully. Besides that ultimate goal for this paper, the essay also incorporates problem framing (asking and attempting to answer a question), employing secondary sources as argumentative sources, and summarizing those sources cleanly and efficiently.
My psychoanalytic critique ended up being the most successful paper of them all, and shows off the most skills at once, effectively arguing my versatility, ambition, and ability to multitask. This paper employs the methodology presented by Sigmund Freud in “Mourning and Melancholia” by using his ideas to explain Hamlet’s confusing and hypocritical behavior toward Ophelia in Hamlet, and unpack the question of whether or not his love for her is real–or whether or not an answer to that question is necessary. The most present skill in this essay is the use of the methodology to inform a close reading, of course, but this essay also demonstrates my newfound skill in entering a critical conversation and saying something new and meaningful to scholars already exploring similar topics. I also took the opportunity in this paper to do independent research, locating the scholarly discourse for my specific question about the play, as well as incorporating the philosophy of John Keats, which was related to my claim. For that broad scope of skills and the manner in which I was able to successfully utilize them together, the psychoanalysis remains the gold medal winner of my portfolio.
The fourth and final essay polished and presented here is my gender critique, which may not be quite as successful as my psychoanalysis, but still is a useful example of my work with methodology. This essay offers the most culturally-relevant claim, using Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble to explain the harmful and oppressive behaviors of Hamlet toward Gertrude and Ophelia and reveal the societal struggle with internal gender expectations that are entirely ficticious. That real-world application is the most unique skill of this essay, although it also continues to build upon my skills of close reading, critical conversation, and of course, methodology. A rather modern reading of Hamlet and my final piece of the semester, I felt it was the most appropriate closer for the presentation portfolio.
While these papers as they sit on this website now may seem refined and well-composed, it is important both as a writer and a reader to remember the amount of work that goes into each critique. Each of these papers came from a frantic, scribbled outline and haphazard notes (the details of which can be found in my process portfolio above), and it is only because of my growth as a writer both creatively and academically in this class that they were able to blossom into something intelligent and presentable. It is my hope that all of my hard work shows through these four essays, all my mastery of tools and time-management, and I hope as well that they are an enjoyable reading experience and an example of how academic writing can also be creative.