Criticle Essays On

Outstanding, in-depth scholarship by renowned literary critics. A great starting point for students seeking an introduction to One Hundred Years of Solitude and the critical discussions surrounding it.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is perhaps Latin America's most famous novel. An overnight sensation when it was first published in 1967, it has been translated into dozens of languages and remains a perennial favorite of readers around the world. Its strange, mesmerizing blend of the real and the fabulous introduced the world to magical realism and has inspired countless writers. More than a simple fantasy, though, it effectively encapsulates the social, political, and historical peculiarities of Latin America and, as Ilan Stavans writes in his introduction to this volume, "manages to build a self-sufficient . . . universe, one paralleling ours."

Edited and with an introduction by Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture and Five College-Fortieth Anniversary Professor at Amherst College, this volume in the Critical Insights series brings together a unique grouping of essays on Gabriel García Márquez's seminal work. Stavans's introduction considers the novel's massive scope and pronounces it a Spanish-language masterpiece on par with Cervantes's Don Quixote. Charles Straut, writing for The Paris Review, takes up where Stavans leaves off to celebrate García Márquez's heightened appreciation for the strange and marvelous in reality.

For readers studying the novel for the first time, a valuable introduction is provided in new essays by Amy Sickels and Julieta Vitullo. Sickels describes the political, social, and literary contexts in which García Márquez wrote, and Vitullo evaluates the reputation of One Hundred Years of Solitude as a classic novel in a survey of the formative critical responses to it. A brief biography of García Márquez helps students place the work in the context of its author's life.

A variety of critical readings on the themes of the pursuit of knowledge, natural and human-made disasters, and translation continue the discussion. Within the first theme, Ariel Dorfman describes how One Hundred Years of Solitude seamlessly interweaves literary and folk narrative forms to recount the history of Latin America, while Elizabeth A. Spiller explores how Renaissance discovery narratives are reflected in its pages. Michael Bell in turn places the novel alongside Jorge Luis Borges's short story "Funes the Memorious" and Friedrich Nietzsche's essay "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life" to create a meditation on memory and forgetting, and Floyd Merrell finds parallels between the Buendía family patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, and the West's quest to understand nature. Charles Stanion turns his attention to a lingering textual mystery, and in a new essay David Buehrer compares One Hundred Years of Solitude with Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita to suggest that knowledge may be gained through aesthetics.

Natural and human-made disasters are treated in a grouping of four essays. John R. Clark considers whether the hurricane appearing at the novel's conclusion carries apocalyptical or merely satirical import, while the historical, cultural, and medical aspects of the insomnia plague are analyzed by Lorna Robinson and by A. Sghirlanzoni and F. Carella. A. A. Garman concludes the section by attributing Macondo's destruction to the forces of capitalism.

Translation, both metaphoric and literal, preoccupies the last third of the volume's critical readings. A new essay by Gustavo Arango argues that the novel calls upon its readers to translate it into the narratives of their own lives, and Monika Giacoppe compares One Hundred Years of Solitude with another novel featuring a translator, Nicole Brossard's Le Désert mauve. Gregory Rabassa, the English-language translator of One Hundred Years of Solitude, comments broadly on reality and realism in García Márquez's work; Gene Dilmore and Chester S. Halka praise Rabassa's translation while also making a few corrections; and María Mercedes Andrade surveys the initial English-language reception of the novel. Finally, a new essay by Ilan Stavans offers a syntactical analysis of the novel's closing lines, and Claudette Kemper Columbus locates García Márquez's masterpiece within the tradition of the gothic novel.

Concluding the volume are a chronology of García Márquez's life as well as a list of his principal fictional and nonfictional works and a lengthy bibliography of critical works for readers desiring to study One Hundred Years of Solitude in greater depth.

The purpose for writing a critique is to evaluate somebody's work (a book, an essay, a movie, a painting...) in order to increase the reader's understanding of it. A critical analysis is subjective writing because it expresses the writer's opinion or evaluation of a text. Analysis means to break down and study the parts. Writing a critical paper requires two steps: critical reading and critical writing.

Critical reading:

  1. Identify the author's thesis and purpose
  2. Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
  3. Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
  4. Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
  5. Write a summary of the work
  6. Determine the purpose which could be
    • To inform with factual material
    • To persuade with appeal to reason or emotions
    • To entertain (to affect people's emotions)
  7. Evaluate the means by which the author has accomplished his purpose
  • If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
  • If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
  • If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?
Consider the following questions: How is the material organized? Who is the intended audience? What are the writer's assumptions about the audience? What kind of language and imagery does the author use?

 
 

SAMPLE OUTLINE FOR CRITICAL ESSAY

After the passage under analysis has been carefully studied, the critique can be drafted using this sample outline.

  • I. Background information to help your readers understand the nature of the work
    • A. Information about the work
      • 1. Title
      • 2. Author
      • 3. Publication information
      • 4. Statement of topic and purpose
    • B. Thesis statement indicating writer's main reaction to the work
  • II. Summary or description of the work
  • III. Interpretation and/or evaluation
    • A. Discussion of the work's organization
    • B. Discussion of the work's style
    • C. Effectiveness
    • D. Discussion of the topic's treatment
    • E. Discussion of appeal to a particular audience

Remember:

Avoid introducing your ideas by stating "I think" or "in my opinion." Keep the focus on the subject of your analysis, not on yourself. Identifying your opinions weakens them.

Always introduce the work. Do not assume that because your reader knows what you are writing about, you do not need to mention the work's title.

Other questions to consider: Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?

What about the subject matter is of current interest?

What is the overall value of the passage?

What are its strengths and weaknesses?

Support your thesis with detailed evidence from the text examined. Do not forget to document quotes and paraphrases.

Remember that the purpose of a critical analysis is not merely to inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth, validity, beauty, or goodness of something.

Even though as a writer you set the standards, you should be open-minded, well informed, and fair. You can express your opinions, but you should also back them up with evidence.

Your review should provide information, interpretation, and evaluation. The information will help your reader understand the nature of the work under analysis. The interpretation will explain the meaning of the work, therefore requiring your correct understanding of it. The evaluation will discuss your opinions of the work and present valid justification for them.


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