Literary Points of View—Part 3

In Part 1, I explained the meaning of the term literary of point of view (POV) and observed that every character in a literary work must have one. To see Part 1 now, click here.

In Part 2,  I introduced and discussed the first two of the ten literary POVs defined by two eminent literary scholars: 1) interior monologue, and 2) dramatic monologue. To see Part 2 now, click here.

In this part, I explain two additional literary points of view: 1) letter narration, and 2) diary narration.

Letter narration

A letter narration is a written story told by a connected series of letters. Each letter advances the tale; it introduces and develops characters, depicts related action, events, and plot, describes scene and situation, and accomplishes all the other literary tasks that the author of the series intends to make happen.

What are letters? In the real world, all letters consist of monologues addressed by an actual person to another actual person for a certain reason. They’re typically accounts of a person’s spontaneous and concerned reaction to something that’s happening or has happened recently, a reaction he wants the letter’s addressee to know about.

A letter composed by an author who’s using it to tell a fictional story is virtually the same: typically it’s the sender’s reaction to something that’s happened to him or to others. The sender in a fictional letter takes the same point of view as a sender would if he were real, but in a fictional letter the sender and addressee are imaginary characters invented by the author. Experiences, motives, reactions, characters, events, situations, and objects–are all inventions of the author.

The letters in a made-up story are concoctions, but in the hands of a competent author they seem just as genuine as if they were real. Made-up letters take the same form and style as real letters, and have the same spontaneity.

The point of view that story-tellers take when they assume the roles of writers and readers in their stories is called the letter narration point of view.

Authors use the letter narration point of view to tell a story in a variety of ways:

  • A series of back and forth letters can amount to a two-way correspondence that recounts a story as if it were a dialog carried on at a distance.
  • Or a series of letters may be a one-way, monologic correspondence.
  • A crisscrossing of letters can contain excerpts from documents such as depositions, references from books and newspaper articles, quotations of passages from conversations, or passages extracted from letters between third parties.
  • In some stories told with letters, multiple writers or readers may be involved.
  • Two letter writers may exchange letters about themselves or each other, as though the letters in a series were a diary.

Taken by itself, an individual letter is a distinct form of literature. But a series of letters that together tell a story does not in and of itself constitute a literary form. Instead, the literary form of the work that contains the letters determines the form of that work.

For example, a short story or novel that consists entirely of letters is an accepted form of literature customarily refered to as an epistolary short story or an epistolary novel, where the word epistle is synonymous with the word letter. Short stories and novels like these are considered to be special forms of short stories or novels rather than special forms of letters. The word epistle functions as an adjective, not as a noun. 

Some eighteenth century authors favored creation of epistolary short stories and novels–works that consisted entirely of letters–because their readers’ tastes leaned toward nonfiction, which was thought by many authorities to be more edifying than fiction. In part, they wanted to write fictional works rather than works based on historical figures and events because they could make them more interesting and appealing; they wanted to use their creative imaginations.

Epistolary novels were departures from convention. To help sell their books, innovative authors in that period wrote new kinds of fictional works that consisted solely of letters because letters were realistic artifacts that made their fictional contents seem plausible, more like the “worthwhile” nonfiction prescribed by critics, clergymen, and scholars.

Two examples of epistolary novels dating from the literary period during which the novel form was being developed are Smollett’s uproarious Humphrey Clinker in England and Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Heloise in France.

Modern authors tend to avoid writing epistolary stories that consist entirely of letters, although from time to time a modern  author will include a letter or series of letters in a longer work. Works like these are mixtures of letters and other writing styles. The letters they contain do not determine their literary form.

Nonetheless, a few modern authors have stepped up to the task of writing an epistolary novel consisting entirely of letters because they felt that letter narration was the POV their work needed. One example of a recent epistolary novel is Mark Harris’ Wake Up, Stupid.

Diary narration

Entries in a diary are similar to letters; one follows another as a story unfolds, and each page accounts for but a small part of the action or a brief time period during which a longer story evolves. As with successive letters that tell stores, successive diary entries express the diarist’s reactions to events almost as they happen.

But unlike writers who send letters to readers, diarists do not communicate with anyone in particular; or stated another way, diarists write to themselves or to the “dear diary” they address whenever they begin a new day’s account.

The diarist’s “dear diary” addressee is someone who knows him well and yet is a general, nondescript listener, a correspondent who does not respond or express opinions of his own. Like a letter writer, a diary writer revels his own state of mind as well as reporting recent events and actions by other people, but his diary is a correspondent that has nothing to add.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is such a novel, a fictional account narrated from the point of view of the eponymous character after whom the book is named. Defoe writes the novel as if it were the actual diary of a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers before being rescued. He takes a point of view called diary narration.

What’s next?—Part 4

In Part 4 of this six-part series, we’ll take a look at two more literary POVs: subjective narration and detached autobiography.

Visit Part 4 now: Coming.

Good Reading, Writing, and Theater-Going!

The Muse Of Literature

2013, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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Literary Points of View—Part 2

In Part 1, I explained the meaning of the term literary of point of view (POV). I pointed out that:

  • Every character in a literary work must have a POV.
  • A character’s POV is critical for how a literary work turns out.
  • Only a small number of possible POVs exist.
  • No complete consesus exists among literary scholars on what the POVs are or on how to define each of them. Different scholars disagree with one another.
  • I identified the scholarly source I use for defining POVs.

In Part 1, I expressed my intention to explain the ten scholarly POVs I like to use in a series of postings to follow. To see Part 1 now, click here.

In this posting, I’m going to cover the first two of these ten literary POVs: 1) interior monologue, and 2) dramatic monologue. 

Interior monologue

A monologue a form of dramatic entertainment, a comedic solo, or similar prolonged talk or discourse by a single speaker, especially one dominating or monopolizing a conversation. Or, it’s any composition, such as a poem, essay, novel, play, or screenplay in which a single person speaks; or it’s a part of a drama in which a single actor speaks alone, as in a soliloquy.

An interior monologue is a special form of monologue arising in the field of literature and in writing generally. It’s a monologue that narrates a character’s inner thoughts. Hence the word interior.

In any writing in which an interior monologue takes place:

  • If an interior monologue is being delivered by an actor on stage who is expressing his thoughts, the actor speaks the words aloud.
  • If the speaker or thinker is reacting to his immediate surroundings, his interior dialogue tells the story of what is going on around him.
  • If the speaker of thinker’s thoughts are memories, the train of thought will review some past events associated with something in the present.
  • If the speaker or thinker is mainly reflecting on something, the train of thought does not record the present or recall the past; his train of thought is the story itself.

Stream-of-consciousness writing is one of the most important kinds of interior monologue. The term stream-of-consciousness is borrowed from the filed of psychology, where a stream-of-consciousness is a person’s train of thought or a succession of ideas and images constantly moving forward in time.

In stream-of-consciousness writing, a character’s thoughts or perceptions are presented as occurring in random form, without regard for logical sequences, syntactic structure, or distinctions between various levels of reality.

Edouard Dujardin is credited with inventing the stream-of-consciousness technique in his 1887 novel, We’ll to the Woods No More.

Novels, short stories, poems, or other literary forms may be written using the stream-of-consciousness technique.

Many stories written in the 20th and 21st centuries contain stream-of-consciousness interior monologues, but few of them are told entirely in this way. Two outstanding exceptions are James Joyce’s Ulysses and Virginia Wolf’s The Waves. The interior dialogue in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying  rotates among the minds of the characters.

A closely related kind of interior monologue appears in moving picture or television writing. In this kind of interior monologue, a character on screen does not appear to speak, although the character’s voice is heard on the soundtrack to create the illusion that the audience is hearing the character’s thoughts.

Dramatic monologue

A dramatic dialogue is a literary form in which a single character reveals himself and his dramatic situation by addressing a silent auditor at a critical moment.

The character addressing the silent auditor is a particular person telling a particular story to a particular audience for a particular reason. As in real conversation, his speech is spontaneous and unrehearsed.

The silent auditor may be another character who appears in the work or he may not be a specific person at all–he may be the world in general, an abstraction.

Those of us who are overhearing what the character is saying to the silent auditor are eavesdropping. We can determine where the speaker is and to whom he is talking from the references he makes in his monologue.

A dramatic monologue occurs in a theatrical play whenever one character takes over the stage and talks for a long time uninterruptedly. Depending on circumstances, these kinds of monologues can have a variety of dramatic functions. Some of a character’s speeches may provide information about what has taken place offstage; others may permit the character to explain himself, reveal himself, or betray himself.

Despite the term drama, many works containing dramatic monologues are not intended for the stage. For instance, many poems are dramatic monologues. Two examples are Browning’s My Last Duchess and Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress. Joseph Conrad uses this technique in his long short story, The Heart of Darkness. And Albert Camus uses this technique throughout his entire novel, The Fall.

What’s next?—Part 3

So far we’ve briefly explored two of the ten different kinds of literary point of view. Next time, in Part 3, we’ll examine two more POVs: letter narration and diary narration. Visit Part 3 now: click here.

Good Reading, Writing, and Theater-Going!

The Muse Of Literature

2012 – 2013, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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Join Us

Ever wonder if it’s possible to get personally involved in what’s going on at my web site? It’s easy.

Here are two things you can do right away to join in: send in an Arts Information Feature or a Byline that I and my muses can publish.

Here’s a different one that’s popular with visitors. Submit your original essay for The Muse Of Language Arts to publish.

Or you can send me your idea for a name I can give to one of my cohort muses—you could win an award for that—or make a donation to help keep my web site going.

Altogether there are eleven different things you can do to actively participate. Here’s how to discover what they are:

First click Join Us on the menu at the top of most of Electricka’s pages.

Then click the first item on the list that drops down, the one called Join Us at the Help the Arts Overview. You’ll visit a page containing an overview of all eleven ways you can take part in the festivities.

Or click the name of any one of the other features on the list and you’ll visit a page that tells you what to do to take part in that feature.

Have fun and profit. Enjoy!


2012, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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Find Fast

Want help finding your way around Electricka’s web site? What to learn about new or existing features?

Check into the features that open when you click on the Find Fast menu at the top of most of Electricka’s pages.

Good searching!

2012, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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Literary Points of View—Part 1

pov4A point of view (POV) is a manner of consideration or appraisal, a standpoint. It’s an opinion, attitude, or judgment. It’s the mental position from which ideas, people, or other physical things are viewed. It’s the spatial or ideational property of the position from which something is observed.

In literature, a point of view is the mental position or attitude that a narrator takes about the story he’s telling. The tale being narrated can be fictional or nonfictional, but most often POV is a dominant factor in fictional novels, short stories, or other fictional tales.

Of course, a narrator is the creation of a story’s author; everything in a story is. But the narrator is the one whose POV you read about, not the author.

An author assigns his narrator the task of describing what goes on; he speaks through his narrator, but he doesn’t necessarily share the narrator’s opinions about characters or about what happens in the story; and the narrator doesn’t necessarily know everything about the world of the story that the author knows, which of course is everything.

A narrator lets you know his POV by the the way he speaks or thinks or acts, by the manner in which he perceives and describes events and characters, and by other literary techniques.

Does the narrator’s point of view make a difference? Imagine what Moby Dick would be like if Herman Melville had chosen Captain Ahab to narrate the story instead of Ishmael.

Or imagine what kind of a book Catcher in the Rye would be like if J. D. Salinger had written in a narrator who knows what’s really happening instead of Holden Caulfield, a liar who blows everything out of proportion trying to prove to you and himself that the world is against him.

According to literary theory, POV is one of the most important ways in which narrators can differ from one another. Their points of view depend mainly on the kinds and extent of things they can know about the events and characters in the story, on their attitude toward characters and events,  and on who they are and what they are made of.

According to traditional literary theory, basically there are only three different kinds of narrators that it’s possible for a writer to pick for a story. Usually an author chooses only one of the three possible kinds of narrators to tell a story, but sometimes an author will switch narrators one or more times while the story is being told.

According to theory, the three basic kinds of POV a narrator can have are:

  • First person POV. The narrator is a character in the story, usually the protagonist around whom the story revolves. He or she tells the story by referring to himself as I, we, or us.
  • Second person POV. The narrator speaks as though the reader is one of the characters in the story. He refers to the character as you, which causes the reader to identify with the character. This intensifies the reader’s reaction to the story by making the reader feel as though he or she is part of the action taking place.
  • Third-person POV. The third-person POV is defined by a mixture of two literary elements: narrator knowledge and narrator subjectivity. The combination of how much knowlege and subjectivity a narrator’s has defines his POV:

Narrator knowledge. At one knowledge extreme, the narrator is omniscient; he knows everything about the world in which a story takes place—events, characters, locations, etc.—but doesn’t necessarily tell the reader all he knows.

At the other knowledge extreme, the narrator’s knowledge  is limited; he knows everything there is to know, but he only knows it about a single character in the story.

For any particular story, the author sets the narrator’s POV at a specific point that ranges between these two knowledge extremes.

Narrator subjectivity. At one subjectivity extreme, a totally subjective narrator tells a story exclusively from the perspective of what the characters know, do, feel or think, and does not describe any other view of the story’s external world, including his own.

At the other subjectivity extreme, a totally objective narrator does not describe any of the thoughts, feelings, or inner workings of characters’ minds, but only relates what goes on around them.

For any particular story, the author sets the narrator’s POV at a specific point that ranges between these two subjectivity/objectivity extremes.

This is a basic list of the different kinds of POV an author can choose for a story. It’s greatly oversimplified, but it helps set the stage for what I’m going to tell you in future postings.

In the postings that follow, I’m going to briefly describe an alternative, less-traditional and more modern list of different possible narrative points of view, one that is far more insightful and comprehensive than the three traditional POVs cited above. There are similarities between the two kinds of lists, but the POV list I will discuss in future postings presents a different and more comprehensive way of looking at POV—a new POV about the literary POVs.

The new list I’ll be discussing is an innovative, ground-breaking contribution to literary theory that was developed in the 1960s by James Moffett and Kenneth R. McElheny, two eminent and accomplished literary scholars and teachers. They published their ideas in a well-known, still-in-print 1966 book titled Points of View: An Anthology of Short Stories. That’s a picture of the book’s cover in the photo at the top of this posting.

If you’re interested in POV, their book is a should-read and easy-read. It lists and explains each of the ten—and only ten—POVs that it’s possible for a story to have; and it prints short stories that illustrate each one.

What’s Next?–Part 2

In Part 2, I’ll explore the first two of the literary points of view, interior monologue and dramatic monologue.

Visit Part 2 of this posting now: click here.

The Muse Of Literature

2011 – 2012, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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Want to Hear More Karl Haas Programs?

haasThat’s Dr. Karl Haas on the left.

In case you don’t already know who he is, Dr. Karl Haas was a distinguished classical music performer and presenter, interpreter, and explainer who for decades originated a widely-syndicated and highly successful radio program on the subject of classical music.

Why Karl Haas Was (and is) Important

Why is Dr. Haas important? Because of who he was, what he gave us, and what he is still giving us.

He was known to classical music lovers everywhere as one of the finest, most rewarding, most jovial and good natured presences on radio. For decades, his internationally syndicated radio show called Adventures in Good Music contributed immeasurable joy to the lives of tens of thousands of his followers, uplifting their spirits and fostering their intellectual and aesthetic growth.

With words of explanation and musical examples that followed, he led his listeners step-by-step on a journey of understanding. He showed them how to recognize the sources of his (and our) musical pleasure and to value them. He transported them to another world, a place that had the power to drive away the ordinary concerns and cares of the day.

Karl Haas was a musicologist and scholar of high order, yet his hour-long network radio show appealed to listeners at all levels of musical maturity and experience. Each show focused on a particular subject, some aspect of music worth knowing about, often an aspect no other classical music broadcaster had thought to explore from quite the same point of view. If you weren’t fascinated by his subject before he covered it, chances were you were fascinated afterward.

Dr. Haas is sorely missed by those who had the good fortune to hear him. His dedicated followers will long remember him. Too bad everyone else couldn’t have had the same opportunity to hear his broadcasts. Too bad everyone alive today can’t have this opportunity.

About His show—Adventures in Good Music

Year after year he generated an amazing number of shows—one for almost every weekday—without the least sacrifice of quality. He made it seem easy. The quality of his work never waned. Each show was packed with information, but the facts didn’t seem to intrude on the experience. His show was a perfect blend of left-brain cerebral articulation and right-brain aesthetics and emotionality. What you learned never seemed tedious or boring, and learning it never seemed a chore.

Karl Haas’s radio broadcasts are still being broadcast decades after his passing. WCLV, his syndicating radio station, maintains an archive of them and continues to distribute them to local classical radio stations around the globe and over the Internet. Radio station WUFT in Gainesville, Florida, USA, streams rebroadcasts of Karl Haas’s show over the Internet.

The Problem With Dr. Haas’s Show Today

So far, everything sounds great. So what’s the problem?

Everyone can’t hear them today.

The radio and Internet sources that rebroadcast Adventures in Good Music programs today only play them on a restricted daily or weekly schedule. And these radio stations are outside the listening range of tens of millions of people in the U.S. and hundreds of millions of people around the world. There’s no single source where anyone can go to hear most, all, or any particular one of Dr. Haas’s shows in the U.S. or around the world at virtually any desired time or place.

There must be many people like us who would like to be able to pick and choose the Haas program they want to hear, whether it’s one of his seasonal shows, one of his shows about a composer or a piece of music, or one about a topic that fits a personal need, a mood, or an emotion; but they can’t.

What You Can Do

I know that these deficiencies bother some of the visitors to Electricka’s web site because they’ve told me so. And they must bother many other people, whether they’re visitors to Electrica’s web site or whether they’re past or current Haas listeners who never even heard of Electricka. They certainly bother me, and I believe that they would bother lots of others who never had the chance to hear the show if only they had a way to discover that it exists and to sample it.

If you’re one of these people—if you can’t access Adventures now whenever and wherever you want to—if you would like to hear, enjoy, and profit from the legacy of Karl Haas—if you would like to explore Adventures in Good Music and discover whether it’s right for you—then there’s an easy way to rectify this problem, to try to make something good happen for yourself and for others.

Find Out What You Can Do About This Problem

2011, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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The Red Shoes—A Great Film by the Archers

red_shoesYou may have seen the 1948 classic movie, The Red Shoes; lots of people have.

If not, don’t miss this movie if you care about ballet or any of the other performance arts.

The Red Shoes is a British film production that was written, produced, and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, whose production company goes by the name The Archers. It centers on a ballet of the same name which is performed during the movie.

In my opinion, this Powell/Pressburger production is one of the best movies ever made about a ballet, if not the best. It’s a wow! The more often you view it, the more it grows on you and the better it gets.

The movie is based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson in which a young woman sees a pair of red shoes in a shop window which are offered to her by a demonic shoemaker; she puts them on and can’t take them off; they force her to dance frenetically until she dies of dancing. The ballet The Red Shoes that’s performed during the movie reenacts this story.

Moira Shearer acts and dances in the ballet, as do Leonide Massine, Robert Helpmann, and Ludmilla Tcherina. All these dancers are masters of their career specialties and competent film actors, as well. Marius Goring and Anton Walbrook are professional actors who play parts in the cinematic portions of the film but don’t dance. (Ballet dancing is not an easy skill to acquire, even for talented actors.)

powell_pressburger_htmlThe Red Shoes ballet was conceived by The Archers and was composed especially for the movie. Ballet music is composed by Brian Easdale and choreography devised by Massine. Cinematography is by Jack Cardiff. (Those are The Archers on the right.)

The ballet is choreographed and superlatively performed on the screen. The acting, dancing, directing, staging, screenplay, sets, scenery, lighting, makeup, costumes, and color photography are brilliant; they’re exciting; they turn you on! The original ballet music and choreography are brilliant; they turn you on too! Every dancing and acting performance is first class.

The ballet is superb, but there’s far more to the movie than a ballet performance. The movie is a cinematic tour de force, a smash!

The Red Shoes is just one of the don’t-miss art movies written, produced, and directed by The Archers. Others include The Tales of Hoffmann and Black Narcissus, two additional all-time greats. The Tales of Hoffmann is a unique performance of the Jacques Offenbach opera, and Black Narcissus is an intense original dramatization.

2011, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann–A Good Filming, a Great Performance

shicoff_tales_of_hoffmannThe 2002 performance of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann at the Opera National de Paris, Bastille, released on DVD in 2004, is a masterful performance of a masterwork by a master composer.

Conducted by Jesus Lopez-Cobos, the part of Hoffmann is sung by the tenor Neil Shicoff and the parts of Offenbach’s multiple villains are played by the bass-baritone Bryn Terfel. These artists are magnificent in their roles, both when they sing apart and when they sing together.

This recording is risqué, exuberant, exciting, and full of life. Offenbach would have loved it. It makes a spectacular art movie. In fact, it’s so good, I rank it as the best performance of one of the best operas ever written. It’s a wow!

The production, singing, acting, dancing, direction, screenplay, sets, scenery, staging, lighting, costumes, and color photography are brilliant; they’re exciting; they turn you on. Makeup is not overdone. Words are clearly pronounced and easy to understand. Audio quality is outstanding.

The camera work is outstanding, too; it’s much like what you are used to seeing in a well-directed movie. It’s so skillful that it captures the performance’s greatness without getting in the way.

Clever and astute direction generates wide and narrow shots depending on what the action and content call for; cuts, blends, fades, dissolves, and other transitions gracefully exchange frontal, lateral, top, back, and rear camera views while the performance is underway; shots are perfectly timed and look from optimum camera angles; singers stare straight into the lens or look aside depending on what the director needs; cameras help separate and demark scenes. All this demonstrates that technical skill with cameras has a lot to do with the success of a performance art movie and that high caliber camera work is feasible in an opera.

Even the audience contributes and responds to the performance by minding its own business; it doesn’t interfere except to announce its approbation with brief spurts of applause at the most strategic moments.

But notice that this movie is not great because it’s great cinema; it’s great because it’s a great art performance. This filming is not a high expression of the motion picture art, it’s a high expression of operatic art that’s not spolied by inept filming.

2011, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann

OffenbachThe Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d’Hoffmann) is an opera composed by Jacques Offenbach (picture at left). To my thinking it’s not only his best, it’s one of the best operas ever written by anyone, a masterwork. It’s a shame he didn’t live to see his opera performed.

To fully appreciate the caliber of this operatic performance, it helps to understand the background of the real person for which it is named and on whose writings the opera is based.

The real Hoffmann, one Ernst Theodor Amadeus Wilhelm Hoffmann (the Amadeus is assumed), was an 18th century German author, composer, music critic, draftsman, caricaturist, and illustrator.

This real Hoffmann was a well known, successful author in his day and his works are still being read.  He was an influential literary figure who favored and followed his muse. Numbered among his works are The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, upon which Tchaikovsky based his ballet The Nutcracker, and The Sandman, upon which Delibes based his ballet Coppelia.

As a writer, Hoffmann was (and is) best-known to the public by his shorter penname, E.T.A Hoffmann, which he used for his fantasy and horror story publications.

The whole of this written outpouring is highly imaginative, very inventive, and darkly reflective—on occasion even humerous and spooky. He played a key role in establishing the horror story and fantasy genres and his works stimulated other important writers of the Romantic period to do the same.

Offenbach not only named his opera after this real writer Hoffmann, he remade the real writer into the opera’s central character and patterned its plot after three of his stories. Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann is based partly on Hoffman’s story The Sandman, and also on two others of Hoffmann’s works, Councillor Krespel, and The Lost Reflection.

eta_hoffmannBut the character named Hoffmann is nothing like that of the real person. The Hoffmann in Offenbach’s opera is perpetually bipolar—in love and lovelorn, alternately lucky and luckless, naive but world-wise; he’s a wanderer and adventurer, a larger-than-life misguided and fantastical artist-dreamer who is ready to fall in love or fight a duel at the drop of a hat. He’s an archetypical Romantic period poet like Byron or Shelly, as the Europeans of their time mistakenly imagined their poets to be.

The real Hoffmann lived a tough, hard, unhappy (albeit creative) life. His fantasy and horror stories are products of his imagination more than they are products of his personal experience.

But somehow, with his lively music and immense sense of humor, Offenbach manages to transform Hoffmann’s fundamentally drab and serious materials into farce. Offstage, the original author’s stories are somber, even phantasmagorical; onstage Offenbach instills into them a sense of everlasting joy, gay and sardonic humor, farce, and wonderment. Hoffmann’s dour dreams become inspirations and symbols for the vigorous, animated stories Offenbach tells; they become ideal vehicles for his great music.

2011, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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Can a Literary Work Belong to More than One Genre?

Can a liteary work belong to more than one genre?

Visitors frequently ask this question because they often see literary works that are identified with a particular genre by publishers, advertisers, book stores, or libraries; and authors are often labeled according to the genre in which they specialize.

For example, Nora Roberts, who got her start as a Romance writer, some years ago made a successful transition into what many publishers call Mainstream that changed her career. She also writes science fiction and she still publishes romances. Some of her books belong to more than one of the genres in which she’s worked.

But the people who assign these genres don’t always agree with one another. They assign different genres to the same work or author; or they use different terms to denote the same genre.

Actually, many literary works belong to more than one genre and some belong to a number of them.

Part of the reason for the confusion over genres is that genre is not an easy subject to understand until you’ve thought a little about what the word genre means.

It’s possible for a work to belong to more than one genre if all of its generic properties are a subset of those of another genre or if different subsets of it’s generic properties are each a subset of a different genre.

(I go into this matter in greater detail at my feature at Electricka’s web site titled Literary Genre—A Definition.)

A literary genre is a distinctive type of literary composition that’s defined by its literary properties. Once you think it through, it’s easy to see why and how a single literary genre can be related to other literary genres which possess similar characteristics.

The same thing holds true for other creative arts like painting, sculpture, music, the stage, movies, and most of the other high arts. It’s also true for everyday arts like writing ads, painting signs, or graffiti.

Find out more about the nature and function of genre in all the arts at Electricka’s web site: click here.

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