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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Close Reading Essay for English 371: American Literature

One of my assignments this semester was to compose a close reading essay of approximately eight pages about something we had read in the class. I chose to write about Portrait of a Lady  by Henry James and Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. One of the themes we discussed is the idea of the gaze and the phenomenon of both looking at someone and being looked at. I chose to incorporate an essay I had written on the subject, called "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" by Laura Mulvey. Below is a link to a full text version of this essay. The central idea is based on a phenomenon called scopophilia. In my paper I also addressed the issue of double-consciousness, which was examined first by W.E.B. DuBois. The premise of double consciousness is the struggle between the way the world views a person and the way the person really is. Below is a thesis statement for my paper.

Double consciousness is a universal concept that affects how everyone acts. When a person becomes aware of being watched or feels watched, it can make her feel out of control, even over her own actions. Laura Mulvey, in her essay titled "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," talks about the psychological effects of being watched. While this essay focuses on men viewing women, there are important points about the process of both watching and being watched that apply to everyone. Both Portrait of a Lady and Franny and Zooey feature characters who become aware of the public eye upon them and struggle with the issue of what to do about it. The vicious cycle of trying to reconcile who she is with how the world views her affects each Isabel and Franny in different ways, based on their personalities. Each of their reactions is different. Double consciousness is an issue that is still relevant to everyone and examining the reactions of different characters such as Isabel and Franny reveal a lot about the human psyche.

Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" Full Text

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