“A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire. Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both—and escape the merciless progress of time—in the transporting realms of art and music.”
For things to keep in mind when writing about literature, please see page 8 of your text: Questions for Active Reading: FICTION. Also, make sure to review Chapter 8 in our text.
For this essay, on A Visit from the Goon Squad, choose from either of the following three writing prompts. Please, do not combine or conflate these prompts to make your own; the result of combining prompts is very confusing for your audience; choose only one prompt.
Analyze what you believe to be the central concern of this novel. What is the author, Jennifer Egan, holding up to scrutiny, if you will—by portraying an interplay of time and music. This book is organized in a fairly unique way; each chapter is it’s own self-contained narrative, but the chapters together also form one larger narrative. The central idea is the central, unifying element of a story, which ties together all of the other elements of fiction used by the author to tell the story. The central concern can be best described as the dominant impression or the universal, generic truth found in the story. The central idea or theme of a story is an author’s comment, usually implied, on the subject of his narrative. For example, in the Wizard of Oz, instead of saying it is “about a girl named Dorothy who learns to appreciate the life that she has,” you might say: “The Wizard of Oz reveals that when people lose sight of reality, they sometimes forget to appreciate the beauty of their everyday lives.”
Analyze what you think Jennifer Egan, is conveying about a theme that you have identified as being a major one of the novel. There are many themes explored in this novel many of which you’ve identified in your Discussion posts. Be certain before you settle on a theme that it is a major one because if it is not, you will have trouble writing at least 4 pages on it. To write this type of essay, you start with a main idea that you think that the author wants to convey about the big idea or subject. This will be your thesis, and the body of the essay should be paragraphs that develop the thesis by explaining and analyzing the characters, settings, or episodes that convey that main idea about the theme. There are many themes that are repeated throughout the book. Some of these themes we have discussed in class.
Apply Tzvetan Todorov’s narratological theory to one or more sections of the novel, or to the novel in its entirety or to a character’s development. Remember, Todorov believes that narrative progresses in stages:
There is a state of equilibrium at the outset.
The equilibrium is disrupted by some action. (Disequilibrium)
There is recognition of the disruption occurring.
There is an attempt to repair the disruption.
There is a return or restoration of a new equilibrium at the end of the narrative (Reequilibrium).
If you elect this option, make sure you begin your essay by briefly introducing Todorov and this theory, and then segue into your discussion about applying this theory to A Visit from the Goon Squad. To some extent Egan’s novel resists this structure, and some of the moments of ‘equilibrium, disequilibrium, and reequilibrium’ are incredibly subtle; it will be up to you to highlight and argue for the poignancy of these moments.
Remember, writing an analytical essay requires that you make an argument. Your argument is your thesis. You must make a pervasive, persistent case that a certain thing is true about the novel. This “thing” should not be readily obvious to the casual reader. It is what you draw out of the book, how you interpret it. It is a claim that must be supported by specific evidence from the text. Remember that your purpose in writing this essay is not merely to summarize—this would be the first level of meaning—the surface level storyline, but to recognize the existence of deeper level meaning. If you need further clarification, please review the PowerPoint on analysis posted on Canvas and if you are electing to write on Todorov, review the Narratology PowerPoint. Also, do not confuse the author of the novel with the narrator of a particular section. Do not make the mistake of saying, “Jennifer Egan says…” unless you’re quoting her from an interview.
Due Dates, etc:
First Draft: Due Friday, July 23rd. Minimum 2-3 pages (50 pts.) This draft will be peer reviewed. You will be assigned a peer review after you submit your draft.