While we often talk about a novel in terms of its broad themes, we can frequently discover important nuances simply by focusing on individual, highly “textured” words in the text—where these textured words appear, how they are used, what characters or settings are associated with them, what they represent and evoke outside of the text, and what they represent and evoke inside the text.
For this assignment you will analyze a single word (including various stems of that word—plurals, possessives, and so on) from William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer. Think of this assignment as an extreme sports version of close reading.
- Pick a single “textured” word and trace its use in Neuromancer using Amazon’s Look Inside This Book feature. Possible words include: meat, metal, sky, eyes, port, skin, brain, death, steel, chrome, finger, vat, tear, sex, temperfoam, wood, book, paper, voice, thumb. These words are simply suggestions; feel free to find your own rich and textured word in Neuromancer.
- Note how often the word occurs, in what contexts, how it might be clustered with other words, and anything else significant about the word’s appearance, prevalence, and relevance.
- Write a 500-word analysis that considers the patterns that emerge from this word’s use: Is it associated with one character or context? Does its meaning shift throughout the novel? Are there exceptions to the pattern? Are there differences between the literal and symbolic use of the word? Are there tensions between the word’s use in the novel and its use in everyday, real life? What themes come into focus by concentrating on this individual word?
Because of the constrained nature of this assignment, there is no need to spend precious space on a paragraph-long lofty introduction or grandiose conclusion. Dig right in to the actual analysis of this single word (and its variants) in Neuromancer.
The analysis is due via Blackboard by class on Tuesday, October 4. It is worth 15% of your final grade for ENGH 451.