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Welcome to this blog!

Dear Reader,

This website is both a portfolio of the work I did for English 170w (Introduction to Literary Study) at Queens College and a dedicated blog to Haruki Murakami’s short story “Honey Pie.”

A few of the posts below are assignments for my course and touch on certain literary theories and criticisms that we learned in class such as Freud’s dream analysis (Psychoanalytical theory), New Criticism, and Semiotics. On your right you will find a few pages dedicated to Honey Pie and a few posted assignments for the class. Further down in the right you will find a class blogroll linking  to my fellow classmates’ blogs and also a link for my Eng 170w course. When looking over the assignment links on the left it will be useful to refer to this page ( for information on the particular assignment.

The process I went through to develop my site was to first familiarize myself with the two critical theories I wanted to apply in my reading of “Honey Pie.” Through my research, I realized the theme of loneliness and isolation is really important in all of Murakami’s works and I wanted to analyze the story through a New Critic’s stand point to draw those connections. The story of the bears that Junpei, the main character, tells was confusing at first to me when I read the story and it wasn’t until I applied both the New Critics and Freudian theory that I better understood its underlying importance in the short story. I also needed to create a specific page for the historical context for the short story because it was set during the aftermath of the Kobe Earthquake in Japan in 1995. It was a traumatic event in Japan and also very important to the story because it dealt with the characters’ motivations and actions.

In terms of my course work this semester, we had three goals as a class ( The most difficult objective for me was a part of the reading/analyzing literature objective (“Recognize and use a variety of critical strategies in reading and writing about texts, such as close reading, formalism, structuralism, psychoanalysis, and reader-response”) because it was the first time I’ve encountered the theories and the readings were quite complex (and extremely informative and thorough). At the same time, I am also proudest of how much I’ve learned in this regard because I feel that I am able to identify between the different theories, what they are reacting to, and understand the different methods each use to analyze literature.

Through my experience and learning in this class, I hope to become even more familiar with the different critical theories, read more scholarly articles on each, and also understand how to better apply them to different pieces of literature. Going forward, I’d like to become more adept at writing research papers. I feel that I am able to pick out and evaluate secondary sources and reflect in writing well and identify and explain literary terms, but I have more difficulty identifying intellectual problems in the text or knowing what to address at first when beginning an assignment. A fun exercise we had early on in the semester was the “hover link” practice which we applied to our Annotated Paragraphs. A few words or phrases are highlighted and when the mouse hovers over it, text appears as a popup note. Often this tool is useful in analyzing literature and adding annotations to it. It was interesting for me because I have minimal experience with html and it took a few tries for me to apply it successfully, but I did (And my success is showcased in the Annotated Bibliography assignment)! I also successfully made my own website/blog–in previous classes we needed to use the qwriting blog for various posts, but never did I use it as extensively as I did in class (and completed it) and a lot of these tools will be helpful in my future whether I decide to pursue an academic path or a professional career. The internet is used more and more often now in many different jobs and in many different aspects of life and this project has definitely given me tools to begin developing those skills for the future.

In terms of the digital aspect of our learning this semester, I was really surprised at how effective we were able to communicate and use internet/digital tools (I admit I was skeptical at first because I never heard of hybrid courses before). I was unfamiliar with Twitter and was even more unsure of how it would be used during the class as a method of communication during our “Wed Wednesday” sessions. It was a very fun and educational experience and it allowed me to feel closer to the class. In most college classes now most students don’t really get a chance to interact with one another during the course of the class or really even address one another or share ideas. In this class because we all responded to the same blog, shared Twitter messages and read one another’s works and visited each others’ class blogs I knew the names of my classmates and felt closer with them compared with the standard college class. It was a lot more work than a traditional English class because of the hybrid nature of ours, but all the work we completed was really valuable in better understanding material we discussed in person.

Please refer to our class blog ( to see our class effort and enjoy the website!  Leave a comment below if you’d like to see any new features added or if you have any suggestions to how I can better improve your experience on this site.

All the best,
Michelle Chan

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Revising My Site

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New Critic

Madeleine had been trying to beat Alton [in tennis] her entire life without success. This was even more infuriating because she was better than he was, at this point. But whenever she took a set from Alton he started intimidating her, acting mean, disputing calls, and her game fell apart. Madeleine was worried that there was something paradigmatic in this, that she was destined to go through life being cowed by less capable men. As a result, Madeleine’s tennis matches against Alton had assumed such outsize personal significance for her that she got tight whenever she played him, with predictable results. (10)

Certain word choices in this passage helps develop the theme of mania in the novel. In particular, Madeleine’s father’s obsession with beating his daughter in tennis is another example of it. According to Madeleine, she is better than her father, but her father refuses to give in to his daughter and resorts to some pretty dirty tactics to intimidate her and cause her to falter in her game. He may have been just playing around, but the fact that it was her father acting so hostile may be his obsession to not lose to anyone. With Madeleine, she is obsessed with romanticizing her life and believes she is “destined” to go through life like this, which is a bit dramatic and over the top for this incident. Her father is proactively trying to best her in tennis, but in all the other cases with the men in her life, she is the one subjecting herself to their dominance and will over her. She uses “destined” and this is problematic because she is giving up already in a sense. When something is foretold by destiny, the person being affected has no say in anything and no will, so she is technically allowing herself to be swept up by this emotion. A tennis match is just a tennis match, but Madeleine is making it something far more important than it is, especially in how it determines the rest of her life and her successes or autonomy, and this is another form of romanticizing things. She is shirking off the responsibility that is hers by allowing the way she is treated to be “destiny” which may be a result of her obsession with romanticizing things.


Reflections on research so far

Research so far on my short story has been a bit frustrating. This might be an issue on my part regarding finding accurate search terms to use that would result in more useful articles. I’m a bit confused on what I should be focusing on and how the rest of the elements of my short story tie into the central idea. The central idea, from what I understand so far, is Junpei and his relationship with Sayoko and actually making it something concrete all these years later after Sayoko has divorced her first husband and both her’s and Junpei’s mutual friend. I don’t understand how the content of the short story he tells Sayoko’s daughter about fits into the story and why it is so important that the concept becomes the title of the short story. What does Honey Pie and the story of the bears and Sala’s fear of earthquakes have to do with Junpei’s relationship with Sayoko?

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Myth-Lit <—- Link to my chart.

My graph was character based. Each was separated into an action dealing with a character or done by the character.



Growth in a myth is used to highlight the structure of a myth. The growth is a description of how certain elements of a myth are repeated and added on to (“growing”) in order to emphasize the structure. We can make the inference that the item most stressed is most important and that the quantity is proportional to how relevant it is to the story. In Rumpelstiltskin based on Professor Ferguson’s chart (, we see that the two categories, contracting and producing are more important because there are three instances for each, whereas the other two categories cheating and rejoicing are less important events relatively. Contracting and producing can also be seen as opposites of one another and it is interesting to see how the dynamic between the two ideas is created and used in the story. In the chart I created above, it is character based (and perhaps not how Levi Strauss intended for the chart to be organized) and we can tell from it that the character of the Manikin and the game the Queen played were central to the story. The Manikin provided the driving force in the story, whereas the name game was the crucial deciding factor as to whether or not the Queen could keep her child.

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Freud’s Dream Theory

In interpreting literature with Freud’s Dream interpretation Theory in mind, it would be helpful to remember that

1) All of the scattered ideas are compacted and condensed into the smallest most effective forms of representation for those ideas. (Freud: “We may suppose that a good part of the intermediate work done during the formation of a dream, which seeks to reduce the dispersed dream-thoughts to the most succinct and unified expression possible[…]”).

That being said, the first most important task to undertake in interpreting literature is to find images that are ambiguous in order to see if they are acting as an umbrella idea for many other smaller similar ideas. After this identification process, the reader should then try and list out all the ideas this term or concept could mean.

In short, the two tasks are identify and expand.

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Semiotic way of interpreting poetry/literature

Step 1
First look at the significant or important words in a page. Think of the meaning for each of the words.

Step 2:
Can the meanings of these words mean anything else? Are there similar words that can be used, but aren’t? What does choosing this word over all the other options do for the poem’s meaning? If a similar word were substituted, would the poem change? If so, what is the significance that this chosen word has?

Step 3:
Continue analyzing the poem through this method to come up with a definition per significant word throughout the poem. Keep in mind that the sounds of words don’t have any meaning and the only significant information is the meaning of the word by comparing to everything the word is not.

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Hover text

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,

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The idea of Digital Humanities would fit on Richter’s map. A lot of the tools we have encountered in class largely fall into the “audience” (rhetorical) category. Although Richter mentions that this category has become less popular in the late 18th century, perhaps it has begun to gain more prominence once again. These tools allow readers to see what other readers are thinking or how they are reacting to the text (through discussion type forums), and that input shapes how we see the author trying to create for the audience, allowing us to build a better understanding of the author’s motivations, what we should be taking from the text, and in what ways the author kept in mind traditions or manipulated it to form something new.

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I felt that the last Web Wednesday was a very interesting course because I got a chance to use new tools. The Ngram was the most useful tool that we used because we were able to access hundreds of files and years of books in one compact database. I feel that to be able to analyze a book in statistical or mathematical ways would be useful and could be a new digital humanities tool. The Wordle is similar because it statistically analyzes literature in a smaller scale. Both do things in a more efficient way, although I feel that it isn’t exactly a new tool. It makes the task of counting words in a book more convenient and neat, but I feel that if one needed to analyze word frequency in a book in the past, they would most likely count each word in the book. It would be possible to analyze books statistically before Wordle or Ngram, but definitely much more tedious.


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