Analyze Everything, Because Everything is Literature
In ninth grade, I was taught to write all my thoughts on the sides of every text I read. If I had a question, even one as stupid as, “Who’s speaking here?”, I’d write it down. If I chuckled when I read a certain line, I’d write “LOL” right next to it. If I had a guess on what was going to happen to a character, I’d write “possibly foreshadowing [death/marriage/life-changing event]?”. These were all small comments I’d have, and I used them throughout high school to help me track my thoughts as a reader. Joining the Freshman Inquiry Seminar, however, opened my mind to consider a different variety of novels, especially comics, and analyze them from a different angle.
First, I began to consider the intertextuality of each novel’s plot. Ms. Marvel, for example, was the first comic I ever read, and it happened to be in the perspective of a teenage Pakistani-American girl. As I was reading the text, I was forced to consider how Kamala’s relationships would’ve been if she were white, or if she were a boy. I constantly found myself comparing Kamala’s life to the “classic superhero’s” life. The intertextuality of this plot was clearly present in class, as well, because we’d have many discussions over how Kamala’s race and gender provides a different perspective on the average superhero compared to let’s say, Batman’s story and perspective.
Additionally, the idea of double-consciousness is one of the most present conflicts in the plot. Kamala, throughout the novel, feels a division in her identity and struggles with the extent to which she’d like to assimilate into the American society. She also physically and mentally feels that division as she switches between Ms. Marvel and Kamala. As the story progresses, she comes to merge the two in a way where she is more confident and has accepted the double-consciousness of her mindset; She cannot be defined by one culture or stereotype, she is a unique and versatile character who should be allowed to think in terms of double-consciousness.
Not only have I come to analyze double-consciousness as a reader, I’ve come to compose my own identity from my free writing in class. For instance, I primarily focused on balancing concrete and abstract language in my “Where I’m From” piece. By cataloguing all the various objects, people, and moments I’m grateful for, I’ve created a background story of myself. I wrote, “i thank God for…for Kathy’s smile, for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, for fellowship and worship songs”. Just within this line, the reader can recognize small details from the people I love, little cravings I have, and parts of my spirituality, which all come together to paint a larger picture of me and my story.
Lastly, I do feel that I’ve unlocked a greater part of the world and its various cultures, especially those who are culturally deaf. By reading the comic novel El Deafo, I’ve come to realize how culture is not only from race, it’s from languages which can be linked to what society calls “disabilties”. By reading from Cece Bell’s perspective, I was able to realize how a deaf person’s language really does create a whole other world and society for them. In Bell’s case, it created an alter-ego and superhero for her, a person who was confident in her differences. I’ve come to see how there are different opinions on how to recognize D/deaf people, and how the American Sign Language is in itself the acceptance of being culturally deaf.
All in all, I’ve come to understand that literature and its analysis does not only stop at Othello, or any other piece of classic literature we’ve read in high school; any form of text, whether it is a comic, a contemporary poem, or a superhero fiction novel can be interpreted and compared with other texts. Even the simplest plotlines and characters can have a sense of double consciousness to it, and it is our duty as readers and writers to pick up on them.