Inquiry #4

Search Inside This Book: Dream Jungle

While we often talk about a novel in terms of its broad themes, we can frequently discover rich nuances simply by focusing on individual words in the text — where they appear, how they are used, what their significance is outside of the text, and what their significance is inside the text. For this investigation you will analyze a single word (including various stems of that word) from Jessica Hagedorn’s Dream Jungle. Think of this assignment as an extreme sports version of close reading.

1. Pick one of the following words (or find a promising word of your own from the novel):

  • helicopter
  • pure
  • nevertheless
  • voice
  • book
  • mirror
  • perfume
  • star
  • history
  • money
  • bird
  • paper
  • language
  • star
  • museum
  • stone
  • secret

2. Use the Search Inside the Book feature on to identify all occurrences of the word and its various stems in the novel (stems refers to plural forms and other slight variations of the word). Note how often the words occurs, in what contexts, how it might be clustered, and any thing else significant about the word’s appearance, prevalence, and relevance.

3. Address the following questions in a short 3-4 page essay, to be handed in on Thursday, November 6.

  • Observation: Describe the way the word occurs in Dream Jungle. In what contexts? Is it usually associated with a certain character or setting? Does the word appear in clusters, or is it spread more evenly throughout the novel? What else is interesting or curious about the way the word physically occurs in Dream Jungle?
  • Interpretation: What is the significance of the word in the novel? What patterns emerge from the way the word appears in the novel? Are there exceptions to the pattern? What do they mean? Explore both the literal plane and the symbolic plane of meaning (including metaphor and metonymy). Are there any tensions between the word’s use in Dream Jungle and its use in real, everyday life, and how do those tensions play out?
  • Evaluation: What questions about the novel’s meaning does an analysis of this word raise? What themes come into focus by studying this individual word? And what is lost by focusing exclusively on this single word?