Human Experience in Texts: Literary Features & Analysis

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  • 0:04 Human Experience in Text
  • 0:30 Theme Examples
  • 0:55 Foregrounding
  • 1:56 Silencing
  • 2:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we analyze the human experience in text. More specifically, we discuss how authors use foregrounding and silencing to emphasize and de-emphasize some aspects of society and culture.

Human Experience in Text

What defines a piece of writing as great literature? One of the elements that sets literature apart from writing purely for the purpose of entertainment and escapism is its commentary on the human condition. The human experience in literature contains themes about life and society that are relatable to readers. Let's examine some themes about the human experience and discuss some techniques that authors use to convey their messages to readers about the human condition.

Theme Examples

There are endless themes related to the human experience. Let's get started by looking at some examples of topics that authors commonly write about when commenting on humanity and society. Begin searching for some of the following themes while reading:

  • Parent/child relationships
  • Death
  • Loneliness
  • Conformity
  • Growing Up
  • Aging
  • Human rights
  • Charity
  • Equality
  • Materialism


One of the techniques that authors use to personally connect readers to the text is foregrounding. Foregrounding uses artistic, poetic word choices to distract the reader. Two types of foregrounding are parallelism and deviation. Parallelism uses repetition and patterns to emphasize how the words and phrases are said over what is said. For example, John F. Kennedy famously said, ''Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.'' His parallel play on words makes this speech memorable and relatable.

Deviation defies conventional means of communication. For example, in ''Biographical Essays: Frederic the Great,'' Thomas Babington MacAulay writes, ''I was explaining the Golden Bull to his Royal Highness, 'I'll Golden Bull you, you rascal!' roared the Majesty of Prussia.'' Using the Golden Bull as a verb is a deviation of the conventional use of the term. When a reader experiences foregrounding in text, the unexpected use of language forces the individual to examine the topic in a new light.

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