Survery of Literary Criticism

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The last day, yeah! and boo-hoo.....

Today's class was the last one of the semester. No more 8:00 literary criticism for us. I am definitely looking forward to sleeping in! But I actually enjoyed this class, even though it was so early. And it's certainly been interesting, as Dr. Sexson pointed out. Especially lately.

I was very happy to see Cindy in class this morning. I respect Zach for making his statement to the class and taking for responsibility, not hiding behind anyone else. Personally, I didn't ever think to take it out on Dr. Sexson - we're all adults and should be able to take credit or criticism for our own actions. Dr. Sexson is like the sales-person who bears the brunt of a customer's anger or joy - he didn't really make the garment, he just passes it on from the maker to the taker. So it is with literary criticism, past critics have given their opinions and Dr. Sexson delivers them to us.

But enough with the analogy (probably the only one I've had all semester!). At the end of any text there should be credits rolled. The following are mine:

I'd like to thank Dr. Sexson for a great class. I certainly learned more than I probably wanted to - a feat that doesn't happen in every university class, even though it should. Previous to this semester, I told people that I was thinking of getting an English minor, but I felt like a fraud because I didn't really KNOW about the major authors, works, movements, etc. Now I feel much better equipped to discuss literature because I have a solid background in some of the staple critics and authors. Thank you for your dedication to teaching, learning, and sharing. I wish you the best in coming years, Dr. Sexson.

Big compliments go out to my classmates. Your thirst for knowledge and insatiable questions enhanced the material and the presentations. Everyone seemed to put lots of effort into the assignments, at least superficially (but that's all that matters, right JR?). I admire every one of you, especially the people that I know are not comfortable with public speaking. You all brought something to share with our class, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.

Huge thank yous for my group - the amazing, outstanding Group 3! Brian, Nikole, Danny, and Lisa - I never dreamed that I would like group work! But you guys made it fun, funny, productive, and easy. If it's true that a group is only as good as its individuals - I'm sorry I weighed y'all down! Thanks and good luck in the future!

The authors that we studied also deserve a thank you, even if they can't hear it. What better legacy could a person leave than educational material for the next generations? I hope that those deceased are looking at us from the after life and realize the importance of their contributions. Whether I agree with each of them or not, they all believed in themselves and their work, which is admirable to me.

I'd also like to thank the academy, and my parents, and my fans.............and anyone who's still reading! Ta ta for now!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

My first RESPONSE!

All semester my group has talked about the e-journals and posting repsonses to other people's entries. Now I've had a response to one of mine! And it wasn't even from in our class. Today I received the following e-mail:

I just wanted to compliment you on your post about having had it with politics ad nauseam. Couldn't agree more, and I hate people who whined about the outcome (yeah, I too supported Dubya, so I was pretty darn happy).
(The post referred to is "the Scrooge of election day")

I guess this just goes to show that there sometimes the things we do really do get noticed, even if we don't think they do.

And speaking of responses, I have to write about this I have had an interesting day. Just now I helped a fellow economics student to understand a graph. I'd never met this student, Brandon, before tonight, but he recognized me as being an economics major. He is in a different economics class than I am, but he came over to ask about a graph that was really troubling him. And I was able to help him understand it! Will wonders never cease! It sure makes me feel good about my educational career so far.

And I needed something to make me feel good because I had an "incident" this morning. I didn't have to attend my normal 9 o'clock class, so instead I came up for my 11:00 class. I decided to ride my bicycle because it was fairly nice out. FIRST MISTAKE!
So I tootled my way up the hill by the Museum of the Rockies and cross the street to head to campus. Soon I came up behind a guy walking on the sidewalk. I couldn't tell exactly which side had more room for me to pass, so I headed for his left side. SECOND MISTAKE!
I called out "Excuse me!", but it was too late. He hadn't moved over yet, and I was going too fast, so I quickly veered to the left, leaving the sidewalk and heading straight for a bush. THIRD MISTAKE!
I tried to apply my break, but there was a bit of ice underneath. So, tragically, extremely ungracefully, down I went. That's right - in the middle of the day, on the outskirts of campus, I biffed it royally off of my Huffy. I immediately starting laughing, because it was like one of those most embarrassing moments that you always laugh at other people for. The guy quickly turned around and asked "Are you all right?". Chuckling, I told him that I was fine and apparantly I shouldn't be riding my bike in the winter! I know he felt really bad, and I feel bad that he feels bad, because it wasn't his fault.

The moral of the story is don't ride your bicycle in the winter if you don't have a good sense of humor, always help fellow economics students, and people will always notice things - whether you want them to or not!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Bit off more than is chewable?

Dear class,

Today we had individual presentations about the term papers that we wrote. I applaud everyone's efforts and ideas for their papers and other presentations throughout the semester. It seems like everyone has given an honest and whole effort to make the most out of this class.

I would like to address Cindy and her presentation this morning. Let me start with saying that I don't know what is the correct response to her request and subsequent outburst.

I had heard about Zach's journal through other members of the class. They had looked at the picture and told me that it wasn't something I wanted to see. They didn't say this because they thought I couldn't handle the picture, but merely because in general it must have been a disturbing picture and they wouldn't have recommended that anyone look at it.

So I didn't look at it. Not because I wasn't curious (that's usually what happens when someone tells you that you don't want to see something - you decide that you must see it!), but because I have been very busy and reading e-journals has not been a priority lately.

Then comes Cindy's reaction to the picture. I could tell that she considered her e-mail to be quite important by the way she asked Dr. Sexson if he was going to address it, but I never dreamed it would spark the reaction that it did. Right after she left the room, I felt sorry for her and thought that perhaps Dr. Sexson should have done more to pacify her than he did.

And classifying her reaction as a reader response, and saying that she needs to move past that stage is not very cool, in my mind. Yes, it may have been an initial reaction, but none-the-less, it was a real reaction and deserved to be treated as more than a silly outburst that she will get over. It was pretty clear to me that she will NOT get over it. That's not to say that she should or shouldn't get over her emotional response, but just saying that obviously she had been contemplating this for many hours, which is more than enough time to move past the initial reader response reaction.

While I certainly don't support Cindy's use of curse words, especially when they were partially aimed at Dr. Sexson, I understand she was very upset. The question that I've been contemplating is what should have been done? And I still don't have the answer. Did Cindy bite off more than she should have been able to chew by visiting Zach's site? Did Zach put more on his website than was digestable? Or did Dr. Sexson ask for more than the table was able to hold when he promoted the e-journals?

On one hand, I feel sympathy for Cindy's situation and life. I cannot say that I understand fully, because I have been blessed with a loving family and home life. Yes, my brothers annoy me quite often, but never have I ever lacked for the appropriate love from my parents and siblings. So I can see that she needed some satisfaction in order to justify her feelings. I agree with her point that she took this class because it wasn't supposed to involve the kinds of things that she cannot tolerate. And especially the request that the picture have a warning seems quite reasonable, considering that many other people have complained how grotesque it is.

But on the other hand, I understand that is Zach's private journal and he is entitled to put whatever he wants onto it. Also I see the point that we have been learning about effectively tearing people apart through the use of literary techniques and that to have really made full use of the class, Cindy should have written a scathing rebuttal to Zach and scorched his position and supporting picture. But obviously she was in no state to compose a well-written, carefully contrived article.

So in the end I guess what Dr. Sexson said was as correct as it can be. No, he didn't give Cindy any consolation. Yes, he protected Zach's right to choose the content of his e-journal. I would have like to see Cindy remain in the classroom and work out a compromise, but I'm not sure that was possible in the given situation.

And the issue of the journal comes down to whether Zach thinks his right to put whatever he wants to on his journal is more or less important than his consideration for potential viewers. If he thinks that people viewing his journal should view it at his standards, than he should not change a thing. If he was affected by Cindy's reaction, than he should change it.

Whatever happens, I've certainly gone through many responses to the whole issue. And the responses have been the classics- reader response, deconstruction, etc. My critique of it is that once again, everything is up to the individual and his/her interpretation. Some people will support Cindy, some Zach. That's the beauty of a free society where we all think differently.

For one thing, this has certainly been a good time to use my own e-journal to express an opinion. For the first time all semester, I hope that other classmates are reading my journal and please respond as you wish. Thanks for making the class interesting and educational.


Katy =)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Term paper - Objectivity and Immersement

The following is my term paper in its entirety. Enjoy!

Objectivity and Immersement: My Theory about Literary Criticims and a Well-Lived Life

The well-lived life and literary criticism have a major theme in common – it’s all up to interpretation. As Nietzsche said, “Truth is a mobile army of metaphors” and therefore what constitutes a well-lived life or a good piece of literature varies by each individual. However, there are limits upon an individual’s freedom for interpretation. There seems to be a social stereotype that says good literature or a well-lived life involves a sense of objectivity. Getting immersed in one style of writing or living is to sentence oneself to never be taken seriously when discussing the very issues that one has gotten immersed in.
While I agree that remaining detached is needed to weigh the pros and cons of some of life’s decisions; I also think that a good way to determine the pros and cons is by getting involved in those very same decisions. Literature can also have this double standard. How can a reviewer ever appreciate or recommend a work if the reviewer him/herself couldn’t get into the work? At the same time, how can a reviewer ever give an enthusiastic review without being accused of being biased and subjective?
Let’s examine objectivity’s role in a well-lived life. In order to be well-lived, you need to be a well-rounded person. In order to be well-rounded, you need to be able to discuss many issues and not have a bias towards a particular view. Anytime there is a personal relationship amidst a professional one, immediately suspicions are aroused about the “fair” treatment of the professional relationship. Attachments are seen as detrimental to business deals. But who is to say that having a vested emotional interest in a professional relationship won’t make things better, rather than worse, for everyone included? Instead, people are expected to remain detached and objective. However, if everyone remains detached from life they are missing the high and lows that come with having an emotional investment. You can really only live life if you get involved, but if you get involved, your opinion about a well-lived life is seen as skewed.
The same is true for literature. We discount fans of a particular author as being biased and non-objective about the author’s work. But shouldn’t we be measuring their enthusiasm to attest to the skill and success of the author? How can an author be good if he/she never reaches out and pulls a reader into his/her story? Yet those readers that are caught are the same ones that give up their respectability as critics because they became involved.
I am one of those readers who likes to get caught occasionally. So in a way, English 300 has “ruined” reading for me. From this point forward I will be reading with the voices of critics past and their impersonators in my mind. I say “ruined” because now a part of me will never get totally into a story. At the back of my mind, I will be looking for Wimsatt’s fallacies or Foucault’s discourse. When I have an emotional response, some small thought will be if De Man was right about language being unstable. I will never again have the pleasure of reading a story purely for enjoyment, with no thoughts as to how or why the author was successful in their writing style. Survey of Literary Criticism has given me a perspective of objectivity, but I’m not sure that I wanted it! Sometimes it’s nice to just get lost in the story.
The last time I got lost in a story was when I was studying abroad at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia last fall semester. I only had classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesdays; this gave me plenty of time to tour, sight-see and read. Reading has always been one of my favorite past-times and I considered myself lucky to get a chance to read some of the “classic” novels that everyone seems to talk about as being great literature, but I had never read. Two of the books I read were Crime and Punishment and Jane Eyre.
To be frank, I didn’t enjoy Crime and Punishment at all, but I don’t fault Jamie for liking it and discussing it in class the other day. It just proves that there are all kinds of people and readers in the world. Jane Eyre was an all right book, although it’s certainly not my favorite story in the world. To sum it up, I didn’t quite understand why these particular books, that I didn’t find to be exceptional, were considered “classics”.
Then one day I was walking to the Flinders library and walked right past the campus bookstore. A book cover on display caught my eye and I went in to take a look at it. The book was titled The Nameless Day and the author was Sara Douglass. It was a fiction novel and being promoted because it was written by a South Australian author (Adelaide is in the state of South Australia). It was classified as ‘science-fantasy’. Now I have never really liked the whole Star Wars, science-fiction thing, but the book looked interesting and it was on sale! That clinched it; I bought the book and took it back to my dorm room.
Soon after beginning to read, the story and its characters carried me away. The Nameless Day is set in 1377 A.D. and explores the intricate relationship between the Church and English government. The central character is a man, Thomas Neville, who starts as a warrior of the highest and fiercest caliber, but who doesn’t want to take any more lives with his sword. He joins the strictest order of monks and severs all ties to aristocracy. By the end of the book, it is not clear which group, the brothers of the Church or the knights of the army, is the evil one.
I just ate this story up. I got so into it that I couldn’t put the book down. On a trip to the Outback, I had to force myself to look at the scenery, which I will probably never see again, rather than continue reading. And I found myself wishing the book just went on and on; I wanted to get to the next page but that meant the end was closer! Then I discovered that The Nameless Day was the first of a trilogy, so of course I bought the other two books. Those three books are among my most treasured souvenirs of my time ‘down under’.
I was so excited about these books that I wanted everyone to read them. Mostly because I wanted to share my opinions, but also because I wished other people the enjoyment of what I termed “a good read”. So I told my friend Trish, who was a Canadian exchange student also studying in Australia for a semester, about The Nameless Day and loaned her the book to read. I impatiently waited for her to finish so that we could have a good discussion. She didn’t get back to me right away, so I finally asked her how the book was going. She said, “Oh, I only got to the third chapter. I couldn’t really get into the story, but I’ll get it back to you soon.”
“WHAT??!!!!”, yelled I. “Couldn’t get into it?!! How could you not get into it?!!” I just didn’t understand. I mean, I don’t even like science-fiction, but I got into that book! Obviously Trish, and her urban Vancouver upbringing, just didn’t have the refined sense of literature that my rural Montanan background had blessed me with.
I still have my trilogy of Australian books and I intend to read them again over the Christmas break with eyes that are looking for literary criticism ideas. But English 300 has made me wonder if I’m really a good critic of these books. You see, I got so immersed in the plot that I didn’t notice things like writing style, use of metaphors, clause structure, or even underlying messages. Objectivity is not something I have about these three books. I am either so caught up in the story that I don’t want to tear it apart to examine, or I am prejudiced toward the fact that Sara Douglass is an amazing author.
So which is the correct goal of literature and criticism – objectivity or immersement? If both Trish and I were asked to write literary reviews on The Nameless Day, who’s would be better? On one hand, Trish would have a more objective viewpoint. She could examine the book based on Todorov’s clause structure requirement, Poe’s length requirement, Vico’s four ages of poetry or Schleiermacher’s hermeneutic circle. She could apply the four different approaches – mimetic, pragmatic, expression, and objective – to the book and determine how it measures up to each. Her review would be full of technical terms and her conclusion would come after carefully weighing many aspects.
On the other hand, my review would be passionate and persuasive. I would talk about how real the characters seemed, how I could identify with the obstacles they faced, how I day-dreamed about how handsome the knights were and what my life would be like if I lived back then. My review would be full of adjectives like magnificent, awe-inspiring, emotional, thrilling, exhilarating, glorious, breathtaking, etc. I would write a review that the author and the publisher would surely appreciate because it would sell more books for them, but that academics would denounce as being biased and unusable.
Which literary criticism review is the one that reflects a well-lived life? A life like Trish’s review would be thought-out and planned to make every minute as useful as possible. But a life like my review would involve wasting a few moments for love and laughter; sadness and tears; people, animals, and attachments. Are those immersed moments really wasted, even though they lack objectivity?
In the end, I don’t believe that a well-lived life has an exact equation. Life needs to be mixture of both types of reviews. There are times when a person needs to gain the respect and integrity of his/her business peers and needs to exhibit a practical, objective nature. But then there are the private moments when a person needs to just lose control and immerse themselves in that particular moment of life. While objectivity and immersement appear to be mutually exclusive, a well-lived life or a true appreciation of literature cannot happen without both. My own well-lived life is one where, every so often, I find a book that pulls me in so far that I get immersed and can’t be objective. The rest of the time, I will read articles, books, stories, and other literature and objectively appreciate or condemn it based on the teachings of past critics.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Game Show channel, a cave scene, and a courtroom

What do the presentation from today have in common? They were just as good and just as varied as the ones from Tuesday. Poor Jamie and JR sure got left out of the whole group atmosphere, but that didn't stop them any. Here are some notes for the questions on the final about the group presentations:

Group 4 - Jennifer, Becky, Ray, Opai, Sarah, Cindy

The scene is Judge Jenny's courtroom where various literary critics are on trial for various crimes. After some amusing testimonies, Judge Jenny declares that all literary critics are crazy. She wields a scary wooden spoon!

Group 5 - Ben, Fancoise, Brian, Mandy, Susan, Yoshie, Megan

This group even spent time outside of class to film their skits! They did Survivor, Battle of the Sexes, and the Dating Game, broken up with commercials for the bookstore. Their themes were Pop Culture, Freud, Romantics, and Gender Issues. And they provided breakfast!

Group 6 - JR and Jamie

In a cave-like setting, JR revealed that his favorite book is Catcher in the Rye and his favorite song is "Give me Shelter" by the Rolling Stones. Jamie diclosed that her favorite book is Crime and Punishment and her favorite poem is a sonnet by Michael Drayden. Their presentation was a good example of Reader Response, as they described how each of them reacted to their chosen texts.

Dr. Sexson wrapped up with pointing out how history suggests that our society will always move toward judgements and making up a canon.