Thursday, December 09, 2004

Final Thoughts on this Semester

I have to admit, I had no idea what to expect when I first signed up for this course. I had not ever really focused on any literary critics and their different interpretations, and to be honest, it is really, really hard for me to get up and be a functional citizen at such an early hour. But despite these early complications, I attended class and was pleasantly surprised that I actually was getting a lot out of the class. Taking this class has really changed the way I read any text, I feel that I have become a smarter reader and am now able to apply different critical approaches to help broaden my understanding of a reading. This was a really valuable experience and I just want to thank Dr. Sexson and the rest of the class for an interesting semester.

What Books Would I LIke To Keep In the Canon?

I haven't read many of the books that are on the MSU Top 100 Book List, but if I had I choice, I would keep these books on the list for sure, purely because I enjoy them and they have sentimental value to me.
1. Grimm's Fairy Tales
2. The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
4. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Sublime Work of Art

According to Longinus, sublimity uplifts the spirit of the reader, fills the reader with astonishment & pride, arouses noble thoughts, & suggests more than words can convey. A piece of literature that is sublime, (or if not sublime, then very good), to me personally is Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I guess it is sublime to me because when I read it, it lifts up my spirits because it is comical and sentimental at the same time. I am a huge music fan as well, and there are many songs that are subliminal to me. One specific song that comes to mind is 'In My Life' by the Beatles. It is just a simple tale of memories, but every time I hear it it takes me to a different world. It is amazing to me that a book or a simple song can touch a person in such an intense way.

What literary work makes you cry?

Alright, so I'm not the most emotional person in the world. I pretty much hate confrontation of any kind and try to play it cool and keep a level head in the everyday world. However, if I see a movie or read an intense book, it never fails, I let loose and cry like a baby everytime, ( I still cry during the movie the Lion King everytime the dad dies for crying out loud). I guess you could say that this is my emotional outlet. Anyhow, a book that really touched me this semester was a book that I read for English 371 class, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. I will admit it, I shed a few tears when the main character, Janie, was forced to kill the love of her life because he had contracted rabies and was threatening her life. I did not see that one coming. Anyway, it just goes to show that works of art have the power to make you feel, that is just one of the many advantages literature has to offer us.

The Idea of Order At The Key West by Wallace Stevens

She sang beyond the genuis of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body, wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman of the inveritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep-air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizens, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.

It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.


Test 2 - The Moderns

Before we started our group presentations, we studied the modern interpretations. Here are a few notes that I have from those class periods.
1. Virginia Woolf - Modernist who considered works androgynous - Believed in focusing on the work, not the author's gender. The work itself is genderless. "It is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or a woman pure & simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly.
2. T.S. Eliot - Modernist concerned with tradition - If one is to be a poet, one must read the poets. "School of Resentment"=all people who want to apply standards that come from outside the text inside the text itself- against Romanticism. "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion: it is not the expression of the personality, but an escape from personality. But of course, only those who have personality & emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things."
3. Northrop Frye - Structuralist - focuses on structural elements in a text - thinks deeply on repeated things. Archetypes (does not come from society) vs. Stereotypes (does come from society).

  • "A poem should not mean but be."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Individual Presentation on Final Paper

For my paper, I discussed how reading & gaining knowledge leads to a better & well-lived life. I focused on 3 important aspects of literary criticism that help enrich the reading experience & help the reader gain a better understanding of a text.
1. Literay criticism can help solve a problem the reader has w/a text. Example: By integrating the historical approach, it may help reader understand exactly what is happening in a text politically/historically and can lead to a greater understanding of the text.
2. Literary Criticism can help the reader choose between 2 conflicting interpretations. Example: If you think the text might mean one certain thing, but you are not sure, you can apply the formalist approach, which allows the reader to analyze the text & find evidence to support your ideas.
3. Literary Criticism enables you to form a judgment about a text. Example: You could incorporate the mimetic approach to judge whether a play is good or bad by how realistically it portrays the real world.
By incorporating these aspects, you can gain a better understanding of a tex.t. Don't focus solely on one critical approach, however. The most important thing to remember when dealing with literary criticism is to integrate all of the critical approaches when reading.

The Literary Critics

For test number 2, the class presented their literary critics. Here is a summary of each critic and their interpretations.
1. Ralph Waldo Emerson (Brian) - transcendentalist - believed that the poet was inspired by God. Nature is where harmony is found - was on a quest for the "Great American Poet"
2. Paul De Man (Becky) - deconstructionalist - language is a rhetorical system/interpretation
Simeology - science of what words meant in the past
3. Friedrich Von Schiller (Katie S.) - Romantic - "In error only is there truth" proponent of freedom in writing - mistakes cause us to be free.
4. Todorov (Ben) - structural analyst - most important part of a text is simple clauses
5. Mary Wollstonecraft (Francious) - first feminist, believed in educating women like men. Wrote "Vindication on the Rights of Women."
6. Carl Jung (Nancy) - psychoanalyst - archetypes=universal ideas that come from the collective unconscious. Syzygy=most primal archetype & closest to unconscious
7. William Wordsworth (Sarah) - Romantic - poetry is a spontaneous overflow of a power of feelings - Poet divinely inspired by nature.
8. Edgar Allen Poe (Amanda) - Classicist - believed great literary work has 1 single effect & works have to be short - Poem's success depends on complexity & surprise.
9. Jane Tomkins (Mandy) - feminist - focuses on personal writing - "out of the straight-jacket" Write with emotion and reach people's hearts.
10. Laura Mulvey (Lisa) - feminist - concerned with the "male gaze" - women are controlled by men's sexual fetishes
11. Julia Kristeva (Cindy) - feminist - semiotic=science of signs - came up with semanalysis= a linguistic analysis. Every text is influenced by another text.
12. Roland Barthes (Zak) - structuralist - author is irrelevant - word/text is the only thing that matters.
13. Bakhtin (Dustin) - structuralist - monologic (single monolithic speech) vs. dialogic (dynamic speech). Believed it impractical to speak in poetic form.
14. Vico (Tristan) - "an original" 3 Ages to classify form of language 1. Age of Gods 2. Age of Heroes 3. Age of Man
15. Nietzsche (Jamie) - existentialist (God does not exist). Existence is more important than essence. "Truth does not exist" Sparachkris=language is inadequate. "Truth is a mobile army of metaphors".
16. Terry Eagleton (Nikole) - Marxist - concerned w/social & political spheres in texts
17. Horace (J.R.) - poetry is a craft that must be mastered. Decorum=most important part of poetry (unity, completeness) "Purple Patch"=inappropriately placed ornate passages that violate decorum - this should be avoided
18. Simone de Beauvoir (Jenny) - "Queen Bee of feminism". Wrote the "Second Sex" - one is not born but becomes a woman.
19. Wilmsatt (Megan) - formalist/new critic - focuses on what text is, not what it does. Intentional Fallacy (author's intention) vs. Affective Fallacy (reader's response) - Both of these are wrong.
20. Gilbert & Gubar (Yoshie) - schizophrinic feminists - wrote "Madwoman in the Attic"
Anxiety of Influence - males in competition
Anxiety of Authorship - occurs in females
21. Henry Gates (Opai) - Race is a text itself - Race can be read & interpreted
22. Michel Foucalt (Andrea) - discourse=not just speech but also text, etc. Ecriture=writing
Signifier=word - Believed that you shouldn't focus on the author.
23. Thomas Love Peacock (Ed) - Romantic - poetry critic - Four Ages of Poetry
24. Friedrich Schleiermacher (Me, Lindsee) - hermeneutics=system of interpretations
25. Hugh of St. Victor (Matt) - theologian who came up w/didascalion =idea of new learning - writing teaches
26. Homi Bhabha (Kate) - post-colonialist - Believe canon is ethnocentric & dominated by western culture
27. Butler (Debbie) - feminist - "Gender Trouble" - believed sexuality/gender is a costume that society places on people
28. Cleanth Brooks (Ray) - New Criticist - wrote "Well-Wrought Urn" - only concerned with the text itself.
29. Stanley Fish (Brian) - Reader Response=reading of text is largely what the reader brings to it, how the reader interprets a text. Intercommunity
30. Greenblatt (Susan) - New Historicist - text is history & history is text. History is NOT a collection of facts.
31. Walter Benjamin (Kelly) - Social Historian - concerned w/the "aura" of a work of art. "Aura" is not timeless, it changes as the world changes.
32. John Dryden (Daniel) - Restoration Dramatist - Cannon should include 1. The Bible 2. The Complete Works of John Dryden.
33. Jacques Derrida - There is nothing outside the text

Element Period Approach
Work/Text Modern Objective
Artist Romantic Expressive
Affect Neo-Classical Pragmatic
World Classical Mimetic


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Friedrich Schleiermacher

My literary critic for this class is Friedrich Schleiermacher, a German philosopher & theologian. He was a Romanticist who worked in th late 1700's through the early 1800's.

  • Best known for founding the theory of hermeneutics= the art of understanding & interpreting a text through a series of systematic procedures.
  • Circle of hermeneutics - to understand a whole text, one must understand each part, but to understand each part, one must understand the whole.
  • To understand a text full, you must understand simultaneously the entire thought of the writer as well as the language he/she employs. To get beneath the plain understanding of a document, you must understand the author's insights, prejudices, & reasons for writing.
  • You should not read or interpret a text allegorically or symbollically because this could lead to a misunderstanding of a text & the author's purpose.
  • There are 2 major principles that seek to isolate a text's central idea

1. Grammatical Principle - seeks to reconstruct a text's central idea & historical

context of a document

2. Psychological Principle - seeks to reconstruct the author's purpose & focuses

on what is distinctive to a particular author

  • In order to have an artful interpretation, one must incorporate the grammatical & psychological principles. Artful interpretation also requires multiple & rigorous readings of a text & requires the interpreter's complete understanding of a work's historical context & vocabulary of language.
  • Quote from Schleiermacher's 1819 Lectures - "The goal of hermeneutics is to understand the discourse just as well and even better that its creator. We have no way of knowing the creator's purpose other than through reconstruction, but, no individual inspection of a work ever exhausts its meaning."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Test 1 Notes

1. Plato - all art is mimesis (representation or imitation) of nature, a copy of objects in the physical world. Poetry is a copy of a copy - thus leading away from the truth rather than toward it.

  • Ion - Socrates & Ion (a rhapsode) debate about the rhapsode's knowledge of poetry and the nature of poetry. Socrates says that poetry is not an art form but a form of divine madness. "The poet doesn't make poetry until he becomes inspired and goes out of his mind. Poetry feeds and waters passions."

- En theos - in God - God is in you (enthusiastic)

- Logos - fact, reason, or truth

- Mythos - fiction, emotion, fable

- Logocentric - to center one's self in fact/truth

  • Republic - Socrates claims poets lie & should be banished from the republic or at least censored. Critics & poets knowledge is inferior to others. Socrates is for censorship because the art is twice removed from the representation. He wanted to censor art that provokes bad/harmful behavior & exile artists who arouse suspicion/nontraditional thoughts from the ideal world.
  • Phaedrus - discussion of the evils of writing. For Plato, the only good memory is anamnesis (the recollection of spiritual truths through genuine, living wisdom; or a remembrance of things from the past). The great sin is not knowing and the only way to gain genuine truth is through spoken word & eye contact, not writing. Plato says literature is useless, bad for you, and untrue.

2. Aristotle

  • Poetics - 6 parts of tragedy (most to least important)

1. Plot - representation of action, best resolution shows a character's realization or his/her

fate (anagnoresis).

2. Character - should come from high position in society or the story is unremarkable.

Their fate's should be linked to their own error (hamartia)

3. Thought - the message/moral

4. Diction

5. Music

6. Spectacle - *Oedipus Rex is the perfect example of a tragedy

Aristotle says art is not imitative, it's expressive and he argues that artists should not be censored b/c peoplecan learn lessons through the character's mistakes. The artist is not copying an object, he is representing and embodying the essence of the object.

- methos - plot/story

- ethos - character

- dianoia - theme

Longinus - On Sublimity - distinctive feature is the role of emotion (pathos) in art. The presence of noble passion is essential for reaching sublimity. Writer's achieve greatness not just by rhetoric, but by feelings, thought, & intelligence. The experience of reading/hearing to great art leads audience to feel ecstasy. Sublimity uplifts the spirit of the reader, fills reader with astonishment/pride, arouses noble thoughts, and suggests more than words can convey.

Longinus' 5 sources of sublimity:

1. Great thoughts/Lofty mind

2. Strong Emotions/Noble feeling

3. Certain figures of thought & speech

4. Noble Diction

5. Dignified word arrangement

*The difference between Longinus & Aristotle is that L. focuses on emotional psychology of author as well as that of the audience.

Dante - Letter to Can Grande - Dante confronts the problem of how to understand & construr textual meaning - examines relationship between critical principles & interpretation of specific parts of texts.

4 Senses of allegorical interpretation:

1. Literal - literally what a text says

2. Allegorical - extended metaphor/talking about 1 thing but meaning another

3. Moral

4. Anagogical - level that supercedes all others/transcendent & mystical

*Text is polysemous (open to many meanings)

Sir Philip Sidney - An Apology for Poetry - 3 parts

1. First portion defends dignity of poetry - demonstrates its superiority to philosophy and history b/c it combines moral precepts of one while entertaining examples of another.

2. Deals with specific objections raised against poetry, (in particular, poetry that lies). "The poet does not affirm anything, so therefore does not lie."

3. Examines English literature - offers criticism

- Poet describes nature in a more beautiful way than it actually is

- Poet idealizes the world

- Poetry uses figurative language not to lie, but to convey a deeper meaning

Samuel Johnson - The business of the poet is to examine, not the individual, but the species ; to remark general properties & large appearances. The function of literature is to make you a better person. The poet gives us representation of general nature.

Coleridge - Biographia Literaria - contains an inquiry into the defense of imagination. Artist is god-like figure w/ god-like powers. Argues that art is a creative power of genius who is in complete control of a situation, not out of his mind.

- Definition of imagination: Two imaginations - The primary, which is the "living power" of God, in the eternal act of creation, it's also the power of creation in each person. The secondary imagination dissolves in order to recreate, making a whole and harmonizing as a "synthetic & magical" power.

Shelley - Defence of Poetry - Poetry combines wisdom w/delight - it's a source of pleasure. Readers seek to imitate noble traits of heroes - seeing the world through another's eyes increases tolerance.

Matther Arnold - Sweetness & Light - Touchstone - specimens of poetry of the very highest quality that save us from fallacious estimates of value. Primarily concerned with moral tone & personality of author rather than the resources of language or meanings of texts.

Walter Pater - Conclusion to the Rennaisance - Mainly concerned with the critic maximizing pleasure, not contributing to knowledge. The only thing that matters is art - he coined the phrase "art for art's sake."

Period Approach Element

Ancient Mimetic World
Neoclassical Pragmatic Affect
Romantic Expressive Artist
Modert Objective Text


Thursday, September 16, 2004

What book would you bring with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

If I were to find myself stranded on a desert island and one book just happened to wash up on the lonely shores, I would hope that the book would be Grimm's Fairy Tales. Some sort of manual on how to survive in the wilderness might be a better option for me, since I lack what some people call common sense, but I think that would get boring after a while, and who knows how long I am going to be stranded, right? The reason I chose Grimm's Fairy Tales is because it is filled with many enchanting stories, and I used to read them all the time when I was younger. The fables always used to intrigue me because they were mysterious and bewitching. My favorite stories were The Riddle, Hansel and Gretel, and Rapunzel. I figure that if I were stranded, this choice of a book would offer me a great many tales to read in my spare time. Even though they are very simple, they are still entertaining.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

What text is a touchstone for you?

A touchstone is a standard by which something is judged, and a text which acts as a touchstone for me is not really a text, but rather, the lyrics from two songs. I refer to the messages of these two songs for inspiration and to remember to seize every moment and opportunity that life offers you. The first is from the song "The End" written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
The second lyrics that act as a touchstone for me are from Bob Dylan's song "Forever Young".
"May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift. May you have a strong foundation when the winds of change shift. May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung, may you stay forever young."

What piece of work offers you consolation?

I am sort of a sentimental person at times, and when I was a kid just learning to read, my favorite book was Dr. Suess's "Oh The Places You'll Go!". This book provided comfort to me when I was a child, but I recently reread it for the first time in many years, and the message still provides a sense of consolation for me. It conveys a universal message in simple terms that even children can relate to - the world is out there and you as an individual have the opportunity to do many things and have meaningful experiences. "You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."

What literary work has changed your view of the world?

One piece of literature that has changed my view of the world as of late is a passage from Jack Kerouac's "On The Road".
"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on a plain till
you see their specks dispersing? -- It's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye.
But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies."
This passage affects me in a special way because I am at a period in my life where all of my friends and peers are moving away and beginning to start their own lives, which hopefully I will be doing soon as well. The familiarity of my old way of life is slowly coming to an end, and now new experiences and people are just around the corner. This passage expresses that it is sad to see a certain part of your life end, but at the same time, it is a good thing because new experiences and memories will occur in the future. Enjoy the good times while they last and live for the moment, but at the same time, do not be afraid of the future and embrace the new experiences it has to offer.

Monday, September 13, 2004