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"...for the goal of formal analysis is to show how the various elements in the poem fit together, how the parts cohere to produce the whole, and how our understanding of the whole conditions our understanding of the parts." -Keesey

Although Keesey was talking about the formalist style of criticism, I found a connection between this quote with our class discussion this past Thursday. Dr. Jerz went through a critical essay and analyzed the approach the author took. In this same way, we are asked to look at the pieces of literature we read every day. If we can see the individual elements of the literature and the coherence of those elements, we may understand the literature as a whole.

I'm not sure that makes sense, but according to the formalist's beliefs, if I can pick out the structural importance of the piece and how all those elements work together, I will figure out the literature I'm reading.

Does that make any sense, or am I just looking too much into all of this stuff? Please let me know what you think.

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"...we may understand the literature as a whole."

That phrasing just might -- MIGHT -- hint at the idea that the literary work has one "correct" or "best" interpretation, and that formalism can help us to find it.

You're absolutely on the mark when you note that formalism is the study of how the parts cohere, and I'm very happy you were able to relate this reading to our in-class structural anslysis of a crticial essay.

Formalism is one of many ways to look at a literary work, and those who practice it don't think of themselves as deliberately ignoring evidence from the outside world. Rather, the see themselves as making a close and careful analysis of a primary work. Without that primary work, we don't have a piece of literature to analyze, so all the other arguments become something else (linguistic theory, or gender studies, or history, or psychology).

I'm glad you brought this up, Bethany. I was wondering a similar thing myself when I read Keesey's explanation of how a formalist works. Instead of focusing on the whole work, formalists, to me, seem to work from the inside out. They pick out the nitty gritty details and it is only when they arrange these details in a coherent manner when they arrive at an interpretation of the whole work that makes sense. For them, the details are the meaning of the poem. ...Or at least I think so..

Structure is important as you write so why nto be important as you read? Once you figure out the organization to something you can begin to make sense of it. I agree with what you are saying and hope this helps me in this class.

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