January 28, 2007

Never Say Never and Always Avoid Always

A word of warning: if I sometimes speak here and in the chapters to come as if a certain statement is always true, a certain condition always obtains, I apologize. 'Always' and 'never' are not words that have much meaning in literary study. For one thing, as soon as something seems to always be true, some wise guy will come along and write something to prove that its not.
Thomas C. Foster (How to Read Literature Like a Professor)

The lot of the wise guy; not exactly a lot I really want to participate in. I don't really want to have to live up to the stereotype, at least. The 'wise guy' is that person who is annoying and no one really likes but can't really cut out his opinion because it is valid - one of the reasons he (or she) is so darn annoying.
Foster includes this disclaimer just for the wise guy. For that annoying, but nonetheless right, individual who finds a way around the standards, sometimes just for the sake of saying he can do it. I'm going to make an overarching statement that may not apply to everyone but it applies to me, so I'm going to make it (in the spirit of disclaimers). English majors have a tendency to cheer and egg on the wise guy.
The wise guy is one of the people who manages to make progress possible.
Yes, I was rather annoyed reading Foster's disclaimer for the wise guy. I was annoyed because it made me want to be the wise guy. I wanted to go ahead and not see the themes of literature he was discussing, just because he said they were there. I wanted to find the fault in the writing, not the potential and truth. So a word from one of the wise guys - exaggeration has a place, but I don't think it is found in explaining literary analysis.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at January 28, 2007 6:27 PM | TrackBack
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