March 28, 2007

The Text Inside the Text

We may prefer one context to another, but we could never point to the poem to ground that preference, could never claim one perspective was more "illuminating" than another, for the idea of what counted as illumination would itself be determined within the context we were defending. By such reasoning we simultaneously undercut our structures while revealing our inability to do without them.

"Poststructural Criticism: Language as Context" by Donald Keesey

There isn't one perfect way to examine literature. If there was, the topic of literary criticism could be covered in a matter of weeks; it would be simpler than going around in circles with various types of criticism.

Keesey covers the slippery slope of language. In order to talk about language - you've got to express your thoughts through the system of language. (Which came first, language or the discussion of it?) (Isn't this one of the singular aspects of language that is a complete joy and complete horror?)

Well, the point is there isn't a right way. Oh yes, there is a wrong way; there is always a wrong way. What I think Keesey is trying to say is that it is just harder to find the wrong way than it is to find a way that works. They all work (unless you've decided to look at French cheese when you're supposed to be looking at a French manuscript - hence, the wrong way).

What I really got from Keesey was that one perspective is only as good as the reader makes it to be. If you've found a ton of historicism in a text that your neighbor (who conveniently is studying the same text) found a lot of realism is doesn't matter - you are both right; you just can't claim you are. Because that claim is what "simultaneously undercut[s] our structures while revealing our inability to do without them."

Posted by Diana Geleskie at March 28, 2007 6:33 PM | TrackBack
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