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Reality can't touch me. I'm in my bubble.

Frye insists that literature is an 'autonomous verbal structure' quite cut off from any reference beyond itself, a sealed and inward-looking realm which 'contain[s] life and reality in a system of verbal relationships'. All the system ever does is reshuffle its symbolic units in relation to each other, rather than in relation to any kind of reality outside it (Eagleton 80).

Frye's theory on literature reminded me of that movie called Bubble Boy--I never saw it, but I remember previews. Just as living in a plastic bubble isn't the most practical thing to do, placing literature in a vacuum seems somewhat irrational. While sitting in Irish Lit. tonight, Dr. Cusick, made a very good point that I think applies to our work in Lit. Crit. She referenced the fact that so many critics are concerned with being "objective" in their analysis of literature and stated that perhaps our subjectivity is not such a bad quality to have as humans. If we aren't able to make connections between literature and the real world, what would be the point of reading? I sat in class pondering this question and realized that she was right. If I couldn't relate to the literature I read, I probably would not find it worthwhile. I'm not arguing that I need to have experienced everything that the characters I read about experience in order to appreciate their stories; no, the connection can be much more basic than that, but the bottom line is, the connection between the literature I read and the reality I live has to be there. For example, I may not be able to relate to Anna Karenina on the basis of her 19th century Russian lifestyle; however, I can relate to the struggles she faces internally as a woman, a fellow human being.

With novels such as Anna Karenina in mind, I don't agree with Frye's belief that literature is a "collective utopian dreaming" set apart from reality for another reason. While some literature may aim to produce utopian images, I do not think all literature does this. If this was the case, how would Frye (aka Bubble Boy) classify realist fiction such as Anna Karenina or James Joyce's Dubliners (as we recently studied in Irish Lit)? In my mind, these stories seem to portray the opposite of Utopia; instead, they portray life as it is: the good and, more often, the bad.

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Comments (2)

Bethany Merryman:

I agree!! Sometimes I find it difficult switching from mindsets in my classes. In one of my Irish Lit papers, I wrote like a criticism and then realized it was my own personal reflection on the piece. On that note, I agree with you and see that being subjective is just as important to reading as being objective is. But as far as Lit Crit goes can we be subjective?

Bethany Merryman:

I agree with you! I actually found the between Lit Crit and my other literature courses, I have trouble switching from a subjective to objective point of view. Dr. Cusick actually caught me on one of my reflections and asked me what I thought. I love subjectivity in literature, that a story can change for each person that reads it, but is there a place for that in criticism? I wish.


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