Being Simple Is Overrated: Welcome to the World of Complexity
I can finally see the end of the semester ahead of me. The faint glow of freedom is just visible on the horizon. Ok, so I’m being a bit melodramatic. This semester was not all bad. My biggest struggle was definitely finding time to do everything I needed to do. As much as I enjoy Literary Criticism (and that is not necessarily meant sarcastically, I think there is a lot to learn from pretty much everything we read this semester), I did have other classes and obligations and balancing it all was certainly a challenge. However, it all managed to get done somehow in the end.
Moving onto the more positive side of things, I can honestly say this is probably the class I learned the most in (and that is saying something because I think I learned a lot in all of my classes, particularly Young Adult Literature and Irish Literature). It was certainly the class I spent the most time on. I understood what Literary Criticism was before this class because we did briefly cover several schools of criticism my senior year in high school. So in this sense attempting literary criticism was not something new to me (we had to apply Lit. Crit. To Kafka’s The Metamorphosis); however, this also served to show me how much better I understood things this time around. If I said I understood Literary Criticism completely in high school I would be lying. Granted, I can’t say I had any specific “Aha” moments this semester, but on the other side of this, I could say that every moment was an “Aha” moment. Every time I opened the textbook I was sure to learn something new—something new to file away as secret weapon to use in the future on some paper.
However, the things I learned this semester do not just apply to writing and analyzing literature. I certainly have many new ways to approach both of these things (and many new considerations about why I view a work the way I do), but I also read critical essays in a completely new way. These essays never were and still aren’t something I can breeze through reading; however, I read them with a new understanding. I know what the critics are up to in their essays, I know the name(s) of the type(s) of criticisms they are using, and I know the history and debate behind the schools they are using.
While I would still not consider myself a Literary Criticism expert and have many things still to learn about it (and probably always will), I have gained a whole new way of looking at things (and not just literature, since many of these ideas bleed into one’s perception of the everyday world). Even though, I do prefer some schools of criticism over others, just knowing about the other schools forces me to consider these other perspectives and the plethora of possible readings of a text. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, as Eagleton observed from our very first reading assignment, “What is Literature?” If we can’t even define the thing that we are studying, we certainly have a lot of things to think about. But I think the very first step is realizing that life is complex and everything worth studying deserves a second, third, and fourth look each time considering it from a new perspective and with a new lens, and that’s where Literary Criticism comes in.
As far as the term project goes, I admit I was a bit skeptical about whether I would get anything from it. I figured it would just be one more things for me to jam into my schedule. However, I actually really, really enjoyed it. Katie and I took a more hands-on approach and decided to go teach a high school class an introductory lesson to Lit. Crit. The entire experience was very enlightening as far as the effort that goes into making a lesson plan, what teaching strategies work best with high school students, actually interacting with the students themselves, and figuring out ways to teach complex ideas in understandable ways. If you want to read more about Katie’s and my experience and our lesson, you can check out our previous blog entry.
I was also very impressed by all the work that my classmate’s put into their projects. Admittedly, I have not seen everyone’s presentation yet, but from reading everyone’s progress reports it looks like everyone has put a lot of effort and enthusiasm into their projects. Two projects which I can reflect on though are Quinn and Sue’s and Angela and Derek’s. I was quite interested to see what Quinn and Sue did since I am not actually a big fan of The Catcher in the Rye. However, I think they did any excellent job of presenting their idea in a creative and interesting way to the class. Their infusion of actual quotes and phrases from the book as well as Salinger’s notoriously reclusive ways was an effective way to make the class consider what Salinger’s intent was and if it even mattered. Angela and Derek took a different route and chose to psychoanalysis characters from the movie, The Dark Knight. The website they created obviously took a lot of work and thought on their part and makes one consider the deeper meaning and forces behind the characters. In a broader sense, their analysis also made me consider other characters of other movies. What movies can truly be said to have realistic characters and which can’t?
As for my blogging this last part of the semester, I completed them all as usual. I am just going to point out a few and then list the rest of them.
Depth: As usual, these entries are one’s which I feel went above and beyond my other entries.
- Defining Culture and Its Role in Literature: Stephan Greenblatt’s “Culture”: This is the entry I made for my oral presentation. I went through Greenblatt’s essay page by page and highlighted his main ideas and tried to explain them in an easily comprehensible way.
- Warnings on Analyzing Literature: In this entry I reflect on Dock’s revelation on the unreliability of past essays and scholarship. I really liked this essay and I bring up some warnings which we should all keep in mind as we read and research.
- The Pros and Cons of Feldstein: I liked many parts of Feldstein and didn’t like other parts of them. I found his essay particularly notable since he was a male critiquing “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In this blog I go through and explain the parts of his essay I did and did not like and why.
- Do I See a Hint of Author Intent in this Poststructural Essay?: In this blog entry on de Man’s essay I mention the many parts of his essay that I like, but I do nit-pick about a few things he says.
- I also commented on everyone’s blog for Greenblatt that posted them before Thursday.
- Warnings on Analyzing Literature: Both Mara and Sue share their similar feelings about the misinformation critics have been spreading through their assumptions.
- The Pros and Cons of Feldstein: Angela and Bethany both respond to the positives and negatives I find in Feldstein’s essay.
- Good vs. Evil= A Mixture of Both: Angela and Mara consider my deconstruction of the idea of good vs. evil in relation to Miko’s essay.
- Is Everything Political and Warnings on Analyzing Literature: I have several wildcards this time around. First, we were given the option of reading either Belsey or Dock and I chose to read and blog about both of them.
- How Far Should We Take Literary Criticism: And second, for one of our casebooks we were given the option to write a longer blog entry. I thought mine brought up some interesting considerations and was quite informative on some church’s opinions on postmodernism.
Coverage and Timeliness (or all my other blogs which did not fall into another category):
Read my classmates’ portfolios.