March 25, 2007

Postmortem for a Postmodernist: No Answers Solved

Berger, Postmortem for a Postmodernist -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

“We postmodernists blur boundaries between high and low culture, between art and everyday life, and we mix up genres and styles. But food that becomes art is better to look at than eat, most of the time. It’s like that new cuisine that was popular a while back. Beautiful to look at but nothing to eat” (Berger 156).

I would really like to believe that this statement shows that Postmodernism is really about being ambiguous and unclear about any answers that we find, mainly because that is how life is supposed to be. To see everything open-minded and not jump to any conclusions, we find that we might actually be able to grasp meaning behind the literature. If I am understanding this correctly, than I will describe myself as completely frustrated. Normally, I could imagine this as a comedic element, just as the characters were describing in the book, but overall, I am severely upset with what this type of criticism consists of. The ambiguity and the unclear answers are not going to sit well with me, because a simple relation is where we all can begin to understand a piece of literature. Maybe that simple relation is that we will never have all of the answers, and the chaos is equal to reality. I could understand that at least. Maybe that is why Pale Fire will be important to us this week as well.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)

Wright is Not Necessarily Right

Wright, ''The New Psychoanalysis and Literary Criticism'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

“Reading a text is no longer considered an innocent activity. Post-structuralist criticism undermines the notion that the text contains a stable meaning. The author’s intention is not only not recoverable but was never where he might have thought it was in the first place” (Keesey 393).

Reading a text can still be an innocent activity. For us literary critics, it is no longer an innocent activity, because it requires us to think beyond what we were originally capable of, which is a very difficult skill to obtain. At the same time, there are many readers out there that simply read for pleasure, and can find a simple connection. I would like to argue that reading used to be a joy, and while it still can be, the post-structuralists tend to use complexity in language and literature as something to which one can not find just a simple meaning in a literary text. As long as one can create a relationship between any aspect of a novel, poem, etc…, we can find that the Post-structuralist argument is one that appears to be invalid. While I agreed on the theory that literature is complex, the meaning that one can gain from the text is easier than one would imagine. I find it more than necessary to attempt to try to find another meaning in a text, because that is the greatest part about literature, the search for meaning. But to say that reading is no longer an innocent activity is too bold, because it should be considered that there is a 15-year-old student that finds a simple relationship to a text that keeps them enjoying the literature far after he reads it.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 6:36 PM | Comments (2)

Origin and Freeplay: Jacques Derrida

Derrida, ''Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"For my part, although these two interpretations must acknowledge and accentuate their difference and define their irreducibility, I do not believe that today there is any question of choosing--in the first place..." (Keesey 363).

The two interpretations Derrida is speaking of is the differences and similarities between origin of the words, and creating our own freeplay. I found it very interesting that those statements are necessarily broken down separately, mainly because one is associated with each other through the conventions of traditions. This article was very comparable to Jonathan Culler's "Structuralism and Literature," because the fact that one tradition attempts to break away from another tradition is very influential toward the meanings behind language. While there is intertextualism, there is also a historical criticism that is more focused on the author's intent of using words. It seems to me that one criticism can not stand on its own without another criticism, which is not bad, because the idea itself of Poststructuralism is creative in itself.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 4:30 PM | Comments (0)

Keesey Chapter 6 Intro

Keesey, Ch 6 (Introduction) -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"Structuralist thinkers had already applied the linguistic model to all cultural phenomena, had already 'textualized' the world. And in the process they had gone some way toward decentering the 'individuals' who were supposed to control these all-encompassing semiological systems" (Keesey 349).

So far, I am understanding some of the components to a Poststructural Criticism, but I am still a bit confused on how to write a criticism of that magnitude, especially toward a completely complext novel like Pale Fire. It appears to me that the goal of a Poststrucuralist is to confuse the reader as much as possible, because that is reality. I can understand how that actually makes sense, but it still leaves me with questions, especially on the foundation of deconstruction. It also seems that this is a mixture between intertextual and formalism criticisms because of the breaking away from tradition, and by using form and language to create that separation. Overall, Poststructuralism is either a criticism that is so simple, or so complex, because either way, I am still having difficulty grasping this one.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 1:08 PM | Comments (4)

Murfin and Ray: Antinovel

Murfin and Ray, Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"Antinovel: A type of contemporary fiction that attempts to present the reader with experience itself, unfiltered by metaphor or other vehicles of authorial interpretation. Antinovelists attempt to depict reality withor recourse to a moral frame of reference..." (Murfin and Ray 21).

I also love to know that the author's intent is to confuse the reader too, because that is realistic. I think that sounds very silly, but I can understand that there is a reality behind being confused or left behind. I would like to consider William Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury as an antinovel, because of the fact that the chaos of the character's thoughts are representative to the realistic viewpoints of how an individual thinks. There is no use of similes or metaphors; there are only realistic concepts that are originally trying to confuse the reader, because after all, we do not understand all of the answers of life, and the authors are trying to show that.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2007

Come on Roy!!! Are you Serious!?!

Scott, dir. Blade Runner (Director's Cut) -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"Morphology, Longevity, Acceptance..."

"I don't know those, I only do eyes"

Does this man realize that the is the function and importance of the eyes, just as it is for the phallus. That is the main reason that I found an important combination between the two organs. Form, Length (whether it is time or measurement), and acceptance is something that both of the organs can be associated with, in terms of function and importance. Roy Batty says it, because to him, he needs eyes to be accepted by the humans for a short period of time, just as the male gender needs to be accepted because of his manhood, physically or psychologically.

By the way, Roy Batty just dying on the ledge was the dumbest thing I have ever seen. I know that there is not much relevance to this statement, but its a weblog, and it really really bothered me. Please, do not comment on this part of my weblog.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 9:29 AM | Comments (2)

The Uncanny and Eyes

Freud, ''The Uncanny'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

“A study of dreams, phantasies, and myths has taught us that a morbid anxiety connected with the eyes and with going blind is often enough a substitute for the dread of castration” (Freud 383).

At first one could think that, like some of the other comments made by Freud, this concept of eyes being exactly the same as a castration is absolutely ridiculous. But after looking closer, I actually find a lot of relevance off of this statement, mainly because of the importance of the function the human eye has, just like the importance of the phallus is to the male gender. Blade Runner helped me find more relations between the male phallus and eyes (along with many many more features as well). Sigmund Freud is a genius when it comes to understanding subconscious and unconscious thoughts, and the relationship between the eyes and the phallus is just one of so many relationships he has magnified through his psychological and psychoanalytical studies on the human mind.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 9:23 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2007

Murfin and the Real...umm...I Mean Ray

Murfin and Ray, Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

The Real - "One of three orders of subjectivity according to psychoanalytic theorist and critic Jacques Lacan...The Real cannot be imagined, symbolized, or known directly; it constantly eludes our efforts to name it. Death, gravity, and the physicality of objects are examples of the Real..." (Murfin and Ray 397).

This is a very interesting literary term in relation to psychoanalytical criticisms. This is important to understanding and interpreting the language of the literature because these are objects that we cannot grasp. All three of the orders according to Lacan are all in relation to phallic concepts, or concepts that appear to associate with the male figure, rather than the female figure. The Real, the Imaginery, and the Symbolic Order work kind of like the id, ego, and superego, to which one try to solve the laws associated with the other orders. The male sign as its ordering principle is going to frustrate many female readers, but at the same time, it is one way to read.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 8:06 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2007

Structuralism and Literature: A Presentation on Jonathan Culler

First of all, I must say that this entry is going to be a great length and great detail, so if you do not read, it will be difficult to follow my presentation. With that said, here is the presentation on Jonathan Culler's "Structuralism and Literature."

Culler, ''Structuralism and Literature'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Considering how this specific theory is very applicable, not only toward reading literature, but rather teaching literature, I find it very relevant to my field of study. This essay is very appropriate toward those who are trying to learn criticisms in general because in order to teach, one must have obtained the skills necessary to complete his or her job fully.

"I shall assume that studying literature and teaching literature involve the development and master of special operations and procedures which are required for the reading of literature..." (Keesey 289).

While I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, I find extreme difficulty in mastering any operations that require as much depth and intellect behind the conventions of structuralism. This is a "mixed bag" of criticisms associated with each other, and for many, more and more questions become asked because of the difficulty behind a structuralist argument. Jonathan Culler asks this question, which really sets up his theory on intextual criticism. He asks:

"First, then, what is structuralism?" (Keesey 289).

Culler focuses on mixing both a social and semiotic structure between pieces of literature. He suggests two possible methods to understanding the linguistic methods behind structuralism. The first concerns using the language itself as a ladder to climb in order to understand a meaning behind a text. The second method is concerned with grasping a social or cultural meaning associated with the language in the piece of literature.

Now that we understand the meaning behind structuralism, the next step to take is actually analyzing the structure behind a piece of literature. Culler explains that there needs to be conventions (my favorite literary term) which help the reader or critic grasp a cultural meaning behind the language used. The importance of the conventions of poetry and literature is best described in a situation to which a person knows English vaguely.

I am going to take it one step further for one to understand. Imagine that you are taking German, and you understand what words mean, and some sentences to help you speak a little bit, but when you read the literature, how well can you really understand it? It is difficult enough for us to grasp our own language, rather than someone else's. What Culler is trying to say is that literature has its own language, its own conventions that seem to follow different rules of engagement for its readers.

A great example of this is many of the French African Literature that has been written. Ferdinand Oyono's Houseboy and
Camara Laye's The Dark Child are extremely difficult to understand the cultural struggle when you are spending your time trying to comprehend the words, rather than the meaning. The worst part is that Americans focus on words rather than the meaning all the time.

I really enjoyed the example that Culler used on page 290, concerning the emphasis of the word "Yesterday"

Yesterday I
Went into town and bought
A lamp (Keesey 290).

Because of the structure of this poem, we see a different emphasis. Rather than focusing on going into town, or buying a specific item, we see that the importance is more focused on when the action happened and what specifically was purchased. The main details have shifted, and Culler points that out effectively in his argument.

I believe that the main point of the entire argument is stated on page 291. Culler writes:

"Structuralism leads us to think of the poem not as a self-contained organism but as a sequence which has meaning only in relation to a literary system, or rather, to the 'institution' of literature which guides the reader. The sense of a poem's completeness is a function of the totality of the interpretive process, the result of the way we have been taught to read poems" (Keesey 291).

Structuralism is a process; it is a multi-faceted group of thoughts associated on two main common goals: a) to direct emphasis on a truly meaningful part of poetry or literature, and b) to create a connection between a specific time period to either the same or a past time period because of the importance of the cultural background associated with the two. Think about the conversation the class had in the first week about tradition, and how one group breaks away from the tradition. There needs to be a tradition of structure and cultural ideas mixed so that the next group can either grow off of that, or take their own separate way away from the first group. When he chooses a different situation, he understands that the first situation was already present, thus really creating the basis behind an intertextual criticism. The intertextual criticism focuses on literary competence and understanding between two pieces of influential texts.

"And because literary competence is the result of an interpersonal experience of reading and discussion, any account of it will doubtless cover much common ground" (Keesey 292).

Another key point to Culler's essay was the idea of "naturalizing" and "vraisemblance." The reader or critic is actually the one that creates a realism (yes, mimetic to an extent) behind trying to associate an idea they might not understand to an idea that they have grasped before. The reader actually tries to completely alter the meaning to something that they can understand, because that seems to be more true and more realistic than anything else. One issue with this is that we tend to naturalize way too fast, and we make a different meaning off of our own thoughts, rather than something previously interpreted.

But who is to say that's wrong? Having our own meaning is what helped us understand structuralism and literature in the first place, so I think that Culler's argument is actually flawed in this sense. I do not believe that there is a "premature naturalization" (Keesey 293), because all meanings are based off of what one (reader, author, etc...) can make a relation to. Although, the idea that readers tend to look in a different direction does limit them to understanding something different in the text itself.

Culler goes back to focusing on tradition and semiotics together and how difficult it is to grasp a lyrical code because of the complexity of the social associations made to the those semiotic codes.

"We quickly learn that there is a set of semantic oppositions, such as life and death, simplicity and complexity, harmony and strife, reality and appearance..." (Keesey 293)

There were more relations, but the overall point is that the tradition of understanding structure can possibly sway the perception of an individual based off of another semiotic code, or basically another piece of literature already read that has had some meaning to that individual. The issue is that one looks for an answer, instead of grasping complex thoughts as a possibility that becomes more and more useful to use. Basically, this type of argument is more logical and actually mathematical (say it ain't so!) rather than artistic, although there is some beautiful artistry behind the poetry and literature. The interpretations made off of the structure is more focuse on guessing based off of a similar genre or structure of literature, rather than just a simple appreciation.

Culler finishes very strongly in his theory by saying that "In its resolute artificiality, literature challenges the limits we set to the self as an agent of order and allows us to accede, painfully or joyfully, to an expansion of the self" (Keesey 297).

Isn't that the point of Literary Criticism? To take us away from boundaries and to stretch ourselves into taking difficult chances that might not make sense at first, but really help us grasp meaning in, behind, or between multiple pieces of literature and poetry. Trying to grasp the meaning a piece of literature is very easy; it is finding a specific and influential meaning that creates a complexity in the search. But it is what helps us become more enriched with the literature, no matter whether it is the structure, the history, the culture, or the nature of the literature. We gain so much from trying to expand ourselves, rather than creating the same argument over and over again. The importance for myself is this: as a teacher, the challenges of stretching a new meaning or relation into a text will help others gain a knowledge that they never thought they could ever gain. If that is not enriching, then I will never truly know what is.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 11:35 PM | Comments (4)

Commentary and Structure: Nobokov's Pale Fire

Nabokov, Pale Fire -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"To this statement my dear poet would probably not have subscribed, but, for better or worse, it is the commentator who has the last word. (Nabokov 29).

I would have loved to have used a piece of the heroic couplets from the cantos, but for an intertextual criticism, I would like to focus on the relationship between the commentary and the cantos. It appears to me that one can not be written without the other, although both are masterful. John Shade's cantos are far too brilliant and not very understandable to the common reader, so actually the commentary provides itself as its own form of literature because of how broad the cantos are.

Here's a question: Why 999 lines? Why not go for the 1,000? On page 37, there is only one line that does not rhyme in their entire poem, and all it says is "Bicycle Tires." Am I reading way too much into this, or is there really a true significance behind the Bicycle Tires? Is it useful that the title actually rhymes with Bicycle Tires, so should pale fire be the thousandth line we are looking for? I can see some relations, but like many other people, I feel a little bit confused, which really makes me nervous about the upcoming exercise.

I think that the difficult question really is: How can we make a relationship between Pale Fire and another piece of literature? I have a stab based off of structualism, but I really think I might be stretching. Dr. Jerz, if you're listening, I would like to discuss my idea, and hopefully not crash and burn.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 8:36 PM | Comments (2)

Sherlock Holmes and Benito Cereno

"The mystery/detective story, involving as it does so clearly questions of crime and punishment, confronts questions of authority in society...Its author may not consciously engage with questions about the sources and legitimacy of social authority...but a full reading of such stories will necessarily need to do so (Keesey 317).

So its kinda like a Sherlock Holmes story then? Both of these stories have a lack of authority in the presentation of the mystery behind the story. Delano and Sherlock Holmes both have a naive nature that makes the reader want to slap them, because they really have no idea what is going on. Meanwhile, characters like Watson and Benito Cereno are both really unheard, when they know exactly what is going on in the mystery behind the storyline. I'm not saying that one is the cause of the other, but both of them have a similar connection in the genre and conventions, and to me, that says more about an intertextual criticism that anything else. Still, once again, I see more of a canonical argument, rather than a intertextual criticism, because the main relation that I saw was between Bartleby the Scrivener and Benito Cereno, both stories that are written by Herman Melville. I would rather make an attempt to find a relation between Melville and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and at least create an argument, rather than just focus on the canon of Herman Melville. Come on Swann, challenge me. Better yet, challenge yourself.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

Would You Like Frye with That? Frye and The Tempest

"As often in Shakespeare, the characters in The Tempest are invited to a meeting to be held after the play in which the puzzling features of their experiences will be explained to them. This seems a curious and unnecessary convention, but it is true to the situation of drama...Each character in The Tempest...is lost in a private frama of his own" (Keesey 303).

Here is my question: Is there supposed to be a relation to another drama, or is there supposed to be an admiration and application to Shakespeare's use of drama? This appears to be a mimetic criticism more than an intertextual criticism basically because there are very few relations in genre or in drama for any other pieces of literature. There should have been more discussion in either the cultural or structural relationships between pieces of literature, or maybe my understanding is not as great as I thought it was. Frye's essay creates the relationship between character and reality, more than the culture and context, so while I believe that this is a great mimetic criticism of The Tempest, overall, it is a very poor intertextual criticism, mainly because there was very little discussion on the conventions and structure of Shakespeare's literature. Usually, the structure is more dominant in Shakespeare's literature, which is why we have such an admiration for it.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

Intertextual and Social Criticism: A Frye Perspective

"Criticism will always have two aspects, one turned toward the structure of literature and one turned toward the other cultural phenomena that form the social environment of literature. Together, they balance each other..." (Keesey 284).

Good point Mr. Frye. What a simplistic thought, and yet, there is definitely a complex plethera of thoughts that become associated with it. Usually, a reader finds a relation within the text, based off of the language presented, or the social meaning behind the text, but Frye suggests that we should all look at both as a uniting of the meaning of literature. While I am not completely sold on the vagueness of Frye's arguement, I am, however, convinced on the notion that there is a definite binding between the social and semiotic conventions of literature. Most of the critics seem to argue more for one and less for another, but Frye certainly points out that all people should consider both to understand a fuller meaning behind a piece of literature. Raising one over the other would actually supply more issues with understand the literature, rather than helping the cause. But one should consider that not every piece of literature thrives of connecting both, some literature subconsciously focuses on the structure of the literature more, or vice versa. There were multiple fascinating points to Northrop Frye's theory, but I am not fully convinced.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 9:26 AM | Comments (0)

Conventions and Relations: Keesey Number 5

Keesey, Ch 5 (Introduction) -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"Intertextual criticism, then, is something neither new nor strange, and the idea that our understanding of literature depends on a knowledge of its conventions may often go unremarked because it goes...without saying...A curious thing about conventions is that the more firmly established they are, the less likely we are to notice them" (Keesey 267).

In reading literature, we seem to find ways to make relations; some of them are made to ourselves, some to the author's thoughts, and some to the history that they were apart of. This is a situation to which one must relate a piece of literature to another similar piece of literature. What? That actually sounds propostorous because we can not accomplish this task easily, or really at all for that matter. But through literary evidence, including looking at structure, genre, or other conventions, one can make a solid stab at the intertextual criticism in literature. The other difficulty we find is the broad nature of the intertextual criticism, because it can range from the language or structure itself, to the actual meaning behind the text that was influenced by another piece of literature. This is very tricky, and one has to be careful on how much they can actually grasp this type of criticism.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 9:24 AM | Comments (0)

March 1, 2007

Murfin and Ray: Intertextuality

Murfin and Ray, Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"Intertextuality: The condition of interconnectedness among texts, or the concept that any text is an amalgam of others, either because it exhibits signs of influence or because its language inevitably contains common points or reference with other text through such things as allusion, quotations, genre, style, and even revisions" (Murfin and Ray 219).

Alright, I understand the importance of keeping a relationship between pieces of literature through conventions, but how do we actually go about searching for these connections? Example: Could I make an intertextual criticism between Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, based off of the similar conventions of tragedy? Do I say that one caused the other? Or could I say that one appreciated the conventions of the other, so it could have decided to use it for its own construction? I am having some difficulty, and I would really like to learn more about this, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at 4:33 PM | Comments (1)