March 12, 2007

A Guide Through Literature

I think that Culler's essay is by far the easiest for me to understand. For me that usually means one of two things. I really don't get it at all or I'm really really close. In his essay Culler says some very interesting things to me. He kind of backs up Keseey's argument from the introduction that practice makes perfect. His argument is that structuralism is the only way to go when it comes to literary criticism and he makes such a convincing argument that by the end I thought that this might be the best essay I had read to date.

Culler states:

Imagine someone who knows English but has no knowledge of literature and indeed no acquaintance with the concept of literature. If presented with a poem he would be quite baffled...What he lacks is a complex system of knowledge that experienced readiers have acquired, a system of conventions and norms which we might call "literary competence."

Here is where I believe that he is backing up the practice makes perfect idea. The quote pretty much says that without the knowledge that is gathered by practice anyone can read a poem , but he or she will not be able to fully understand the poem until he or she has the proper training. When reflecting on this it makes me wonder what Culler would have thought of college students trying to learn to interpret poetry. Even after having practiced the art of reading and interpreting poety, as well as trying my hand at some, I'm not sure that I even understand what poetry is all about.

Culler also stated that:

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.

This spoke to me because it screamed intertextuality. It is almost as if everything that we read (essays, poems, novels) and comment on are a part of the whole picture. It also seems as if literature builds upon itself from one age to the next. I really liked the idea that the poem isn't completely self-contained. That there are things that have influenced the poem and that is all taken into consideration when coming at the poem froma structual approach.

All in all this essay on the theory behind intertextuality helped me to understand this approach better than any other approach that we have studied thus far.

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

Posted by Tiffany Brattina at March 12, 2007 11:58 AM | TrackBack
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