April 17, 2007

The Yin and Yang of Literature

Of any of the articles, Greenblatt seems to have described the theory behind Culture in precise details. I think that it helped that I have had some background in Shakespeare and with Spenser, but that aside I think that he explained his argument well. I thought that the questions he posed to his readers on how to determine the culture of a reading were very helpful and I'll probably try to apply these questions to my tenth exercise. The biggest quotation of this article that stood out to me was as follows:

And if an exploration of a particular culture will lead to a heightened understanding of a work of literature produced within that culture, so too a careful reading of a work of literature will lead to a heightened understanding of the culture within which it was produced. (438)

It seems to me that this is the basic ying/yang concept.

What is the Yin Yang concept? Well it is a concept begun by the Chinese and is a basic balance concept. It is described here as:

The Yin-Yang doctrine teaches that everything is the product of two principles: Yin, which is weak, female and destructive and Yang, which is strong, male and creative. It is the interaction of these two principles that produces the arising of the five elements and enables change to take place within the world.

What does this have to do with the above quote? Well it is simple. Without the culture in which a work is produced, that particular work might not have been created. I know that the philosophic principle is a bit of a stretch but it really works. The culture of a society plays off of the literature in the time and the literature plays off of the culture. It is almost as if everything comes full circle. Greenblatt mentions later that the novel plays directly into the hands of this concept. It is a way for "Individuals to come to terms with the governing patterns of culture" (439). Simply put, the novel is a way for people to respond to changes in culture or even to influence culture.

Greenblatt also does not put down other theories of literary study, but embraces them. He calls for a balance (again playing back on the yin yang concept) between cultural study of literature and formalism (or a close reading) because it is through formalism that a cultural study is possible.

I have to say that this is one of my favorite essays so far this semester. I just hope that I can use it in some way.

Greenblatt, ''Culture'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by Tiffany Brattina at April 17, 2007 3:54 PM | TrackBack

Though we differ in our views, I also enjoyed this essay.

Posted by: Dave Moio at April 26, 2007 2:18 PM
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