February 9, 2007

Even YOU Can Be a Formalist

"Whereas historical critics, for example, usually appear an experts who are supplying information obtained through months or years of research into an author's life or times, formal critics appear to be simply pointing to features or patterns that we might have overlooked" (Keesey 78).

Alright, sounds like my kind of criticism. I don't need to do research, any formal training, and I can have a valid literary idea? Sign me up.

Finally, a criticism for the rest of us. For those who don't really care what the author ate the morning she wrote the poem but instead want to focus on the words and their meaning in the context of the text, formalism is it. By not following the conventions of high literary criticism but instead concentrate solely on text, formalists have been a group unto themselves, shunned by the members of other criticism parties. A majority of the class seems to fall into this category, since we focus on the poem "an an 'object', as something that exists independently of its creator" (76), instead of focusing on authorial intent. It really isn't a revolutionary idea- to read the poem as a poem and nothing more involved than the words and their meaning or purpose, on the paper.

My favorite part of Keesey's Chapter Two "Introduction" is that apparently "we can all play the game" (79). Criticism for the rest of us. No formal training, no late nights, just a keen eye and an understanding for reading the text as it should be read- as a world of its own.

Keesey, Ch 2 (Introduction) -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at February 9, 2007 7:58 PM | TrackBack

"For those who don't really care what the author ate the morning she wrote the poem" - LOL! Oh my, Vanessa. You cracked me up on that one...

Formalists seem like they might be the Benedict Arnold of lit. crit. Okay, so maybe saying they're treasonists is a stretch, but really--they say they're not taking the text out of context but then do, they say they're not relying on history or author intent at all, but might... So they're isolationists?

Haha, back to the -ists with the -isms. I think I'll enjoy formalism, too. (Since I already think that I do some of this stuff without thinking...)

Posted by: Karissa at February 11, 2007 7:59 PM

What if we lived in a world in which what we ate for breakfast really did affect what we wrote?

Lucky Charms = limericks.
Thin Gruel = Hallmark cards.
Thick Gruel = Corporate mission statements.
Cheesecake & beefsteak = romance novels.
Raisin Brain = something that wasn't proofread.
Waffles & pork = political biographies

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at February 12, 2007 12:27 PM

That was hilarious, Dr. J. I actually do eat Raisin Bran, so that's why I have so many punctuation and grammar errors (Ha-ha). Nessa, I like the fact that this is finally a club that we can all be apart of. I guess we're "The Anti-Breakfast Club of literary criticism."

Posted by: Erin at February 12, 2007 1:00 PM

Hahaha that's fantastic! I'm all for starting our own version of "The Breakfast Club" for writing. But cheesecake and beefsteak? Seriously Dr. Jerz? Who eats that? I ate yogurt...what does that say about my writing?

Posted by: Nessa at February 12, 2007 2:12 PM

yogurt = a blog about formalism (obviously, Nessa!)
stole Vanessa's yogurt = plagiarize her blog
skipped breakfast = writer's block all day

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at February 12, 2007 3:39 PM

Strange... but hilarious. I love it. Where did this all come from? I can't find any references to breakfast in posts before Dr. Jerz's... I'm a bit puzzled, but I like it.

Can we elaborate on this more?

parallelism errors = undercooked bacon
incoherence = scrambled eggs
using a thesaurus too much = gooey oatmeal
subject-verb agreement = peanut butter toast

Posted by: Karissa at February 12, 2007 8:29 PM

potato chips (for breakfast)=someone who missed breakfast visits Vanessa's blog and sees the comments already there and says, "Huh?"

Vanessa, I do think it's good to read a work without all the background. I just wonder if it's necessary to cut out all historical references. Especially since, as Karissa said before you all went out to breakfast, that sometimes even formalists get into history.

Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at February 14, 2007 10:19 PM
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