April 22, 2007

The Culture of Lit

"And if an exploration of a particular culture will lead to a heightened understanding of a work of literature produced within a 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" (Greenblatt 438).

It's the article version of everything I've been yelling all semester. Welcome to the world of cultural criticism.

Truly, this is the one form of criticism I feel very strongly about, if one can feel very strongly about a particular form. As I've been stating during, oh, almost every literary work- you can't read a piece with our cultural ideals and norms in mind. The piece must be taken within the context it was written and not our own changed world view now. We can't manipulate a work to fit a feminist or racial agenda- that's how it was back then and even if it is different or not agreeable by today's standards, it was the way of life back then and must be viewed as such.

As the quote above states, not only can learning about a particular time of cutlure help understand the literature, but the literature also gives valuable insight into the world it was written into as well. So many social standards and cultural constructs can be found just by looking at a work of literature as a window into another world (wow was that cliched). It's a nice give and take relationship- one must know about the culture of the piece in order to read the work but the story gives hints as to the culture as well. A nice combination of two fields of study, literature and history, put into one. My education classes that argue for cross-curriculum teaching would be so excited.

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

Posted by VanessaKolberg at April 22, 2007 9:04 PM | TrackBack
Comments

I hear you on the interdisciplinary stuff. History + English == super fun lesson! Just add an art project to that and you're set. Bonus points if you can somehow tie it into a life lesson, and you deserved to be bowed down to if you can successfully incorporate in a science lesson.

Grah.

But seriously, isn't it so cool to learn that everything you've argued about this semester has an actual name? Whenever I read anything now, I try to think about what was in the mind of the writer. It's kind of like in The English Patient--which I know you haven't read so here's a short background--there is a guy who dismantles bombs and he has to think like the person who set the bomb to properly neutralize it. It's like that--you can't think like yourself and read a work the way it was meant to go over in society. You have to think like the author and the people that surrounded the author.

On the other hand, perhaps this idea might need exercised with caution. I can just see people trying to get into the mind of Edgar Allen Poe and drinking/intoxicating themselves into oblivion...

Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at April 22, 2007 9:45 PM

Hey I did the same quote.

Culture and literature depend on one another. Literature needs the culture to produce new ideas and suggestions to write about; and culture feeds of literature by looking back at works and understanding the themes and values at that time. So it seems to me that cultural criticism is a good thing.

Jay put it nicely in his blog that literature, or at least a majority of it, tries to find something that was against a culture, and through imagery and dialogue, the author completes the task of portraying a different spin on the representative culture portrayed in that story.

Posted by: Denamarie at May 1, 2007 4:28 PM
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