« Pale Fire: Not so pale, just plain fidgety | Main | Frye: A Balancing Act »

March 8, 2007

Imitation is flattering, but can cause floppage

"By orienting the poem toward the world of poetic convention rather than toward the world of empirical reality, they eliminate the problems that haunt mimetic attempts to explain how verbal constructs can 'imitate' this reality..." (277)

Yikes, I don't know if I'm getting the right meaning out of this quote but, what I picked it because it included alot of the terms and discussions we've had previously. I think Keesey could have said, we don't necessarily always imitate reality, but perhaps the artwork of others we admire. I've noticed in some of my writing classes that people tend to stick with the genre they are most comfortable with and mock their favorite writers. I'm not condoning or condemning in this (I'm super-guilty on genre-theft), but I think as critics it's our job to look at whether the author is discussing their own reality or just looking for the right formula that will make their writing fit in with their own favorite authors.

Posted by ErinWaite at March 8, 2007 8:42 PM


I had a teacher in high school who told me that there is truly no original idea when it comes to literature. All of the stories we consider in canon had been inflenced and has influence. Take a look at my favorite genre, horror. Even the older horrors like "Dracula" has been taken from ancient legends.

Here is another example....

Ian Flemiing's 007 series most likely could have been influenced by "The Secret Agent" (remember). There is absolutely no way in the world that we are seperate from the world and not let it affect the things that we write. However, literature has it own world. By writing, we are merely "innovating and translating" of the artwork we admire. Seeing that you are a self-described bookworm, I had a feeling you probably already know that. Nice observation, Erin.

Posted by: Kevin "Kelo The Great" Hinton at March 9, 2007 6:25 PM

Kevin, your teacher probably got that idea from Ecclesiastes 1:9-10.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 9, 2007 7:08 PM

I liked your examples, Kevin. I think it's kind of humbling and extraordinary that everything has already been done, Dr. J. It lets us know in a way, that we should quit striving so much. At the same time, someone may just use one of our ideas, so we should continue to come up with "new" ideas.

Posted by: Erin at March 12, 2007 12:16 PM

One of the frustrating things for me in this class has been a recurring theme in the criticism that everything is a reproduction of something. This bugs me because it does discount the idea of original thought. Now, everything an artist or writer does has to be grounded in what they know or are learning, but I do think it is entirely possible to create something original. Seems like lit crit always tries to ruin this romantic thought.

Posted by: Dave Moio at March 14, 2007 8:20 AM

David -

Romatic thoughts are great. I love and live by them, but the truth is that sometimes that is all they are. I think that what you are missing is the idea that there isn't anything out there that is completely, 100% original.

Even though we are all individuals in the world there are a lot of us. I mean we popluate practically a whole planet! If you think of it that way it is all about who gets there first for that original idea. And as far as it not being completely original - who cares? Humankind as a race has had an amazingly long history. It is only natural that things are redone, but what makes them original is the way that they are redone.

Kevin and Dr. J -

Thanks for bringing up these points. They are both great ones! On the other hand, I think that there shouldn't be finality to original thought. We need to have some romantic thoughts now and then or life wouldn't be fun to live anymore.

Erin -

Great insights. I completely agree with you that as critics we need to be aware of what our biases are and try to hold them in check. It is important to do so in order to make the objective argument possible.

Now if only I could take my own advice. :-/

Posted by: Tiffany at March 14, 2007 6:30 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?