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January 28, 2007

EL312: Now Presenting: Formalism!

This Eagleton article reminded me of my first reading in Plato for the Philosophy of Art course I took last spring (that's PL 320 for anyone interested--I recommend it for anyone studying the arts). Not only was I rereading things multiple times for meaning, I was writing vocab words to look up later and frantically scanning to make meaning of all of it.

With my philosophy muscles well flexed, this discussion gives me the similar strain of the artistic debate through the history of philosophy regarding "what is art?" It can get really old considering the same ideas over and over again, but Eagleton presented his material in an interesting manner. I particularly enjoyed the portion when he began to discuss formalism:

The literary work was neither a vehicle for ideas, a reflection of social reality no the incarnation of some transcendental truth: it was a material fact, whose functioning could be analyzed rather as one could examine a machine. It was made of words, not of objects or feelings, and it was a mistake to see it as the expression of an author's mind. (3)

Defining something like literature takes more than just saying what something is not. I like that Eagleton gives us more to chew on through a formalist perspective as he continues his exploration of what literature truly is. Seeing the development of the formalist point of view, I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with various things. (I did this all throughout PL320, too.)

While it doesn't matter much whether I agree with a particular form of criticism, I have a feeling that digesting this sort of information that floods to me while reading will be helpful to my overall understanding of this dense material.

Eagleton, ''Introduction: What is Literature?'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at January 28, 2007 4:47 PM


The development was interesting and I didn't realize that formalism was also based on language. I agreee with what you said about defining literature. I think it's sad that some expressions are considered art and others are not based on a set of standards.

Posted by: Erin at January 29, 2007 1:35 PM

I like how you compare your experiences with this text to your philosophy class. I even wrote in my notes as I was reading most of these chapters and articles attempting to define criticism and literature "I feel like I am taking a philosophy class." Wouldn't it be awesome if lit crit counted as our philosophy class for the LA core? Then that would be one less semester with me overloading on credits. I think we should start a petition.

Posted by: Lorin at February 1, 2007 12:17 AM

Haha, yeah, that would be nice, Lorin. Sadly, I don't think it'll happen (and my experiences with petitions at this particular school are not very positive).

However, I recommend that instead lit. majors should take PL320 Philosophy of Art... I can't tell you how much I draw upon that course! I was like a sponge in there. Mostly art majors take it (I guess that's a reasonable assumption...) but I really think lit. majors would get a lot out of that class.

Posted by: Karissa at February 1, 2007 7:35 AM

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