Superman that Lit. Class

So, what should literature classes read? I found our discussion over whether or not Superman comics could be incorporated into a college level class particularly interesting, especially since people seemed so divided on the issue. I for one think it is definitely possible to include Superman in a college curriculum and still have an intellectual element within the course. For instance, we examine works such as fairy tales and children's literature in classes and find intellectual value within those works, so what makes a work like Superman any different? Perhaps, yes, it is a bit more modern, however, I think that works that our society produces today has value, especially when students are asked to compare them to more classical literature. Questions could be raised in a class that examines Superman and the Odyssey together. For instance, what elements does one have that the other doesn't? Why or why not will Superman stand the test of time, like the Odyssey? Students can then also examine the change in values and ways of thinking in the different time periods as well. I think it is important to ask our students to ask themselves why what they read in class is important...then they aren't just being told to read something but can consider its possible value and form an opinion on their own.

Another idea

Is it possible for an author to be wrong about their own work? On the surface, I don't think so, especially when it comes to a direct explanation of their text (or even summary). However, I think that an author can be incomplete when interpreting their work. For instance, perhaps they are aware of their intention, however, what if a subconscious purpose or intention exists within an author? I think someone like Freud would argue yes, but it is impossible to prove. I do think that readers can add or expand to an author's interpretation of their works. Because once an author puts a work "out there," it is open to interpretation and scrutiny. An author's intention makes up only part of literature, but without the reader's spin or view on it, does literature even exist?

Legit Interpretations

We also discussed in class "What makes an interpretation legit?" In that class, many students mentioned certain interpretations that would be considered not valid (Example: "Darling buds of May" referring to BudLite, or The Dead referring to telephones) So if an interpretation can be considered invalid, then what makes an interpretation VALID? In my opinion, I think that textual evidence that links the interpretation to the text and functions with the text in one possibility. Another would be an interpretation that is linked to the social context of the time (which would exclude the BudLite theory). I think that an interpretation also should be a functioning interpretation (unlike, say, Fish's) in the fact that all elements of the interpretation fit together and work with one another. In other words, no explanation is left unexplained. I also think an interpretation is legit when it involves the reader and leaves room for debate and questioning (or even further possibilities for interpretations). Can anyone add to my list?

Determining Intention


At one point, Professor Chapman wrote on the board the following sentence: Determining an author's intention is (fill in the blank) important/necessary/useful part of literary interpretations. In my own mind, I like to think that there could have been an all of the above option. Authorial intention is necessary to consider in the way that it is important and useful to consider. However, we can never truly know what an author 's intention is, right? But in my opinion, there is a purpose behind all works and an informed reader can make a best guess as to what that purpose is. But is that all a reader can do? No, of course not. So maybe we can delete all three options. Would is make sense to say that "Determining an author's intention is a part of literary interpretation." Just that, only a piece of the puzzle or only one way to look at a work.

Examining the Past - Is it possible?

When we examine literature, we often try to look back on the time period that it addresses in order to make sense of the work and place it within a social structure. As readers, we try to consolidate and make sense of what happened in the past in order to understand what we read. However, this (to me) sounds over simplified. We can attempt to analyze the past all we want and try to make sense out of how our society has evolved, however, the past is such a complicated, intricate element that I don't know if it can ever be completely consolidated for the analyzing purposes. Things get filtered throughout time, and forgotten, and overlooked, that we can only hope to understand a fraction of past societies. Even as members of current society, we cannot claim that we fully understand the time and society in which we live! Therefore, we can only make our best guess, especially when history is linked to literature.

Plato vs. Freud

THIS IS MARY KATE POSTING A NEW COMMENT (I am currently logged on under a different email account).

In class, we pinned Freud against Plato and discussed whether or not emotion should be incorporated into literature. On one hand, Freud argued that authors should indulge in emotion. Plato, on the other hand, argues that they should ignore emotion and be rational in literature in order to explain "truth." While I agree that one purpose of literature should be to generate some sort of truth about the world, I cannot imagine what literature that is void of emotion would even look like. Is this even possible? Instead, what about using logic and reason to channel out emotions to create something constructive that leads to truth? Analyzing our own emotions could possible help us to understand truths about the world. This should not be avoided in my opinion.


Last day to blog! woo

I realized, when looking over the blogs, that no one had really talked about Smith #2 as of yet, and that article, though long, was one of my favorites (though not at first). When I first started to read Smith I saw words like 'economics' and 'cost-benefit' and 'accounting' which brought me back to horrible memories of accounting I freshman year and made me cringe in horror that she would dare compare literature (my love) to accounting (hate). However, as I continued to read the article, I realized for one, that it was more about economics and sociology than accounting and that it actually made a lot of sense. Books do seem to change value over time and even if they are 'timeless' their meaning and importance changes to an extent. I immediately thought of Shakespeare. When I saw Titus Andronicus performed at the Globe, complete with Lavinia dripping cups of blood from her mouth as it stained down her white dress, I saw a type of Shakespeare that was completely different from that which I had learned in school. Titus was entertaining. It was loud and in your face and the crowd wildly cheered or gasped in horror together, we were so enraptured by this 'drama' that was more of a Shakespearean slasher. True, in Shakespeare's days, they might not have used as much fake blood, (though I'm not really sure of that) but watching that play in the Globe as it might have been performed in the 1500s showed me a different side to Shakespeare. His plays have really changed from what they once were, entertaining shows that even peasants could watch for a penny, to required curriculum in schools. Don't like Shakespeare? Read the spark notes, right? But Shakespeare wasn't originally meant to be read in a classroom so students could suffer through understanding the difficult language, it was meant to be seen and enjoyed. This isn't to say Shakespeare didn't possess that deeper meaning (though I wouldn't cite Titus as the best example for deep interpretation) but how we read Shakespeare, how he is important, and why he is valued has changed. I think that's why I liked Smith's 'contingency of value' idea so much. It ensured that literature was never static.


Genre Fiction

I thought I'd take a second to talk about genre fiction, since it didn't spark a lot of discussion during the class exercise. I'm going to use genre fiction here as a blanket term to describe anything that doesn't fit into the category of "literary fiction," i.e. most fantasy, science fiction, horror, comedy, young adult, etcetera. The tacit assumption, especially among English majors, critics, and scholars, is that these works are not as good as literary works. More, it's assumed they're somehow "easier;" both easier to read and easier to write.
First, I challenge the assumption that being easy and enjoyable to read is somehow worse than complexity and difficulty. A complex work can be rewarding, and I would not say that complexity is bad any more than I would say simplicity is bad. But a good idea, stated elegantly, can be much more rewarding than a complex obfuscation that leaves the reader unsatisfied and in the dark.
Second, I vehemently disagree with the idea that writing a gripping and satisfying story is somehow "easier" than writing a complex and unsatisfying story. Literary people have gotten the idea that a complex work is more difficult to write than a simpler story, but I don't think that's true. Anyone who has stayed up all night to finish a Stephen King story, or read a Harry Potter book in one sitting because the story gripped them by the collar and wouldn't let them go shouldn't be ashamed to call those good books, and shouldn't laugh them off in discussion by saying "ah, it's just junk."
I found it a little unnerving in our class discussion that I was evidently the only one who wanted to bring genre fiction to prison. You're in prison, people. Do you really think you're going to read War and Peace more than once? And the sad thing is, it's an education in English that makes us act this way; we became English majors because we love to read, and then turn our backs on the books we once loved.


My realization when I began to look for closure on the topic of subjectivity.

Due to our latest readings, and especially after our discussions on the cannon and the qualities of what makes a piece of literature good, I feel like interpretations of texts and literature have to be subjective. I know a few people have brought this up on the blog already, but never agreed fully to the idea of subjectivity. They only admitted texts can sometimes be interpreted subjectively. I feel like we’ve been skating around these ideas of subjectivity and objectivity fairly frequently, but never addressed them head on.

To be truly objective one has to be free of any bias or prejudice caused by personal feelings. Objectivism is based on facts rather than thoughts or opinions. In a world where so much emotion, thought, and personal ideas come from the author to create that text, how can a reader simply look at the facts of a text and create an interpretation? What even are the facts of a text? At this point the idea of anyone ever having a truly objective interpretation or opinion on a piece of literature seems truly impossible to me. How do you not let your personal bias, interpretive communities, and personal emotions not affect the way you are reading the text? Before I said that an objective opinion seems close to impossible, but now I really think it is. It is impossible to separate our mind from our personal beliefs and opinions to form a truly unbiased objective opinion.

Is there anyone who believes in objectivity? If so, I would be really interested in what you think.


Long time, no post--reaching back to Leavis

This is reaching back a little bit into the past since I have had this blog writen for some time now but computer troubles / my own hopelessness with infernal machines like computers have bungled up my postings. So, if you will excuse me for going back to Leavis, this is my two cents.

Leavis overreaches. To say there are only four (maybe five if you include Lawrence) “great” English novelists worth reading about is to limit yourself in the extreme. I understand his early point that “It is necessary to insist, then, that there are important distinctions to be made, and that far from all the names in the literary histories really belong to the realm of significant creative achievement” (653). Bad literature has been written; we know it; we have read it but to limit ourselves (and subsequently our canon) to only a minor set of very few authors as Leavis does is an injustice to other authors who might have more merit in our eyes then do Austen or Eliot or James. Leavis was a little too driven by the general dissatisfaction of his era. Reacting to the void modern life had become in the 1920s, he wants to accuse future writers of having no inherent value to offer in their works. They are not “worth reading” in his eyes. And yet, what does he give us other than his opinion that these four authors are the ones that should be written? He seems to have picked the names of Austen, Conrad, James and Eliot out of an arbitrary hat since he does not offer us either generalized criteria but mere subjective opinion: “Disraeli[‘s]….interests as expressed in [his] books…are so mature” (Footnote 1 653). I confess myself very dissatisfied with his argument overall.

Emily Franzen


Reader Responce in Classrooms

I'm responding to Brian's post under subobjectivity. He said that one of the important parts of literature was looking at different interpretations. We should focus on "why each person has a different interpretation, and what are the social causes behind these subjective readings? We could certainly learn much more about our own cultures by 'interpreting' the interpretation." I think this is a valid way of going about reading and discussing literature. Yes, the text loses some of its importance, but if texts are supposed to affect readers, we should be looking at how and why people respond to things differently.
I don't think we deal with reader responce in classes at all. This could be to avoid all of the problems that go along with reader responce, like the ever present problem of whether all interpretations are valid. Is it ok to not really ever tackle this in class rooms or are we losing something by not talking about our gut feelings about the text and how the text affects us now?



Upon research for an aspect of my paper, I became curious as to what other people would say about the properties of a text. For a text to exist, it must have certain/specific properties. What would you deem the properties or characteristics of a text that make it a text? (And I mean this in the simplest form--text, not Text v text) Would it just be the common elements of literature, such as plot, setting, themes, etc? Or is there something else that makes a text a text? The only reason I have not offered my answer is that I am still not quite sure, although I do think that some of the elements of literature play a part in characterizing a piece of writing as a text.



Objectivity. I feel that everything we’ve talked about in class has somehow come to the conclusion that this is impossible. It probably is, on a lot of levels, but isn’t it possible that there is some form of objectivity in an interpretation, albeit small or very broad? Or at least we can allow for varying degrees of subjectivity.

For example, let’s take Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s a story about a rich and crotchety old man named Scrooge who has an assistant named Bob Cratchit. Scrooge seems to be a very black-hearted man who hates Christmas while Bob loves the holiday and is a very optimistic man even though he has almost no money and a sick child. That night, the ghost of Marley, Scrooge’s late partner visits the old man and warns him to change his ways. Scrooge is visited by three ghosts that night, those of Christmas Past, Present and Future. After these spirits visit Scrooge, he realizes that he must and will change his stingy ways and becomes very generous and everyone is happy. The end.

Was that an interpretation? If so, could it be construed as an objective one? If it’s not an interpretation, why isn’t it? These are the things I've been wondering each time we discuss subjectivity and objectivity... what do you think?