Wednesday, January 28, 2009
In the Introduction to Eagleton’s Literary Theory, he tackles the question of literature from the perspectives of predominate theories and movements, such as Formalism. I agree that the definition of literature is subjective and fluid. Eagleton observes that the Formalists recognize “…that “poetry” in this sense depends on where you happen to be standing at the time” (5). “But literature is usually judged to contain much besides poetry – to include, for example, realist or naturalistic writing which is not linguistically self-conscious or self-exhibiting in any striking way” (5,6). The colloquial language of Huck Finn is necessary in creating the context of the story. In this sense, however, it is poetic because its use in this Literature. Which came first, the writing or the meaning?
However, it is useful to apply some sort of boundaries: to weed out the Katy Perrys from the Animal Collectives. He brings up the problem of distinguishing Literary language from functional language.
“Any actual language consists of a highly complex range of discourses, differentiated according to class, region, gender, status and so on, which can by no means be neatly unified into a single homogeneous linguistic community” (4).
In accordance with Clint’s blog about Dr. Seuss, recognition of literature seems to more of a personal experience than anything else. In Eagleton’s words, “…literature may be at least as much a question of what people do to writing as of what writing does to them” (6).
I was talking to a friend about this class, and she thought it seemed quite strange that an English class would spend so much time studying works that, on the surface at least, don’t seem to belong in an English class. I mean, the syllabus has us discussing movies, a television series, and popular music albums. We’ll be analyzing the lyrics of tracks with such erudite titles as “Fuck tha Police” and “8 Ball”. It seems like we’ll definitely be exploring the fringes of what most people consider to be literature, and I think this is an important thing to note as we discuss our society’s movement away from reading.
People may not be reading as many books nowadays, but does that necessarily mean we are producing less literature? Could it just be that ‘literature’ is expanding to include more nontraditional media forms such as movie scripts and rap lyrics? A dictionary.com search of the word literature yields: “writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features…” Sounds like a pretty broad definition to me. I don’t see why song lyrics couldn’t fit into that, certainly many use expression, and song form often borders on poetry. We even use the adjective ‘lyrical’ to describe prose passages. So while it may seem like not as many quality books are being written or read these days, you cannot argue that our generation hasn’t produced some astounding works of art, many of which could be considered literary works. With the development of a global music recording business, independent film, and the explosion of television, the last fifty years have allowed musicians, film directors, and even television writers to use language to communicate their themes and ideas in ways never before possible. Isn’t that literature?
Now, I’m not saying that Katy Perry connects with any “ideas of permanent and universal interest”, but there are certainly many lyrics that do, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t treat an album of that merit any different than a book of poetry. Perhaps in these new forms of literature we can find comfort despite the (arguable) decline of that oldest of literary works, the novel. I, like many of us, never seem to get as much reading done as I’d like to (I’ve been inching my way through infinite jest since October), but I take a little comfort in the fact that maybe listening to the lyrics of the new Animal Collective album or watching The Royal Tenenbaums is at least partially a study of literature.
I'm not a religious person, but in my mind calling the Bible 'literature' sounds like a praise. I would also consider the Koran literature, as well as any other religious text. You don't have to be a believer of a religion to think that religious texts are beautiful pieces of literature. I think literature is any sort of writing that interests people; pretty much any published work at all. A person doesn't have to like the bible or Dr. Seuss but would have to admit that they are writings of interest to others so therefore they are literature to some people. You can think the ideas in The Communist Manifesto are completely horrible and wrong, but would have to admit that it is also literature to those that believe in it and even to some that don't believe in it but believe it is an important, well written document.
It doesn't need a specific definition. It is what it is but can also be considered something different to someone else.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I also feel that in our society, reading has become something that people do in their free time. If it is not required, most people feel that they can use that time to do better things. In addition to that, our world with the internet and all our high speed technology is moving much faster than it did in the past. People are becoming used to having everything made “instant”, and it is hard to fit the act of reading a book, word for word, into our high-speed world.
One of my favorite books is Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. It chronicles his miserable childhood in Ireland. It's entertaining, yes, but it makes some serious commentary on people and society, something generally revered and analyzed in old books in literature classes. Another book I adore is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver which is about a family of missionaries in Africa. The book, at 650 pages, is quite epic. The story is told from the point of view of the women in the family, mostly the daughters and occasionally the mother, switching narrators every few pages. Each daughter has a distinct personality and point of view. Something else about it that just occured to me is the fact that all the narrators are women, something worthy of note and analysis.
That's only two out of many books I've read and thought would probably be studied in English classes one day. My point, I suppose, is do not condemn the entirety of modern literature; just don't necessarily look to what 14 year olds are reading to find the good stuff.
Monday, January 26, 2009
That pretty much describes my writing. As long as a sentence sounds good, flows, and has no mistakes, I move on. Even when I edit my papers I tend to read through and focus on it as a whole, rather than paying attention to the content of specific sentences. Gary Lutz’s passion towards and how meticulously he digests sentences blows my mind.
It seems like a good idea to keep the tactics Lutz described in mind when writing. Hopefully by doing so, I’ll be able to create sentences that “[look] and [sound] fulfilled, permanent.”