Friday, December 17, 2004

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

How this class has impacted me

At first the thought of transforming into a literary critic without having read the entire MSU top 100 list and knowing that this semester I would not have time, as I am taking 22 credits in an effort to finish college before I run out of money, I felt a little inadequate. This course has changed the way I value literature as it has equipped me with the knowledge of critical approaches to literature. There is no true right or wrong way to create or criticise literature, just as there is no one true correct way to live one's life. Literature is an experience, our ability to criticise it and accept it for what it means to us (the value) is what literary criticism is all about. After having taken this course, I feel better equipped to judge a piece of writing for what it means to me, what it refers to outside the text, the relationship to the author, and many other valid means of value. Each work is different and cannot always be directly compared, each piece of writing holds its own unique value. Each established approach to criticism is equally as valuable as the ones that will emerge in the future as they all play a relavent role in the philosophy of valuing literature.

Relavent Quote of the Semester

"The best way to disregard someone is to not speak of them"

-This quote has special meaning relating to literary criticism as the writer's who are disregarded are obviously not spoken about, because they do not affect us in the large scheme of things. I guess that is why so many writers find themselves pretty poor until they are recognized for writing something profound or at least something people care about.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


What censorship means to me... I do not believe in censorship. If our lives were censored we would not have the ability to experience the things that excite us, horrify us, disgust us, or inspire us. The definition I will use for censorship will be as follows: The practice of suppressing material that is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable. I live in a wonderful country that my forefathers fought for in order that I would have my freedom of speech and the freedom to have the views I believe in. I believe everyone should be entitled to their opinion and also have access to voluntarily seek out the opinions of others also (the artwork, literature, religion, philosophy, websites, etc.) However, I do not believe in force feeding people information that they find objectionable. That can violate the rights of others, (forcing views on someone) like indoctorination. Some reading material, if it is required, can most definately violate the beliefs of others, whether moral, physical, or ethical.

There is a time and place for all literature whether it is offensive or not. This does not mean that the literature or material should be banned or censored; a response to it can be passionate and yet also destructive or also the most amazing thing ever. It needs to be in context and have a purpose. Ex) Playboy is a visual and textual expression form, I do not personally find it useful, however it is someone's expression from and it should not be banned...nor should people have to read it in a college classroom unless there is a specific, logical, ethical purpose for using that material as a text, (students should also be forewarned of the material they will be required to read so they can make a voluntary choice to read it). Freedom involves choice. Whether you are pro-choice or not, true freedom involves choice. Most of the most amazing literary works ever created have been banned for one reason or another. Many books on the MSU top 100 list have been banned at one time, and yet they offer such a plethora of knowledge and insightful material that the reader can find valuable.

Literary Criticism and the Well Lived Life

L. M. B.
English 300
Dr. Sexson
December 7, 2004

“Literary Criticism and the Well Lived Life”:
The Impacting Approaches to Literary Experience

A well lived life is a well informed life. Our lives are the slates in which we mark our experiences and accomplishments on. Every text we read is an experience that enriches our lives in one mode or another. Just as spiritual religious experiences, visual experiences, painful, and joyful experiences leave their marks on our lives, so too do the experiences with literature contribute to our experiences in the highest level of incorporation with every theme of experience imaginable in our lives. The catch is that literature first must be read, secondly one must know how to interpret the literature, and lastly, it is important to contribute to the creation of literature even if it dwells on the literature of writers and critics past.
Literary criticism contributes to the “Well Lived Life” as it helps the readers, of whom all are critics; understand the multiple layers of a document. Just as there is no single “correct” way to live one’s life, there is no single identified “correct” way to interpret literature. In the borrowed words of Walt Whitman, I must state that literature is “vast…containing multitudes… [with] room to contradict itself” with the help of critical interpretation. Critical interpretation allows the text to be read for a variety of purposes as it offers the reader such a broad spectrum of interpretations.
Literature enriches the human experience as it provides a link to our past, our imagination, a plethora of writing styles and purposes for writing. The criticism of literature helps individuals make a richer meaning of a plain text. Literary devices provide the critic with a chopping block as a starting point where the critic can take any aspect of that literature and create personal or universal meaning from a given text. The knowledge of the devices and origins of literary criticism modes, the reader is able to pick and choose which standards by which they will judge the text.
William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies is an example of a text that I have found profound layers of meaning in while taking this class. I have been able to appreciate the text in every dimension of criticism. The background information of and author’s relationship to the text plays a large role in how the text is intended to be accepted. Golding wrote Lord of the Flies after experiencing the horrors of World War II as his philosophy supported the idea that human nature is plagued by an innate evil that shows its ugly face in opportune situations that otherwise stays dormant. The text can also be examined from a feminist point of view as not a single character in the book is female, reader response, deconstruction, etc. I was compelled to read Lord of the Flies as I will be teaching this book to my ninth grade high school English class this spring as I student teach. What I learned from taking English 300 was the importance of the reader to be aware of all the approaches of literary criticism and selectively incorporate them as they apply to a text. The purpose for which one reads literary material affects what critical approaches the reader is going to employ while assigning value to the text.
Just as group number three from Dr. Sexson’s Literary Criticism class demonstrated the need for the incorporation of multiple critical theories to accurately assess the value a piece of writing, the inhabitant of the well lived life needs to be equipped with the knowledge of the multifaceted dimensions of literary criticism in order to find what they value in a given piece of literature and for what reasons. Why do people read? Why do people write? Why do those who read then write about what they have read? The answer that applies to me is that the questions can all be answered with one word, fulfillment. I read for fulfillment whether it is to be stimulated in an aesthetic form of beautifully written poetry, a tragic documentary of historical events, a parody intended to make me laugh, or information that will likely change my life and philosophy about the written word and how to critically judge how writing should be interpreted and for what value. If one is going to live a “well lived life” they undoubtedly should find fulfillment; literary criticism equips those looking for fulfillment with the means to analyze a text to find meaning with the various approaches to criticism.
The knowledge one acquires from fulfillment whether it is literary, physical, or physiological or psychological is a treasure only fully recognized once it is shared. It is important for those inspired by a well lived life full of experiences and theories about literature to share their approach and possibly develop new approaches that both novice and experienced critics can be enlightened by the ever emerging breeds of critics.

Paper Presentation (Truth) or bull

First of all, I want to comment on the presentation that started the class off. I want to identify that speaker as a hypocrite. What is truth? Do we consider truth to be the paraphrased and copied views found on established pro life organization web sites to be truth? Or should we consider truth to be the information we obtain by living experience, live interviews (not copied media found on websites and written in books) with actual physicians, patients, and support staff that are educated in treating emotional and physical problems of people who have experienced the causes and effects of abortion. Will we accept personal fanaticism of an individual whose only evidence comes from written material (not actual living experience)? I encoourage you all to find your own truths through experience. I doubt zak has ever visited an abortion clinic (unless he was demonstrating on a picket and hurling insults at the inhabitants) or had a live interview with an abortion doctor or someone who ever had an abortion about ethics. I guess we all have to choose our battles. This battle, like the battle over the death penalty, and the war in Iraq is not going to accomplish anything other than drain for those who are looking for an outlet to spout off and push their views on others. In the big scheme of things, the only reason why I viewed zak's journal is because Dr. Sexson seems to glorify him and place multiple questions about him on college examinations, which affect my grade, it is sick that we are required to visit that disgusting site in order to obtain answers for an Exam in a class labeled Literary Criticism. What is even worse is that it is presumed by the instructor to be an exemplar site, (the ideas or the discourse) either way, I found the site distracting of any Literary Criticism information that I could learn from (even though I am sure it existed) because I was so horrified by the graphics and the twisted propaganda and political views listed there.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Irritated By the Propaganda

Cindy,I must say that I could not agree more with your comment on Zak's journal. I was outraged to see what he listed on his journal for a literary criticism class. I am even more disturbed how Dr. Sexson seems to glorify Zak's views. I think he chose to write on abortion because that topic is a crutch, first of all and second of all this class that requires the reading of classmate's e-journals has been the perfect tool to spread political and fanatical propaganda. You will always get a response to the abortion issue because it is such a controversial topic. We have already established that Zak is ignorant when it comes to the female body, female choices for her body, and he should focus his efforts in a cause outside of a college course on literary criticism. I wonder if he has ever interviewed a woman who had an abortion, not read a syndicated speech supported by the pro-life movement, but actually took the time to have a personal interview with someone who was faced with taking that extreme measure. He gave the web address to me that he found the baby picture on. It is supported by a fanatical group. Maybe he should join the campaign outside of this class since he seems to be spreading it inside of a university setting. Most of the pictures from that fanatic pro life group are not even taken in the United States. I would guess that the people behind this organization are the ones who assassinate doctors and women outside of abortion clinics (yes arrogant ones who believe it is their right to "cast the first stone") the one's without sin (arrogant) narcissist that believe they have the right to judge the decisions of others. The age of the child on the website was far too old to even be legally aborted. He should research rape, drugs, robberies, real crimes that happen...His late term abortion argument is pointless and redundant as they are not even legal anyway.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Add the Awakening to the Canon

Sorry Harold Bloom! I know that you think that great writing must be aesthetic in diction, symbolism, have a moral pretexts, and...the following...
"Since the literary canon is at issue here, I include only those religious, philosophical, historical, and scientific writings that are themselves of great aesthetic interest. I would think that, of all the books that are in this first list, once the reader is conversant with the Bible, Homer, Plato, the Athenian dramatists, and Virgil, the crucial work is the Koran.... "I have included some Sanskrit works, scriptures and fundamental literary texts, because of their influence on the Western canon. The immense wealth of ancient Chinese literature is mostly a sphere apart from Western literary tradition and is rarely conveyed adequately in the translations available to us." (p. 531) Western Canon - great essay for defense of Harold Bloom's canon

but I think The Awakening, by Kate Chopin is a novel that should be read. It is beautifully written, deals with important issues of oppression, and is a true quest for ones self. Unfortunately it does not meet Harold Blooms criteria for the Canon. According to Harold Bloom in his critical essay An Elegy for the Canon, a novel must embody certain characteristics in order for it to be canonical. There are many characteristics that define a canonical piece of work, and the three standards listed deal first with Aesthetic quality, such as diction, and symbolism. This text should be added to the Lit Crit. canon because there are not enough texts like it that portray this very real experience of life dealing with social order. I recently read it for the first time and I learned more about life in this novel than most novels on the canon. If I could suggest one book that remains on the canon be removed, it would be The Art of Memory. I chose to remove that text because while reading it, it did nothing for me in the way that most of the other books on the MSU top 100 books did. Don't get me wrong, it is a good book, (ok but not great) and it sticks out and is kind of dry. I would not agree that it is beautifully written, in fact, I think it is written like a text book. It is a good book, but not inspiring enough for me to be part of a canon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thanksgiving Discourse Reflections

After doing my group presentation, I was thinking about the setting...A dinner table. The majority of discourse between family members happens around a dinner table. Whether the parties are happily reminiscing about their day, arguing, discussing mundane matters while making small "talk" or nonverbally communicating in awkward silence.

This thought inspired me to recall my most recent Thanksgiving experience. Thanksgiving is usually a time when families....extended or not...all get together to visit, stuff themselves, and boast or ponder about what they are most thankful for. The most recent Thanksgiving was actually most definitely different for me this year. Actually it was shocking. I was recently married and now of course the in-laws all find the need to fight over whose family the blissful couple will spend the holidays with. First of all I am in kind of a different situation, I live alone while at school and visit my husband about once a month as his job is not in Bozeman. (details that help you understand the story situation). I was determined to have turkey day at my home so....we spent the actual Thanksgiving Day at my in laws...I observed the family, noticing how odd it seemed to only have one person speaking at a time at the table and mainly noticing the differences between my family traditions and their lack of traditions and relaxed lack of structure related to Thanksgiving feasting. It was wine, meal, then football game. The next day my family was supposed to arrive by train, however a derailment ruined the plans. I was determined to see my family so we drove over and recreated the holiday with my family that afternoon filled with excited loud talking (almost blissful chaos) at the table, board games after the meal, tradition of saying what we were thankful for and lots of brandy laced cider. The next day...while at my home (not college) I decided that the turkey I had not yet cooked was still thawed in my refridgerator. I had never cooked a turkey and once I had that thing raw and naked oozing juices in my kitchen sink...I felt a slight panic coming on. It was a fear of trying something new. It was to do something I had often heard about and never actually done. (Much like being a literary critic, it takes some getting used to... water testing...getting legs for it)

I called my mom, she was not home. I called my friend Cindy, she was not home either. This was an adventure, I realized then and there that I was going to have to do all by myself and I was intimidated. I rolled up my sleeves, took off my rings, (not my watch...But I should have) and then thrust my hand in the bird and searched for what the turkey wrapper called giblets and a neck...the crevice was cold and fact the neck had ice crystals on it, creeped out...I hastily extracted the foul fowl neck and accidentally caught my watch on the damn spring-loaded metal thing that holds the legs of the bird together. It shot out and hit the kitchen floor. After failing an attempt to relodge the thing in its proper place, I decided it was not important as the instructions said it was. I could not find the giblets and decided that this turkey must not have any. (leaving Important pieces out as it would apply to Lit Criticism)

Seeing that it would take more time to cook the turkey with stuffing, I decided to cook the bird hollow and then last minute stuff it, Jeff would not be home until the turkey was already stuffed and on the table....So I thought. I turned up the temperature on the oven an extra 10 degrees in order to get rid of those unexpected ice crystals I found and decided that I had done something heroic that afternoon, conquering my first turkey cooking experience and it was not as hard as I had anticipated. So while it cooked for the next planned 3 1/2 hours, I rewarded myself with an afternoon of reading, scriptwriting (for my project) and drinking a bottle of "good wine" occasionally taking a break to baste the bird.

Much to my error and dismay...when the timing came to cheat at stuffing the turkey 20 minutes before it was supposed to be done...I noticed that the turkey done button indicator piece I will call it for lack of a better term, had not popped up and the crevice was filled with sickly juices when I stuck the baster in there, it was chunky and deep red, more red than turkey meat or any color one would ever see on a white meat bird, this was sick. My feeling of accomplishment and confidence was turning into panic. So I turned up the heat and told Jeff not to rush home from work...because the turkey was not quite done yet. Finally, an hour later, the button popped up, Jeff was home and knew that I had not stuffed the turkey but we were ready to celebrate our first kind of Thanksgiving by ourselves in our new home excited to use the wedding china with all the bells and whistles.

After Jeff fired up the electric knife and went straight for the wishbone, we found the missing giblets. "Uh...Honey...what is this grey bag that is oozing what looks like purple chunks this some sort of cranberry sauce flavoring packet stuffing or whatever" I wish I could say it was a good flavor. Despite all odds, we sat down for dinner, oh so carefully and gracefully trying to savor the moment of what will probably be the last fricken turkey I ever cook.

Let me just tell you this, the conversation at this dinner table was flowery with an attempt to brush on the side of Whitmanesque but also at the same time there was a reverence, a fine balance for me between saying... Wow, how lovely, our first time using the china, our first holiday all by ourselves, my first turkey cooking experience, is it not just lovely and delicious and on the other hand me wanting to say..NO! Don't eat this sick dinner, it will surely make you puke. I must say, Jeff was the perfect gentleman when he saw that the latter half (not the breast of the turkey was rawish on the bottom (the crevice that had ice particles in it) "Surly if we drink enough wine, I think the alcohol will kill any type of salmonella poisoning....Don't worry it was the best...well juicy turkey..that I've ever had." -after clearing the table, I asked where the turkey I could at least put it in the crock pot and make turkey turns out that the Turkey...pan giblets and all had already made it out to the dumpster in the alley.

This is a true story. Feel free to critique it. Notice that there are probably spelling errors, stylistic problems, made up words, relationship to the author, feminist stereotypes, grotesque images, and several other aspects to consider like how it made you feel (probably happy you were not there), etc. What is your response as a reader and how can this relate to literary criticism....or does it?

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Bible is a Canon

On tha canon,
I believe the item that will never leave the list most definately will be the Bible. I also think that the Bible is so interesting in that in intself it is a canon. Those who make versions of the Bible and decided to insert each book of the that specific order created a canon within the Bible.