July 14, 2004

A Swing and A Miss

The beauty of studying English Lit. is the wealth of interpretations that individual readers bring to the work. Argument, analysis and exegesis help us to refine these interpretations and add levels of enjoyment and intellectual stimulation to our reading experience. That, to me, is really what the discipline is all about, and it explains the appearance of modern Lit. Theory and its various schools.

But as with anything good and interesting, excess tends to creep in, and when the folks in charge aren't vigilant, well, the whole thing just gets silly.

Here's an example of the silly, which only adds fuel to the "anything goes nowadays in English, so why even bother with the discipline" argument. Thrill to the diametrically opposed analyses of the work that both somehow miss the point! Gasp at the underlying, "it's all about FRANCE!" attitude in criticisms of a british work of fiction! Have a beer with Irony while re-reading Prisoner of Azkaban! And then continue with your life, secure in the knowledge that no matter what your flaws, you've never been publicly connected to a treatise arguing that a series of fantasy novels are preaching anti-globalization.

Actually, I think we should start a new school of Lit Theory, called the reader's reader response, in which we read literary criticisms with an eye toward a greater understanding of the motives and biases of the critique's writer, not the work of literature being analyzed. At least it would be interesting, and about as accurate as what folks are doing nowadays in "real" literary theory.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at July 14, 2004 09:59 AM