Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Meaning of Literary Studies

So its pretty much the end of the semester, and i must say i have really enjoyed Dr. Sexsons literary criticsim class. i learned alot of important terms, concepts, and theories concerning English literature. Although at times some of the material was a little confusing and complex, it really helped me to understand literary issues from my other English classes. I think the aspect of this class i enjoyed the most is the way the class successfully fused discussions about
everything ranging from literary criticism and theory to history, culture, and politics. After taking this class i have gained some insight into what it is like to sit around in coffee houses smoking a pipe, wearing a sweater, and engaging in complex and intellectual discussions about abstract issues pertaining to a scholastic atmosphere...
Wow, i better shut up before i get carried away. Thanks for a great experience!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Poetry in Motion

By this point in the semester it is no secret that great literature and poetry have the power to inspire. We are affected by poetry every day, and one of the most common forms of poetry is music. The way i see it is that music is like a strong drug because it can turn someone into a savage beast ( football players plugged into headphones before the game ) or a fearless warrior ( a snowboarder riding the halfpipe ). it can make you cry ( not me, but ive seen it happen) and it can put you to sleep. Because poetry has come up in discussions throughout the semester i thought it would be appropriate to share some powerful lyrics from one of my favorite songs. this is "release" by pearl jam:

I see the world
feel the truth
which way to go
I see the words
on a rocking horse of time
I see the birds in the rain
oh dear dad
can you see me now
I am myself
like you somehow
I'll ride the wave
where it takes me
I'll hold the pain
release me
oh dear dad
can you see me now
I am myself
like you somehow
I'll wait up in the dark
for you to speak to me
I'll open up
release me

Friday, December 03, 2004

Shout Outs:

i just want to say that i have been really impressed by all the presentations this semester. from the Critics to the groups to the individual papers i have learned so much that i would have missed just reading out of the Anthology. Not only did people do an excellent job of teaching the class something important, there were also some very creative and entertaining approaches too. Great job to everyone!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Influence of "Big Ern"

this semester i read Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." i had already read some of his short stories but this was the first of his longer works that i read. in short this book is brilliant. it is one of those books that engages you while you read it to the point of not being able to focus on anything else. i finished this book ahead of the reading schedule, not because i am a diligent student, but because i could not stop reading it.
The basic plot of "The Sun Also Rises" is about WWI journalist / ex patriots "working" in Europe as correspondants for American publications. I say working with a good deal of irony because (the way Hemingway describes it) the characters seem to spend their days lounging in the sun, chasing beautiful spanish women, and drinking heavily. It seems like their goal in life is to be as comfortable as possible, and little else. They accomplish this by traveling around France and Spain on permanent vacation pursuing casual hobbies such as going to bullfights and fly fishing. Oh, wait, did i mention they like to drink, too?
i cannot say what is my one favorite aspect of this book because i have so many. Each of the characters are profoundly complex from a social and emotional perspective throughout the entire novel. the main characters all have uniquely distinct personal qualities, but they also have serious vulnerablilities the other characters do not necessarily recognize. Finally, they live such a fantastically comfortable lifestyle that at some moments they seem to go in and out of a dream-like stream of consciousness narrative. The most fascinating part about this is that Hemingway fuses his own literary genius into the fragile minds of his characters, marked by emotional stability and impaired by da BOOZE.
i guess i enjoyed "The Sun Also Rises" because i got wrapped up in the lifestyle of the characters. After we discussed this book in class i went out fishing that afternoon with another classmate and a bottle of merlot. Some part of me felt like i was obligated to do this as an english major living in montana. Being in a literary criticism class with a brilliant instructor i was compelled to find some meaning out of the text i had read. After catching a few small fish and a good buzz standing there in the creek i caught something bigger. For a moment i saw into the mind of Ernest Hemingway and experienced something like Jake and Bill did on that river in Spain.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Studying for the Quiz

from the handful of poems i have been assigned to memorize throughout my academic career ive learned a good way to memorize something is to write it out. So with that said, heres Wallace Stevens comin at you:

The Idea of Order at Key West
She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman of the veritable ocean.
The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard.
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.
For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.
If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.
Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.
Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Island in the Sun

so to give a more detailed answer to a very important question:

if you were stuck on a desert island, what books would you bring ?
so i already mentioned that i would bring the bible, because it would be inspirational to anyone in a troubled situation, such as being stuck on an island. But also the Bible is a fantastic collection of individual stories that are fascinating enough on their own. The Bible consists of creation stories that border the genre of magic realism. it also has complex geneologies about various tribes of ancient people in the middle east, but these have generally been interpreted to be a crude history of the human race. interesting stuff, huh? Thats even before you get to the Gospels, which many organized religions claim tell the story of a higher being ( GOD ) and his experiences on planet Earth. Finally, the book of Revalation talks about some downright scary shit that will happen if people dont live a moral life. Fascinating stuff, just make sure youre sober when you read it or you will be afraid to look toward the sky for a week.
Another book i would probably bring with me would be Crime and Punishment by dostoyevsky. First, this long ass book would take me forever to read, so i would have plenty to keep me busy on my own private island. But lets go deeper than that. this book tells the story of a young college student who questions the validity of state imposed law and struggles with his conscience when he breaks the law. Raskolnikov suffers horrific guilt for his crime to the point of a nervous break down. his health and sanity only return when he comes to grips with his guilt and faces the consequences for what he did. Crime and Punishment is a great story about human suffering, and it reminds the audience that things are never quite as bad as they seem.
i first read this book for my ENGL 123 class back in the day. to make a long story short, i got off to a bad start with the professor that turned into a nasty habit of skipping class. So of course i procrastinated reading this ( what is it, some 500 pages long?) book until two days before the test. There i was at 2 AM sweating bullets because im convinced that im failing the class and doing well on the test is a matter of life and death ( dont worry, i got a B for the class). So all of a sudden i had this epiphany. here i am, a humble college student developing a pretty impressive ulcer, trying to do whatever it takes to correct some bad decisions by getting this book read.
But you ask " What was the book about?" why, it is about a college student going crazy because he screwed up big time and he knows it. he fears what will happen because of what he did, but he knows whatever result is unavoidable. WOW. Right there, without even realizing it, i made a deep personal connection to the character in this book. Literature is some potent stuff.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

About the Canon

The canon is a very important aspect of literary criticism. Some feel that a literary scholar must be familiar with the canon in order to establish authority and cridibility. Others feel that the canon only exists because of stuffy old scholars that claim a text is important simply because someone higher than them on the academic food chain says it is. Does that make sense?

Before i get started, a quick reference to the Harmon and Holman's definition of the canon:

  • a standard of judgement; a criteria. The term is applied to the authorized or accepted list of books belonging in the Christian Bible by virtue of having been declared to be divinely inspired
  • the accepted list of books by any author
  • the formation of the canon has been interpreted as the work of one part of society to make its own labors central and to reduce the work of others to marginal or trivial outside the canon

Some books are a part of the literary canon simply because they are generally consicered sublime pieces of writing. Other books are included in the canon because of the contribution it made to society. For an example of this one need look no further that Charles Darwins Origin of Species. But there are still other books whose presence on the canon remains largely unexplained. A recent discussion from Dr. Linda Karell's class on autobiography concerning the formation of the canon attempts to resolve this question.

Who is responsible for the formation of the canon? it seems that these people work in reading and writing programs at Universities. They inadvertantly suggest what books are important through the texts they select for their classes. This makes sense, because i probably would not be near as familiar with the literary canon were i not an ENGLISH LITERATURE major. Another interesting thing to note is that the post civil rights era in the United States has allowed ethnic minorities to achieve status and recognition in scholastic fields. As this multicultural trend spreads across the country, students and teachers alike are exposed to literature from a very broad cultural spectrum of writers.

now this is not to say that the old white dudes in short pants and powderded wigs were over rated in their literary skills. One of the most intriguing and inspirational things i have ever read was Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. But as one student from Dr. Karell's class pointed out, of the ten different autobiographies we read this semester, only two were written by caucasian writers.

What Do You Think About This?

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Censorship: A Slippery Slope

The other week in class we had a discussion on the issue of censorship. obviously this is a highly controversial subject because the value of artistic integrity can (and often does) conflict with a societies standards. Does this make sense? At what cost does a culture sacrifice artistic value in order to protect their moral code?

i have mixed feelings about the issue of censorship. of course there is material in mainstream media today that is inappropriate for children. The most obvious place to look for this kind of contraversial is in music and on TV. is a rapper making music about drug use and gang wars on the streets singing to elementry school children in suburban communities? probably not. But do these very same children have a right to hear what musical artists have to say? Definately this is a debate - able answer. Personally, i think kids should be able to listen to whatever music they want, but when they take the message the wrong way somebody needs to step in and do something to correct these delusioned interpretations of art.

Censorship is present in America every day. Radio stations censor music with contraversial or profane lyrics. News editors censor the material they publish in order to protect the image of their publisher. Television stations employ people to sit at a buzzer waiting to BLEEP out anything thats inappropriate.

But Think About This:

  • do you support the censorship of public displays of sexuality? (Janet Jackson going topless during the Super Bowl Halftime show)

  • if you do, how do you feel about the Bush Administration censoring thirty-some-pages( yep, 30) from the United Nations report on WMD's in Iraq before it was released to the public?
Who knows? maybe someone working for the government will censor this journal entry...

Monday, October 18, 2004

Works by Tsvetan Todorov

Tsvetan Todorov has published multiple books ranging in subject from literary criticism and theory to analysis of Nazi concentration camps and the genocide of the Mayan Indians. Here is a list of some of his works:


  • Littérature et signification (Paris: Larousse, 1967; revised, 1968).
  • Grammaire du Décaméron, Approaches to Semiotics, no. 3 (The Hague: Mouton, 1969).
  • Introduction à la littérature fantastique (Paris: Seuil, 1970); translated by Richard Howard as The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (Cleveland & London: Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973).
  • Poétique de la prose (Paris: Seuil, 1971); translation by Howard as The Poetics of Prose, foreword by Jonathan Culler (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977; Oxford: Blackwell, 1977).
  • Dictionnaire encyclopédique des sciences du langage, by Todorov and Oswald Ducrot (Paris: Seuil, 1972); translated by Catherine Porter as Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Sciences of Language (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979; Oxford: Blackwell, 1981).
  • Poétique (Paris: Seuil, 1973); translated by Howard as Introduction to Poetics, introduction by Peter Brooks, Theory and History of Literature, volume 1 (Brighton, U.K.: Harvester Press, 1981; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981).
  • Théories du symbole (Paris: Seuil, 1977); translated by Porter as Theories of the Symbol (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982; Oxford: Blackwell, 1982).
    Symbolisme et interprétation (Paris: Seuil, 1978); translated by Porter as Symbolism and Interpretation (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982; London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983).
  • Les Genres du discours (Paris: Seuil, 1978); translated by Porter as Genres in Discourse (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
  • Sémantiques de la poésie (Paris: Seuil, 1979).
  • Mikhail Bakhtine: Le principe dialogique (Paris: Seuil, 1981); translated by Wlad Godzich as Mikhail Bakhtin: The Dialogical Principal, Theory and History of Literature, volume 13 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984; Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984).
  • La Conquête de l'Amérique: La question de l'autre (Paris: Seuil, 1982); translated by Howard as The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other (New York: Harper & Row, 1984).
  • The Semiotic Conquest of America, translated by Nancy Huston, The Andrew W. Mellon Lectures (New Orleans: Graduate School of Tulane University, 1982).
  • Critique de la critique: Un roman d'apprentissage, Collection Poétique, no. 38 (Paris: Seuil, 1984); translated by Porter as Literature and Its Theorists: A Personal View of Twentueth-Century Criticism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987; London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1988).
  • Frêle bonheur: Essai sur Rousseau (Paris: Hachette, 1985); translated by John T. Scott and Robert D. Zaretsky as Frail Happiness: An Essay on Rousseau (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001).
  • The Deflection of the Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford Humanities Center, 1989).
    Nous et les autres: La réflexion française sur la diversité humaine (Paris: Seuil, 1989); translated by Porter as On Human Diversity: Nationalism, Racism, and Exoticism in French Thought (Cambridge, Mass. & London: Harvard University Press, 1993).
  • Face à l'extrême (Paris: Seuil, 1991); translated by Arthur Denner and Abigail Pollak as Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps (New York: Holt, 1996; London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999).
  • Les Morales de l'histoire (Paris: Grasset, 1991); translated by Alyson Waters as The Morals of History (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995).
  • Eloge du quotidien: Essai sur la peinture hollandaise du XVIIe siècle (Paris: Biro, 1993).
    Une tragédie française: Eté 1944, scènes de guerre civile (Paris: Seuil, 1994); translated by Mary Byrd Kelly as A French Tragedy: Scenes of Civil War, Summer 1944, edited and annotated by Richard J. Golsan (Hanover, N.H. & London: University Press of New England: 1996).
  • Les Abus de la mémoire (Paris: Arléa, 1995); translated by Mei Lin Chang as "The Abuses of Memory," Common Knowledge, 5 (Spring 1996): 6-26.
  • La Vie commune: Essai d'une anthropologie générale (Paris: Seuil, 1995); translated by Katherine Golsan and Lucy Golsan as Life in Common: An Essay in General Anthropology, with a new afterword by Todorov (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001).
  • Guerre et paix sous l'Occupation: Témoignages recueillis au centre de la France, by Todorov and Annick Jacquet (Paris: Arléa, 1996).
  • L'homme dépaysé (Paris: Seuil, 1996).
  • Benjamin Constant: La passion démocratique (Paris: Hachette, 1997); translated by Alice Seberry as A Passion for Democracy: Benjamin Constant (New York: Algora, 1999).
  • Le Jardin imparfait: La pensée humaniste en France (Paris: Grasset, 1998).
  • Eloge de l'individu: Essai sur la peinture flamande de la Renaissance (Paris: Biro, 2000).
  • Mémoire du mal, tentation du bien: Enquête sur le siècle (Paris: Laffont, 2000).


  • Poétique de la prose: choix; suivi de, Nouvelles recherches sur le récit, Points: Littérature, no. 120 (Paris: Seuil, 1980)--comprises selections from Poétique de la prose and Les Genres du discours;
  • La Notion de littérature: Et autres essais Points: Littérature, no. 188 (Paris: Seuil, 1987)--comprises selections from Les Genres du discours and Poétique de la prose;

Editions in English

  • The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, translated by Howard, foreword by Robert Scholes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1975).
  • The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other, translated by Howard, foreword by Anthony Padgen (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999).


  • Theorie de la littérature: Textes des formalistes russes, edited and translated, with an introduction, by Todorov, preface by Roman Jakobson (Paris: Seuil, 1965).
  • Henry James, Nouvelles = Tales, translated by Louise Servicen, introduction by Todorov, Collection Bilingue Aubier-Flammarion, no. 30 (Paris: Aubier-Flammarion, 1969).
  • Recherches sémantiques, edited by Todorov (Paris: Didier/ Larousse, 1969).
  • James, Histoires de fantômes = Ghostly Tales, translated by Servicen, introduction by Todorov, Collection Bilingue Aubier-Flammarion, no. 36 (Paris: Aubier-Flammarion, 1970).
  • Vladimir Propp and Eleazar Moiseevic Meletinski, Morphologie du conte: Suivi de Les transformations des contes merveilleux, Vladimir Propp; Et de E. Mélétinski, L'etude structurale et typologique du conte, translated by Todorov, Marguerite Derrida, and Claude Kahn, Points: Sciences humaines, no. 12 (Paris: Seuil, 1970).
  • L'Enseignement de la littérature, Centre culturel de Cerisy-la-Salle, 22 au 29 juillett 1969, edited by Todorov and Serge Doubrovsky (Paris: Plon, 1971).
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Zapiski iz podpol'â = Notes d'un souterrain, translated by Lily Denis, introduction by Todorov, Collection Bilingue Russe, no. 1 (Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1972).
  • Jakobson, Questions de poétique, edited by Todorov and others (Paris: Seuil, 1973; revised, 1973).
  • Recherche de Proust, edited by Todorov and Gérard Genette, Collection Points: Littérature, no. 113 (Paris: Seuil, 1980).
  • French Literary Theory Today: A Reader, edited by Todorov, translated by R. Carter (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press / Paris: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de L'Homme, 1982)--includes "French Poetics Today" and "A Complication of Text: The Illuminations," by Todorov.
  • Roland Barthes and others, Littérature et réalité, edited by Todorov and Genette, Points: Littérature, no. 142 (Paris: Seuil, 1982).
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Écrits sur l'art, edited and translated by Jean-Marie Schaeffer, introduction by Todorov, L'Esprit et les formes, no. 7 (Paris: Klincksieck, 1983).
  • Récits aztèques de la Conquête, edited by Todorov and George Baudot, translated by Baudot and Pierre Cordoba (Paris: Seuil, 1983).
  • Northrop Frye, Le Grand code, translated by Catherine Malamoud, introduction by Todorov, Collection Poétique, no. 37 (Paris: Seuil, 1984).
  • Pensée de Rousseau, edited by Todorov and Genette, Collection Points: Littérature, no. 168 (Paris: Seuil, 1984).
  • Jakobson, Russie folie poésie, edited, with an introduction, by Todorov, translated by Nancy Huston, Marc B. de Launay, and André Markowicz, Collection Poétique (Paris: Seuil, 1986).
  • Edgar Allan Poe, Nouvelles histoires extraordinaires, translated by Charles Baudelaire, preface by Todorov, Folio, no. 564 (Paris: Gallimard, 1988).
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, De la colonie en Algérie, introduction by Todorov, Historiques Politiques, no. 52 (Brussels: Editions Complexe, 1988).
  • Au nom du peuple: Témoignages sur les camps communistes, edited by Todorov, translated by Marie Vrinat (La Tour-d'Aigues: Editions de l'Aube, 1992); translated by Robert Zaretsky as Voices from the Gulag: Life and Death in Communist Bulgaria (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999).
  • Blaga Dimitrova, La mer interdite: Et autres poèmes, translated by Vera Marinova and Armand Monjo, preface by Bernard Noël, and introduction by Todorov (Paris: Editions Est-Ouest Internationales, 1994).
  • Mélanges sur l'ouvre de Paul Bénichou, edited by Todorov and Marc Fumaroli (Paris: Gallimard, 1995).
  • Benjamin Constant, Principes de politique applicables à tous les gouvernements, edited, with an introduction, by Etienne Hofmann, preface by Todorov, Collection Pluriel, no. 861 (Paris: Hachette, 1997).
  • Edward W. Said, Entre guerre et paix: Retours en Palestine-Israël, translated by Béatrice Vierne, introduction by Todorov (Paris: Arléa, 1997).
  • Said, L'Orientalisme: L'Orient créé par l'occident, translated by Catherine Malamoud and Claude Wauthier, preface by Todorov (Paris: Seuil, 1997).
  • Jean-Michel Chaumont and Hervé Pourtois, eds., Souffrance sociale et attentes de reconnaissance: Autour du travail d'Axel Honneth: Actes du colloque du 4-5 juin 1998, preface by Todorov (Louvain: Université Catholique de Louvain, 1999).
  • Benjamin Constant, De la religion considérée dans sa source, ses formes et ses développements, edited by Todorov and Hofmann (Arles: Actes Sud, 1999).
  • La fragilité du bien: Le sauvetage des Juifs bulgares, edited, with notes, by Todorov, translated by Vrinat and Irène Kristeva (Paris: Michel, 1999); translated by Arthur Denner as The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).
  • François de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes, réflexions, lettres, La Rochefoucauld; précédé de L'homme mis en scène, Tzvetan Todorov, introductory essay by Todorov, Serie Pluriel, no. 956 (Paris: Hachette, 1999).

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Tsvetan Todorov

the alternate personality assigned to me by Dr. Sexson is the structural analyst Tsvetan Todorov. Todorov is a relatively recent critic and is still alive today. his primary critical focus is the composition of the test itself, and he advocates a scientific approach to the analysis of literature.

Some important things to know about Tsvetan Todorov:

  • born in Bulgaria in 1939
  • began career in literary studies at the University of Paris in 1963
  • lectured at educational institutions in the United States such as Yale, Columbia, and the University of California at Berkely

  • NARRATOLOGY: a sophisticated analysis of the relations among a story - concieved in simple terms - and all the other elements involved in the telling of that story.
  • The PLOT of a story is created by a specific arrangement of simple clauses
  • CLAUSES are composed of basic parts of speech - nouns, verbs, and adjectives
  • The audience percieves the deliberate and organized arrangement of clauses as the finished story

here is an example of the scientific approach taken by Tsvetan Todorov to literary criticism ( found on page 2103 in the Norton Anthology):

X violates a law - Y must punish X for violating the law

X wants to avoid being punished

Y violates a law - OR - Y doesnt feel X should be punished

Y does not punish X

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Important Quote

Nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as diverse poets have done, neither with pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet smelling flowers, nor whatsoever else may make the too much loved earth more lovely. Her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.
- Sir Philip Sidney
i thought this was a really interesting quote because it can be interpreted in many different ways. i think that i agree and disagree with this quote because of the role he assigns to poets. the unique and brilliant thing about poets is that they have the ability to capture a moment in writing. it is one thing to just simply describe an event, but a poet can make you feel like you experienced some part of that moment because you read it. Not just read about it, but through the act of reading it you are there present in that moment.
does that make sense at all? i dont know.
The way i see it, poets have a tremendous gift in their ability to capture this moment. it is no small thing to evoke emotions of joy, sadness, or fear from a person sitting in a completely neutral environment reading a text. another quote that supports this (once again embarrased that i dont know who said it) :
Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world
one thing that i question about Sidney's quote is that he seems to suggest that poets are more capable of inspiring through beauty than nature itself. now i might be wrong here, but is Sidney suggesting that poetry is more beautiful than the nature it describes? if he is, im going to have to call bull**** on that one. Compare a poem about mountains with a hike through the mountains. You can write as many pages of rhymes about mountains as you want, but it does not give you the true experience of the mountains. Until the reader of this poem actually goes and stands on top of a mountain by themselves, it is physically impossible for them to appreciate the beauty of the mountains. go outside in Bozeman MT and look in any direction. Better yet, ask anyone how they feel as they catch their breath on top of the Ridge at Bridger Bowl. i know this sounds like an extreme statement, but i dont see how someone could argue otherwise. Consider surfing: i have always wanted to try surfing in an ocean, and i am mesmerized by that human connection with nature whenever i see people surfing on television and magazines. But until i actually go do it myself, i dont think i could fully appreciate how cool it is to ride a wave.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Aristotle's Poetics : BRILLIANT!!!

Aristotle is considered one of the greatest thinkers in human history. Some of his work serves as a base for the field of literary study, and for that matter language and writing in general. Here are some of the key points he makes in his Poetics :

  • The Plot must be whole, complete in itself, and of a certain magnitude
  • Six elements of Tragedy - 3 internal and 3 external
  • internal - Plot, Character, and Theme ( mythos, ethos, dianoia)
  • external - Spectacular Presentment, Lyrical Song, and Diction

Another interesting note about Aristotle is that he was a big fan of the Oedipus tragedy by Sophoclese. i think this is cool because i read Oedipus Rex when i was in high school and i was blown away. First of all, the plot itself is horribly gruesome, with all sorts of bad things like spooky prophesies, betrayal, incest, and violence. Second, because of the plot the characters endure an enormous ammount of pain and suffering, both emotional and physical. When i read this play i could not put it down because i was fascinated by such a mesmerizing story that was so old. i guess great minds think alike!

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Irony about Sublime

So i was thinking about the lit criticism class discussion of what "Sublime" is. Besides being one of those bands that is so good you can play their album start to finish without skipping any songs, it is also a literary term that is old as Christianity. it is ironic that one aspect of Dr. Sexson's criticism class is to study the literary canon, because i would argue that "Sublime" belongs in the canon of great music. i checked out the H&H Handbook to Lit to get definition for sublime in plain english. it basically said the same things that the class discussed from Longinus "Sublime", but one important note is that noble thoughts and feelings are considered gifts of nature, while lofty figures of speech, diction, and word arrangement are produced by art.

Back to more academic discussions, i seem to have an inherently difficult time tryting to understand classical writing. it is one thing to discuss the key concepts in class, but i get lost trying to read it on its own because of the complexity of ancient language. im embarrased to admit that this is a problem for me from Homer and Plato to Sidney and Shakespeare and even modern writers such as Gertrude Stein and T.S. Eliot. Not that these people did not make monumental contributions to literature, its just i have lost a step on them going through todays educational system.

i have found one book i personally feel should be on the canon for college students is:
(drumroll please)
Harmon and Holman
A Handbook to Literature
In taking nothing but english classes for the last three semesters in a row it seems every other class sylabus i read has the statement: "The MSU Department of English requires all students to make a one time purchase of ..." the above mentioned book. this book is a great reference tool for literary terms i should have learned in high school. This book has allowed me to sound like i know what im talking about on papers and exams, and has made up for all those times in high school when i wasnt paying attention.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

What is Sublime?

"A 40 oz. to freedom is the only chance i have /
to feel good even though i feel bad"
- Bradley Nowell
Although that is a great song, i dont think that is the Sublime we have been discussing in Dr. Sexsons literary criticism class. The term "sublime" was invented by the greek philosopher Longinus in the First Century. im not sure how to describe what sublime actully is, but i think it is a term used to describe writing and literature that is above average. however, "above average" does not really do justice to something that is truly sublime. Something sublime is brilliant not only in textual form but also the affect it has on both the audience and the writer. As noted on page 135 in our textbook:
"Sublime is the echo of a noble mind"
Longinus believed that a writer or speaker could not be great throught rhetorical strategy alone, but he or she must display in addition "deep feelings, profound thoughts, and natural genius"(135). His idea of sublime was a text so brilliant and beautiful that it "uplifts the spirit of the reader, filling him or her with unexpected astonishment and pride, arousing noble thoughts, and suggesting more than words can convey"(135).
Wow. All of those big words and fancy adjectives can be a little confusing. To break it down a bit, Longinus believed that sublimity essentially came from five sources (140):
  1. power to concieve great thoughts
  2. strong and inspired emotion
  3. certain figures of thought and speech
  4. noble diction
  5. dignified and elevated word arrangement

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Questions to be answered:

Have you ever encountered a work of art ( literature, music, artwork) that changed you?

- off the top of my head, there is a somewhat inspirational song by rap artist Nas (pronounced N-aw-z) called "I Can." the chorus to the song goes:

"I know I can be what i want to be,
If i work hard at it I'll be where i want to be"

If you were stuck on a desert island, what one text would you bring and why?

- i would bring the Bible, because it has some great stories and messages about how to live life. plus reading the bible would also give me something to do besides be pissed off at being stuck on a desert island with one book.

What story or film makes you cry?

- i dont easily admit to crying alot, but for some reason whenever i watch the film RUDY i end up sobbing like a little ***** for at least twenty minutes after the end of the movie.

How does Wallace Stevens "The Idea of Order at Key West" reflect on everything important in the study of Lit. Criticism?

Links to other ENGL 300 Journals

here are some links for Dr. Sexson's Critical Theory class. Not sure how many of these links work, but i will keep adjusting or adding to them:

- Opai Basu -
- Nikole L. Didier -
- Zachary Grosfield -
- Jennifer Harris -
- Megan Helgeson -
- Jaimie Hensley -
- Dustin Hinrichs -
- Brian Johnsrud -
- Yoshie Kawano -
- Cindy Kasner -
- J.R. Logan -
- Lisa Macalister -
- Kelly Maddock -
- Nancy Nix -
- Danny Prill -
- Francoise Saurage -
- Ed Shanley -
- Mandy Simonich -
- Sarah Smith -
- Katy Sparks -
- Lindsee Tauck -
- Tristan Vick -
- Becky Ward -
- Nicole Waring -
- Matthew White -
- Kate Whitney -

ENGL 300: Critical Theory w/ Dr. Michael Sexson

this journal / web page has been designed by myself (ben coulter) for Dr. Sexson's ENGL 300: Critical Theory class here at MSU Bozeman. the above mentioned information is completely irrelevant, but a way to introduce this journal none the less.

here are some notes from class so far:

- literary criticism is the study of what we say and think about literature
- there are four essential components to literature (i think this is right, correct me if im off track):
- work / text: the actual words in writing
- creator / artist / articifer: the person who writes the text
- reader / audience / reciever: the link between the creator and his or her message
- world / universe: the cultural context of the text