The Booker prize grants a literary work a level of authenticity and authority which it might not really earn. It also commodities works of literature that are believed to represent the exotic “other”. Although books that are awarded the Booker Prize end up gaining a larger reader audience, these readers don’t always receive these books in the manner that they are meant to be received.
The prestige of the award causes the audience to presume that the work being awarded, especially when it revolves around ethnic and culture groups that are regarded as the “other”, presents a factual and complete representation of the group the work revolves around. For instance Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” after wining the Booker Prize Award, is referenced to in the Guardian as a “historical tragedy”, which would cause many readers to misguidedly mistake it or group it with guidebooks and travel narratives. When in reality the book was written as a form of anti-imperial writing which reshapes history in order to suit it’s purpose. The award manipulated the way the book was meant to be received, causing people to read it as an exotic novel, instead of an oppositional work.
Although at first I thought that Guillory was against the expansion of the canon , because he stated that works that are not included in a syllabus, are left out not as a method to exclude works that are written by minorities but because they don’t meet the criteria of the course (33). However as I kept reading I realized that he isn’t really taking a particular side, he was simply poking holes in the arguments of both sides. He argues that inclusion into the literary canon is not meant to be focused about the inclusion of works to represent specific culture communities, because he believes that the works shouldn’t and don’t speak for those communities.
He does however recognize that certain groups have been excluded in the past from the literary canon, but the exclusion of these minority groups such as women is based upon the fact that not many women had the tools to become writers, for very few of them were educated. However he also acknowledges that today women writers should be studied.
“The explanation of the work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author ‘confiding’ in us.” (875)
Barthes similarly argues in his essay that basing a piece of writing on the author is to impose a limit on the text itself and almost ends up giving it a definite meaning. This portion of his argument resembles Ransom’s argument that when studying a poem critics are meant to leave out any external forces related to the poem such history, the readers’ responses and the writers’ background. By excluding these forces the critic can focus on the poem itself and the literary techniques and tools, as well as the form of the poem in order to develop an interpretation. Although Barthes like Ransom bases his argument on the fact the interpenetrating and understanding a text should not be based upon the writer, unlike Ransom he believes that it should be based upon the reader, because the reader is the “destination” of the writing. So rather than focusing on the origin of the writing he wants us to focus on the destination, the reader, who doesn’t really have a history that can limit the writing.
Said’s reading of Conrad emphasizes the belief that Conrad’s novel is influenced greatly by imperial context. That although Conrad attempts to identify and point out how far Europeans will go in orders to exert dominance over other territories; he doesn’t seem to believe in an alternative for these territories but western dominance. He states that:” Conrad does not give us the sense that he could imagine a fully realized alternative to imperialism the natives he wrote about in Africa, Asia, or America were incapable of independence, and because he seemed to imagine that European tutelage was a given, he could not foresee what would take place when it came to an end” (25). Said relates his interpretation of Conrad not only to western control in Africa specifically but uses to tackle a much broader discourse. That through colonization the West has progressed and modernized colonized regions and that these regions are better off because of colonization. He uses Conrad’s example and standpoint on colonial control in Africa to represent how other colonized regions are viewed and how certain attitudes towards these regions still persist today in Europe and America.
Adorno argues that although lyric poetry aims to be universal it actually does not quite accomplish that because it tends to focus on the individual. He claims that “The lyric work hopes to attain universality through unrestrained individuation.The danger peculiar to lyric, however, lies on the fact that its principle of individuation never guarantees that something binding and authentic will be produced” (38). Even though several people can read a certain poem and understand it there will always be those who are more privileged in the sense that they may be more acquainted with context of the poem and therefore will have a different interpretation than others. Brooks recognizes that to some degree there truly is not an “ideal reader” when it comes to poetry, even though there maybe an intended or “true”interpretation to a poem(75). He also recognizes that there are multiple layers to a poem. Some of these layers are easier to grasp and identify than other, but they all build upon each other to form an interpretation of a poem. However not everyone who reads a poem will gain the same interpretation or be cable of identifying each of the levels.