All posts by Offred

And the Prize Goes to…

“As Hugh Eakin has suggested, the Booker, despite the development its ‘multicultural consciousness,’ has arguably done less to further the development of non-Western and /or post-colonial literatures than it has to ‘encourage the commerce of an “exotic” commodity catered to the Western literary market'” (414).

As a response to this Sarah Chruchwell’s comments on the process of awarding the Booker prize and states, “If out of those 156 books, publishers only submit a fraction of women, then that is a function of systemic institutional sexism in our culture. The same point goes for racial diversity: either we six people, all of whom work on behalf of literacy and education, are sexist, racist troglodytes, or we live in a racist, sexist world and the publishing culture reflects that.”

There are many things at stake found in both comments. Besides the obvious (the writer’s life and possible outcomes from winning such a prestigious award), the community of those who read (the “public”), and future winners of this prize are all influenced by past choices and decisions made. The decision to include or exclude is an important one both authors make, but Churchwell notes that its a failure of the system and note hers. This seems to be a careless notion as publishers send specific copies that they deem worthy because they resemble past works that have been “critically acclaimed”. The argument goes full circle, and rather than changing the process she would rather claim its not her fault.  Eakin will then have it right because its not a development at all, but rather another similar book sold based on an old framework.

 

Guillory Needs To Decide

I found it difficult to asses Guillory’s personal side as he argues both for and against, claiming discrepancies and overlaps, generalizations and specifics, as well as pros and cons of each side. But I have come to consensus that he doesn’t believe either side is correct as there are fundamental problems with both that must addressed before he can truly pick a winner.

As an example, Guillory states problems in regards to syllabi as they are not about inclusion or exclusion, but about our projection of Western culture . “What is excluded from the syllabus is not excluded in the same way that an individual is excluded or marginalized as the member of a social minority” (33). That being said, he also believes syllabi to be the product of anxiety and a fragmented culture which is why they try so hard to unify different works (34). Which brings a bit of confusion on my part as a syllabus that aims to unify works will then be about inclusion or exclusion of certain works -but perhaps then I am misreading.

 

 

Death of a Writer

“Using all the contrivances that he sets up between himself and what he writes, the writing subject cancels out the signs of his particular individuality. As a result, the mark of the writer is reduced to nothing more than the singularity of his absence; he must assume the role of the dead man in the game of writing” (Richter 905).

While this may be the case for many texts, the replacing/ forgetting of the writer for the speaker, this is not always true. For example, in Heart of Darkness we as a class constantly talked about Joseph Conrad’s role within the text. Although he distanced himself through Marlow’s ability to narrate, the explicit language and ideology behind Marlow’s telling are all based on Conrad’s ability to assess reality. I disagree with the quote from Foucault because rather than viewing Conrad as a dead entity, he is now celebrated. His text is constantly picked up and picked apart. So long as the text lives, he and his particular mark on society will live on.

Imperalism as a Business

“That this group of people is drawn largely from the business world is Conrad’s way of emphasizing the fact that during the 1890s the business of empire, once an adventurous and often individualistic enterprise, had become the empire of business” (Said 23).

He states this fact not as a starting point with examples to prove or uphold his statement, but rather culminates with it and uses support from both Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as well as societal “pressures” to promote imperialism. For example, the quote above is certainly explained by the the paragraph proceeding it, but the real value of it lies within the paragraph that precedes it. The “white-suited clerk” and the “semi-crazed Russian”, etc all offer a lot for Marlow to think about during his journey as interruptions and digressions of the original narrative. These interruptions no longer allow for the solitary plundering of Africa, but bring about this bigger theme of “Europeans performing imperial mastery”. It is interesting and noteworthy how Said begins with an example of the book, the breaks in narrative. to the generalization of who these interruptions are made by, to become an overarching societal statement, to then finally claim that the both the book and society point to an empire of business.

 

The Static Structure

“The perpetually oscillating patterns of sense- and memory-data, their powerfully charged -but aimless and directionless- fields of force, give rise to an epic structure which is static, reflecting a belief in the basically static character of events”  (Lukacs 1218).

What Lukacs seems to be arguing here, is the use of extraneous detail, which is usually found throughout Joyce’s work, as static. Static meaning a lack in movement, action, or change. One can even go so far as to say uninteresting (Google). But I disagree with this statement, as I think these additional details add/ build upon the characters of the story. It doesn’t just put the story on hold, nor does it seem to go on and on. For example Old Cotter’s caricature, “He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms; but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery” (Joyce 3). The bashing of Old Cotter brings to mind what Dubliners is all about. If this extra detail isn’t layered on, such as the “interesting talk of faints and worms”, then what is the point of writing a story that is supposed to  exemplify life in Dublin?

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Edited by Jeri Johnson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Lukacs, Georg. “The Ideology of Modernism” The Critical Tradition. 3rd ed. Richter, H.
David. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2007. 1218. Print.

Adorno and Wilde

“For that reason, however, reflection on the work of art is justified in inquiring, and obligated to inquire concretely into its social content and not content itself with a vague feeling of something universal and inclusive”… “In order to be susceptible of aesthetic contemplation, works of art must always be thought through as well, and once thought has been called into play by the poem it does not let itself be stopped at the poem’s behest,” (Adorno 38).

This “vague feeling of something universal and inclusive” is what interests me in Adorno’s passage. Instead of simply reflecting on the content with the notion that it has social prerequisites, we should take into consideration what it means to be human by “hear[ing ] the voice of humankind”. So we are obligated to inquire, as Adorno says, and think deeply since social content is more than just being universal and inclusive at the same time. In addition, he says thinking about literature’s concepts cannot be extinguished. That if the work is doing its job correctly, then it calls on you to think in other moments when you’re not looking at the work.

This point, that literature is an art form with a powerful social construct which begs not to be thought about during one’s reading or even after, but into daily life reminded me of the jabs Wilde had Vivian take about Nature in his essay.

“Nothing is more evident than that Nature hates Mind. Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately, in England at any rate, thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as people is entirely due to our national stupidity” (Wilde 479)

But what makes me connect these two passages is, what if the Nature Wilde is writing about is human nature and not just the physical world? That the human mind (Mind) is constantly debating human nature (Nature) and it is this that makes up every work of literature, and makes one think thoroughly and daily about works of art. I feel as if both authors argue this point, and both feel that it is highly overlooked when reading an important text.

Adorno, Theadore W. “On Lyric Poetry and Society.” Notes to Literature. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. 38. Print.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying: An Observation.” The Critical Tradition. Ed. David Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. 479. Print.

The Decay of Vivian

“The final revelation is that Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art” (Wilde 496).

When we describe top-tier literature we describe it as art. It is always an artfully crafted masterpiece if the work truly stands the test of time. But to say that the aim of top-tier literature is to lie is abominable. Sure fiction can be construed as made up, but we embark on the journey fully knowing this fact. Even the act of imagining the story play out is a bit of a sham. None of it exists, and yet it does because the work moves you, inspires you, it asks you to think. And it is through this thought process that the true artistry takes place. Vivian can call the aim of art a lie all he likes, and he can even say that the art of lying is decaying because it is now so visibly fiction, but there is something to be said about when you emerge from the depths of a newly finished book. You emerge as a new person.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying: An Observation.” The Critical Tradition. Ed. David Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. 496. Print.