All posts by rorycat

Lamont and Lareau

“It is important to note in this context that we believe that lower class high status
cultural signals (e.g., being streetwise) perform within the lower class the same exclusivist function that the legitimate culture performs in the middle and the upper-middle class. However,for the purpose of clarity, the term cultural capital is not applied to these signals because they cannot be equated with the legitimate culture. A new concept needs to be coined for these signals; “marginal high status signal” is a potential candidate” (157).

This part stood out to me…I think they were wise to pick up on the differences in what is considered, “legitimate culture” in the U.S. and in France. In this passage there is attention paid to the fact that power dynamics exist within all classes. One of the things they did not point to with the same level of attention is the very American brand of racism we have here and how that works on acceptance of different types of culture or the appropriation of certain cultural expressions. I tend to think in terms of music, but as far as literature goes, I would say even using the dialect/slang of the deep south or the city and the stories that expose some of this history of (and present) racism in literature does some work in crossing boundaries and broadening access to information that has been suppressed. For example, “Praisesong for the Widow”, a story of a Black American woman’s struggle with upward mobility and identity formation in a white supremacist society points to some of the ways in which people must learn to navigate multiple cultures and also the power dynamics within each competing culture. There needs to be some discussion about why people become turned off of “high” culture in the U.S. What does it represent and to whom? We also have a culture of animosity towards those awful “elitist” college folk trying to shove their liberal propaganda down people’s throats…Even the very wealthy right (especially in the political realm) are compelled to align themselves with the white working class (i.e. sports knowledge, country music, perhaps Mitt Romney donning a cowboy hat…) There is very rarely any public (mass media) discussion of literature or philosophy. We don’t even have a poet laureate in this state anymore because it became too political and that also has to do with race and class politics.

women are good at teaching!

I really wanted to compare the entire course offering between the women’s college and Rutgers to see how ridiculous math and science was represented in the Women’s college. The English courses provide a telling comparison. There is a singular focus in the English curriculum for women that points to: Become a teacher! (secondary education of course, let’s not get ahead of ourselves)

The descriptions of the speech classes and the other classes that focus on “pronunciation” are really limiting. The descriptions seem very simplistic. I also noticed the “national Independence of American literature”. I thought that was an interesting phrase because it marked a transition from a focus on classical studies and European works…Was this a common phrase of the time?

The theme writing courses…One was exposition/composition? One creative writing?
The home economic/phys ed. classes were predictable…

Rutgers and Douglass:
Douglass seems to be slightly ahead of the game as far as providing more in depth class offerings that are comparable to the men’s college. (I saw the word politics…that seems to be a first)
I also noticed an abundance of economics courses in the 1930 catalogue. This definitely seems like a catalogue reflecting the post WWI economic climate and more recently the 1929 stock market crash…hence the word “Problems” recurring in course titles.

Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”

“Had she survived, whatever she had written would have been twisted and deformed, issuing from a strained and morbid imagination” (600).

Woolf uses these adjectives “twisted and deformed” again when she discusses Jane Austen. The pressures and patriarcal structure of society limits the possibilities of the novel (when written by a women.) This is of particular interest to me because I am preparing an honors thesis proposal involving interviews of writers at Rutgers about how their voice has “developed” under the pressures of living in a gendered body and subsequent self policing. I think Woolf is examining how being systematically stifled (she eventually writes about being confined to a common drawing room) created a writing that lacks a certain agency and lends a “looking glass” view of life.


“Discourse transmits and produces power;it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it” (Foucault,1632)

This quote seemed to me,to sum up one of the main purposes of having a class called “The Social Construction of Literature.” What we deem worthy of examination and the way in which we produce knowledge through fiction perpetuates the gender binary and the ways in which we absorb and transmit the messages we receive from what we read.

Marx & Lit

“Mortality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking” (Marx, 409). This seems to take any spontaneity (maybe what Williams calls “determination”) out of art or negate originality in writing. It’s also interesting to place in the context of jazz and the improvised nature of it. Williams alludes to the production of art amongst the bourgeois as a privilege of “leisure”. I would say “leisure” is sometimes the saving grace of the subjugated classes. (1278) I think Marx is making an astute observation about what Williams refers to when he talks about “the dominant.” He states, “At any time, forms of alternative or directly oppositional politics and culture exist as significant elements in society (1279).”

Marx is a historian looking at the whole (and the cycles/patterns) of history, so when he approaches something more abstract than material production in the economic or political sense, and places the products of ideology and art in the context of his analyses, we can look at the ways in which cycles of art production come about (like the Harlem Renaissance…) in opposition to the “dominant” force and at moments of self reflection or awareness.

Cleanth Brooks

“Perhaps he can do little more than indicate whether in his opinion the work has succeeded or failed. Healthy criticism and healthy creation do tend to go hand in hand. Everything thing else being equal, the creative artist is better off for being in touch with a vigorous criticism” (Brooks).

Brooks, Cleanth. “My Credo.” Kenyon Review 13, no. 1 (Winter 1951): 72–81.

This is an interesting move from what he said earlier about how, “the formalist critic is concerned primarily with the work itself” (Brooks). He stressed the importance of “the critic” examining the work itself without imposing “his” emotional response onto it. Yet, how can the critic determine if the work has “succeeded or failed” without doing so? It seems Brooks is concerned with doing the work of getting to the heart of a work in order to  apply criticism or give a formal analysis. This relies on the assumption the final work or poem in this case expresses the intention of the author. The way that he describes the formalist critic puts weight on what can be observed working throughout the poem and proven with evidence rather than opinion or “gossip.” From the passage I posted above, I gather the writer will know from this sort of criticism whether or not he or she conveyed their point.

The Decay of Lying

“If we take Nature to mean natural simple instinct as opposed to self-conscious culture, the work produced under this influence is always old-fashioned, antiquated, and out of date. One touch of Nature may make the whole world kin, but two touches of nature will surely destroy any work of Art. If on the other hand, we regard Nature as the collection of phenomenon external to man, people only discover in her what they bring to her. She has no suggestions of her own” ( Wilde, 485).


Richter, David H., ed. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2007.

This excerpt seems to fall in line with the comment Vivian makes about Impressionists influencing the fog in London, “One does not see anything until one sees  its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence.” It is interesting that the fogs of the time were often caused by human influence (pollution). So then, is it really nature?