Esther’s Space- journey through my life

January 31, 2007

Saussure really is my boyfriend

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 8:14 am

I’m sure everyone’s blog starts with it this this week, but I LOVE SAUSSURE!! Okay, maybe I’m being a bit excessive with the exclamation marks, but I really do love him.

One problem I had with Saussure’s “Course in General Linguistics” was caring. I understand what he was saying and agree with his scholarship, but I cannot seem to incorporate the information into my life in any way. Once I had finished reading, my attitude was pretty much, “oh, okay, now I see……and what do I do with that information?” Perhaps I can use it to make myself look smart at cocktail parties, but, on the other hand, I would have to attend cocktail parties before I can illustrate my vast intelligence at them.

Throughout his writing, I truly appreciated Saussure’s use of examples. (The pictures, however, may have been purely for my own entertainment, because they expressed no intrinsic meaning to me) I’m pretty sure that this was a translated piece, so all that I say from here on is with this understanding: While generally useful, on page 975 I was completely lost by his examples of of phrases that “belong to language” (975) and “in which any change is prohibited by usage, even if we can single out their meaningful elements” (975). I believe the gist of what he is saying deals with the idea that even if you know the meaning of all of the words that make up a phrase, they do not independently necessarily represent the meaning of the whole phrase. However, since his example phrases were in French and I do not have any background in the language, they were not a great deal of use to me. So, I excavated the anals of my mind (ew) and found a few English-language phrases, perhaps someone could validate that they are what Saussure is referring to:

Esther’s Supa-Cool List of English-Language Phrases

  • cup of joe
  • dog and pony show
  • put your ducks in a row
  • wig out
  • wolf it down
  • [blank] is sick [i.e. that stereo]
  • catch a cab

Or, am I crazy and this in an entirely different genre of language completely unrelated to Saussure’s ideas?

January 29, 2007

Week3- Marxism and Rhizomes

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 7:40 am

As Raymond Williams predicted in his first line, I had difficulty in imagining ‘literature’ as a concept. For me, literature had always acted almost as an adjective to describe ‘worthwhile’ writing. Because of my devotion to this definition, the idea of treating both literature and society as concepts and being able to equitably compare them just blew my mind.

I was also confused by Williams statement that, “in its modern form the concept of ‘literature’ did not emerge earlier than the eighteenth century and was not fully developed until the nineteenth century” (1569). However,when he previously lists some literary examples he includes poetry. So, while the novel did not appear until the 18th century, surely there was poetry that fit into the description of literature, especially since his amended definition of literature described it as, “the process and the result of formal composition within the social and formal properties of a language” (1568).

I thought that it was very interesting how Williams tracked the bourgeois-ization of literature. I agree with him in that the advent of criticism shifted literature from being focused on learning (1570) to now looking at a subjective ‘taste’ and ‘sensibility’ (1570). This led to the contestable idea that in bourgeois literature, “not all ‘fiction’ was ‘imaginative’; not all ‘literature’ was ‘Literature’, “ (1572) and furthermore, “To have been an Englishman and to have written was by no means to belong to the English literary tradition” (1573). While I agree that there has been much effort to maintain distinctions between that which is quality writing and that which is superfluous, it is a highly objective distinction. We currently subscribe to the idea of the literary canon, however, whenever a new work is considered for the canon, it comes with the responsibility of not imitating those works that are already considered ‘literature’, but they must be similar enough to be considered, but at the same time different enough to ‘break’ the canon and warrant their own place. Another example of this subjectivity is the works that we choose to look at now. There are a number of older works that are made up entirely of letters between two individuals. Often, these letters are reflections of the everyday lives. However, my letters to my friends would not constitute as literature because we are already familiar enough or could easily guess at my everyday life.

The article by Raymond Williams was a joy in comparison to the Deleuze and Guattari article. Initially, I was excited by the level of imagery and metaphorical descriptions they used. I thought for sure that it would aid me in my attempts to envision the concepts they put forth. However, they lost me once they stated that, “a book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds” (1601). While this may very well ring true for their writings, I have difficulty accepting it as a generally true statement. All writing necessarily enters itself into a conversation that all other writing, as well as social and economic factors are already a part of. But to claim neither object nor subject is, to me, a bit too final or sweeping. It gives it a an air dramatic finality, which I thought ran throughout the article and made me interested in reading little more.

January 24, 2007

Week 2- Bakhtin

Filed under: Uncategorized — estherspace @ 9:08 am

When I began reading Bakhtin’s essay, I was forced to quell a rising sense of terror. I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the writing. I was especially frustrated by the fact that I knew the meaning of every word that he was using, and therefore should be able to understand the meaning of the words together. I then remembered Barry’s comments and assured myself that as long as I relaxed and slowly picked through the work, it would all make sense. Right. This may have been wishful thinking.

Honestly, as I went through, the reading did get a little bit easier as my comprehension of it increased. However, as my understanding increased, my level of impressment with Bakhtin decreased and I was less interested in what he had to say.

It seemed that in the beginning of the essay he was saying that in separating language and style from the study of genre, critics are thereby ignoring the basic social tone of the work. I am referring to the passage on 1190 in the second paragraph that states, “The separation of style and language from the question of genre has been largely responsible for a situation in which only individual and period-bound overtones of a style are the privileged subjects of study, while its basic social tone is ignored.” In an attempt to internalize this statement, I endeavored to think of an example to illustrate his theory. While I am not certain it fully applies, I came up with the example of a writer using Ebonics in his or her writing and the critic focusing on the Ebonics themselves rather than the social culture it has risen from, or the influence it has on the society into which it is entering.

Bakhtin, however, went on to create a clear divide between stylistics and language (1191), and then listed “Stylization of the various forms of oral everyday narration (skaz)” as a “basic type of compositional-stylistic unit[y] into which the novelistic whole usually breaks down” (1192). This is where I lost it. It seems to me that the ‘oral forms of everyday narration’ are a form or manifestation of language. It would also make sense to me that the way a narrator uses language or the language that he or she uses is part of the style of the piece. I cannot understand how they can be separated and isolated in criticism, as Bakhtin seems to argue for.

January 19, 2007

Week One-Introduction

Filed under: Uncategorized — estherspace @ 5:24 pm

    I chose English as my major primarily because it was the one subject that I both enjoyed and was good at. I was a capable math, science, and history student, but found it much easier to relate to literature. Through further pursuing the topic, I am (was?) hoping to develop a greater understanding of why people choose to write, how literature is both a product of society and a means of legitimizing it, and how this form of expression can continue to be embraced by everyone and not simply forgotten as an antiquated medium. Thus far I have been excited and inspired by the studies I have done in English. Throughout my courses we have focused on the historical events and cultures that surround every author and writing, which helps to put everything in a certain perspective, and it helps me to recognize the different lenses that authors are using, as well as those I am employing in reaction to different topics and styles. As for the idea that literature is being forgotten as an antiquated form of entertainment, I am putting all of my hope into the primary school system. I work at the public library and see patrons every day that check out five DVDs each visit (sometimes more than once per day) and never lay a finger on a book.

My English studies have been largely focused on classic authors such as Jane Austen, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Henry Fielding. The common denominator of these authors and their works is that have all been accepted as a part of the literary canon, and share the characteristic of universal recognition of their merit as works of literature.

Often, newer authors are given less consideration in studies of English literature. Authors such as Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, or Zora Neale Hurston.

Through formally studying literature, as well as the theory and criticism that is used to bind it, I have been able to further develop my own attitudes and approaches towards particular styles or ideas. I especially appreciate being able to apply a title to my own views and ideas, because then, once I feel that they have been defined, I have the freedom to go further into my investigations. Before having a clear idea of how to approach literature or what lenses I was using, I often felt as though I was travelling blindly into criticism and had no idea where to begin. Now that I feel like I have an established foundation, I am more confident about analyzing literature.

I’m not sure that I’ve articulated my thoughts very well, but I’m hoping that at least someone else has an idea of what I’m talking about and can relate.

January 17, 2007

Hello all!

Filed under: Uncategorized — estherspace @ 6:19 pm

that’s all, just hello

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