Esther’s Space- journey through my life

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.


1 Comment »

  1. I agree with you here. I too though that it was difficult to picture literature as a concept. I just thought that it “just was” if that makes any sense. I agree with your definition also, and I never really thought about it that way. Great post!!

    Comment by caramarie — January 29, 2007 @ 7:53 am

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