Literary Criticism

This site contains my work during the course of English 300 at Montana State University-Bozeman in the Autumn of 2004.


I am a senior at Montana State University working for a degree in history with a teaching option and also a minor in English. Currently I am working with the students at Bridger Alternative here in town and I am loving every minute of it. I can't wait to get out into the field and teach.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


What is the sublime? Sublime can be defined as: (n.) A grand or lofty style of speaking or writing; a style that expresses loft conceptions. (I'm sure Dr. Sexson would love for us all to reach this expectation.) (n.) That which is grand in nature or art, as distinguished from the merely beautiful. (superl.) Lifted up; high in place; exalted aloft; uplifted, lofty. (superl.) Awakening or expressing the emotion of awe, adoration, veneration, heroic resolve, etc.; dignified; grand; solemn; stately; --said of an impressive object in nature, of an action, of a discourse, of a work of art, of a spectacle, etc.; as, sublime scenery; a sublime deed
You get the picture. Anyway, a work that I feel has reached the level of SUBLIME is also, from my favorite band Aerosmith, the song itself is known as Livin' On The Edge and the lyrics are as follows:
There's something wrong with the world today
I don't know what it is
Something's wrong with our eyes
We're seeing things in a different way
And God knows it ain't His
It sure ain't no surprise
We're livin' on the edge
There's something wrong with the world today
The light bulb's getting dim
There's a melt down in the sky
If you can judge a wise man
By the color of his skin
Then mister you're a better man than I
Chorus: We're livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself from fallin'
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself at all
Livin' on the edge
You can't stop yourself from fallin'
Livin' on the edge
Tell me what you think about your situation
Is getting to you
If chicken little tells you that the sky is fallin'
And even if it wasn't would you still come crawlin'
Back again?
I think you would my friend
Again & again & again & again & again
(end X2)
Something right with the world today
And everybody knows it's wrong
But we can tell'em no or we can let it go
But I would rather be hanging on
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself from fallin'
You can't help yourself at all
Livin' on the edge
You can't stop yourself from fallin'
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself
You can't help yourself
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself at all
You can't help yourself
Livin' on the edge
You can't stop yourself from fallin'
Livin' on the edge
The sublime aspect of this song is that it illustrates for me the conflict and confusion that we humans create on our own planet as we fight for what we believe is right and in the end also hurt others that we may or may not have necessarily meant to. Though it was written before our current situation, it gives me great comfort as I listen to the nightly news and attempt to analyze all the different articles, news casts, etc. put before me. That is why this song is so sublime.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Text that Consoles Me, or rather, the Song that Consoles Me

The song that consoles me is by one of the greatest bands. This of course is none other than Aerosmith!!! Their song Dream On is one of the most soulful and emotionally fulfilling songs as it describes getting older, all the mistakes one makes, and yet the possibilites of one's dreams coming true. When I hear this song on the radio, I turn it up; when I have the CD in my car, it's on repeat. Truly it is one of the greatest songs ever. I have on the Album: Aerosmith's Greatest Hits but I'm sure the song can be found on others. The lyrics are as follows:
Everytime that I look in the mirror
All these lines in my face gettin' clearer
The past is gone
It went by like dust to dawn
Isn't that the way
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay
I know what nobody knows
Where it comes and where it goes
I know it's everybody's sin
You got to lose to know how to win
Half my life is in books' written pages
Live and learn from fools and from sages
You know it's true
All the things come back to you
Sing with me, sing for the years
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away
Dream on, dream on
Dream yourself a dream come true
Dream on, dream on
Dream yourself a dream come true
Dream on, dream on, dream on...
Sing with me, sing for the years
Sing for the laughter and sing for the tears
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The First Seven Days of Class

Aug. 31, 2004

On the first day of class we were introduced to Dr. Sexson in a tight room in Roberts Hall. We brought in benches from the hallway just so everybody would have a place to sit. Dr. Sexson then informed us about what the course would be like and his expectations for everybody there. We all then proceeded to have a picture taken criminal-style with our names held underneath our chins.
Sept. 02, 2004
Dr. Sexson amazed all of us today as he alreay had our names and faces memorized. We were also moved to a bigger classroom in Wilson Hall where could all have our own desks. We then discussed that Criticism is a reflection on what our imagination pulls from the reading. The central elements of Literary Criticism are as follows:
1.) Text: or anything that can be interpreted
2.) Creator of that text: the artificer which also gives the impression of being artificial
3.) Reader: receiver or audience
4.) Cultural Context: WORLD
Sept. 07, 2004
Today we were assigned our critic personalities. I was given Walter Benjamin, there will be more to follow on him as I progress in my research. We also created a table on how different approaches are taken towards varying elements in literature:
Element Period Approach
work modern objective "formalistic"
artist romantic expression "Shaman"
audience neo-classical pragmatic "use?"
world ancient/classical mimatic "represent"
Sept. 09, 2004
Today we discussed different definitions of Criticism as quoted in our anthology, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism copyright of 2001. Matthew Arnold in his: The Function of Criticism at the Present Time states that: "a disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world." Yet Walter Pater has a distinctly different idea as he states in his: Studies in the History of the Renaissance: "...the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake." I personally like Walter Pater's idea much better. ;o)
We also discussed today the Platonic Philosophy, which is we all used to fly around on wings and know everything, yet when these wings dropped off we were born as human babies and we have forgotten everything that we used to know. Our mission in life is to recall everything forgotten and the only way to do this is through true beauty.
Sept. 14, 2004
Following this idea, Plato does not care for literature, that it is untrue, useless and bad. He believes this because stories speak through fables and myths and aren't anywhere near philosophy. The artist doesn't know what they are creating and therefore should not be responsible for their own work. They are simply an empty vessel for God to speak through and they are themselves when they compose, are inspired, etc.
Sept. 16, 2004
Today we were given a direct quote from our anthology on what Plato thought was good. This is found on p. 36: "For Plato, the only good memory is anamnesis, the recollection of spiritual truths through genuine, living wisdom: that is, through philosophy. Another quote to illustrate Plato's belief can be found at the bottom of p. 81 to 82 of his Phaedrus when Socrates philosophizes with Phaedrus and how bad the written word will be: "You have not discovered a potion for remembering, but for reminding; you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not with its reality. Your invention will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have come to know much while for the most part they will know nothing." For Plato who utilized Socrates as a character, written words are dead words, one cannot argue with dead words. Real wisdom can only come through eye contact as one debates with their opponent. From this discussion of Plato we moved to discuss the differences between him and Aristotle they are two different psychological personalities. Aristotle is more scientific and his "Poetics" are essentially a manual on poetry, which is a strain to read. Yet this work is one of the most influential for literary criticism today.
Sept. 21, 2004
In class we discussed how the artist does not mean to merely mimic, but to create. In a sense this is true because artists, poets, etc. also help to form our views of the world: what we think is likeable, what is pretty. The notion of the "self" is a construction of society, parents, education and friends. This is where your taste stems from and maybe yourself needs to be deconstructed if you don't entirely agree with Plato. He didn't agree with people having different tastes. For Plato, one simply had the wrong taste and he was going to show them the right one. This is illustrated in his Book Seven of the Republic as the one who ventures outside is the one who knows the truth and wants to share it with others. This also relates to the difference between Plato and Aristotle, Plato knows one big thing while Aristotle proves many little things. In this sense Plato left a ghost, Aristotle left a skeleton, a framework for us to discover our own many little truths. In a sense, Aristotle was dialectic: we all correct each other until we find a truth. For Aristotle Tragedy was the best form because it " an imitation of action that is serious, complete and has a certain magnitude," (Dr. Sexson). There are six elements in Tragedy: 3 internal and 3 external. The external is not as important as the internal and the most important internal element is plot (mythos, the story), followed by character (ethos), and then theme(dianoia).

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Special Text that would Accompany Me to a Desert Island

The text I'd bring would be The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Not only does this book discuss travel to unusual places in general but it also has a sarcastic sense of humor that always keeps me entertained, no matter how many times I read it. The introduction alone cracks me up as it discusses point blank the problem with earth today. It reads as follows:
"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
This planet has-or rather had-a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.
Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans...."
The text continues with such witty and furtive comments that I am usually unable to put the book down. It discusses with humor the causes of the human condition and what the galaxy might possibly be like out there using the characters Arthur Dent from earth and Ford Prefect from around Betelgeuse. Incredibly funny book, I'd highly recommend it for anyone looking for a light-hearted book to read.

We should ripen like fruit. :o) Posted by Hello

The Touchstone: Also Known as a Consoling Passage

My Touchstone is an anonymous quote. Some would consider it sappy, yet for me it provides an important message for all of us in how to make our lives better. Maybe if we could accomplish being happy by using these simple means; we wouldn't feel the need to be such a self-serving society and instead attempt to live in harmony with people of different cultures, races and religions. This quote means all of that to me and much more:
"Love is the sunshine of the soul.
Without it we get hard and sour, and we never grow into what we could be.
Love sweetens the bitterness of experience and softens the core of selfishness
that is inherent in human nature."
In other words, we need to ripen like fruit.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Work that has Changed my Perceptions

The movie, "The Passion of the Christ" changed my perceptions of the world. I have always been a person of faith and knew that Jesus suffered for our sins. Yet I guess I never realized just how torturous his suffering was that he endured. Since seeing the film, I have looked at the world with a more appreciating gaze and realize how lucky I am to be here and to be able to do the things I do. I recommend for everybody to see the film, no matter what religion you are, just to see the story of what English Academics call part of the Christian myth.