Literary Criticism

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

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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.

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 "...is 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).

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