We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Today, literary scholarship is home to some of the most impenetrable gobbledygook ever put on paper. The main culprit is easily identifiable: literary theory. Literary theory, a school of criticism with little hold outside the universities, has captured whole colleges and threatens to extinguish students’ love of reading. Imagine the dejection a student about to begin university, eager to read the best that has ever been written, feels when they are told to examine some heavy tome of unreadable theory. It drains all the fun from reading.
I loved the NRO remembrance of professor Jeffrey Hart of Dartmouth, suggesting that Chaucer's view of the Church with all its corrupt, extravagant, and entertaining characters is the best training for understanding academia today. It's an analogy that has already rung true, and I'm keeping it.
Assistant Village Idiot
All that prose to resolve a fundamental contradiction: that the meaning of a text is both absolute and derived from a dialectic between the author and the reader.
another guy named Dan
Language is based solely on agreement between the members of social groups as to the meaning of a vocal sound or symbols. Without that agreement there is no meaning/understanding.
Reading is a social interaction between author and reader. Each struggling to be clear about the initial meaning and then the underlying meaning.
My job requires me to do a lot of writing of exactly the type you speak of, where it is necessary that the reader have the same understanding of the idea I am presenting as I have. Usually this is something on the order of "Check the 'overwrite metadata' box if, but only if, all three of these conditions are true, or really bad things will happen to your data base during the upgrade."
But that's not literature. Take something on the order of why it was important to Odysseus that he hear the song of the Sirens, important enough that he was willing to risk the lives of his crew and his ship to do it. Is there a single answer? Does there need to be? Is it something that people could talk about for 3000 years and still have no clear answer?
Another Guy named Dan
It's probably just as well that a university training in modern literary theory is repellent. The more who are repelled the better. The danger would lie in making a faulty analysis pleasurable, as in the example of grievance studies.
I good friends leftist daughter teaches literature at a private high school in our area. While discussing the classics and earlier literature I was required to read in the "dark ages" of the 60's, she said she wouldn't have the students read any of those books as they had no connection to them and didn't want to read them. She chose all modern "stuff" that wouldn't help the kids to understand what formed life in earlier times. At the time of my required reading I thought some of them useless, but with age I have come to appreciate those writings and refer to them often in understanding the difficulties people faced and how it has caused what is occurring in today's world. Unfortunately people don't seem to learn much from the past just like those pushing socialism today.
Exactly. Students don't need to read a novel to learn what it's like to be a teenager in 21st century America, although it may be interesting to read about what people in 1950 thought it would be like to be a teenager in 21st century America.
Now the purpose of literature, as I see it is to give you access to thoughts, worlds, times, and places that are not your own, and to see what people were, could have been, are, or could be under those circumstances.
Another Guy named Dan