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.
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Monday, August 31. 2015
Humans love stories. "Mom, read me/tell me a story." Fiction is/was written for entertainment. Before movies, there was mostly music, theater and fiction. There are well-told stories and poorly-told. There are revelatory stories, life-contaminating stories, and everything in between. There are stories which vary in their demands on the reader.
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I usually skip the blogosphere's repeated attempts to explain what is wrong with the humanities. I agree with much that is put forward, but there is seldom anything new, and none of it seems to change anything.
This was different. This was insight expressed clearly.
I'm not hopeful it will change anything. It is ironic that the humanities, which should be the natural home of western conservatives, is now the one island they steer clear of.
"It is ironic that the humanities, which should be the natural home of western conservatives, is now the one island they steer clear of."
Because increasingly, it has been reduced to politicized gibberish.
I'm just about to start an online university-level course on the history of the British Empire. The introductory comments from many students are not encouraging: full of hand-rubbing and "woe is me" self-guilt about all the sins of "imperialism".
I already sense that the idea of just studying the history of the Empire for its own sake (i.e., for the pure love of learning something new and interesting), with all its ups and downs, high points and low points, is beyond them.
They've already made up their minds and now I fear they want the course to confirm their preconceived notions.
We've watched several documentaries this week, including two on the making of the A-bomb and one on the Lusitania. One of the A-bomb films and the Lusitania film were pretty easy to watch, hardly any axes to grind. The other A-bomb film just annoyed the heck out of me: the ratio of axe-grinding to information was awfully high. I mean, I expect some, but for Pete's sake.
It's great to read (or watch) straight history now and then. I give extra points to writers who resist the temptation to score hits against George W. Bush or climate deniers in works where you'd never dream of those subjects coming up in the first place.
I began avoiding the study of literature decades ago, courtesy of the push in high school English classes to turn students into junior literary critics.
Literary criticism as a vehicle for teaching composition had two results for me: I grew to hate writing for courses, and I disliked English courses. Composition needs to be taught, but it would have better results if it is decoupled from literary criticism. The few times in high school English when we were directed to spend the class period writing an essay on a non-literary criticism topic were my favorite times in high school English. Conclusion: forcing me into the junior literary critic mold turned someone who liked writing into someone who hated writing.
As a result, I avoided English classes in college- took only two English courses after high school.
The current PC indoctrination in college is merely the nail in the coffin for literature in the university.
Here is the crux of it: Characters in a novel are neither words on a page nor real people. Characters in a novel are possible people
When I was young and started to read, enjoy and learn from Science Fiction (old school), the phrase "The willing suspension of disbelief can open doors to new and exciting worlds. Nay, Universes." That was at a NESFA meeting, Isaac said that.
There are many 'fictional' characters that are more real to me than most of the drones I see walking around. Or, say, if you have to visit the DMV.
Sherlock Holmes has already outlived most 'prominent scholars'.
Avoiding the Humanites (Dept) is not the same as avoiding the humanities. One does not need some fool college, Leftwing professor to speak at them. Reading is fundamental. There is great scholarship prior to 1960 and even 1930 that is informative and stimulating. That does not mean you should avoid all modern work, but you need a grounding to discern when the author/speaker is no longer of value due to their inability to suppress their personal bias.
The high school English class is where the study of literature, even the habit of reading is destroyed. Students are inhibited from enjoying the story and nothing is more fake than a high school student or undergraduate pretending literary criticism. The student know and feel this fake and learn to loathe it.
Nothing can be more hypocritical than for young
people who are still in the rudiments of literature to be forced
into pronouncing objective judgments as to the worth of
literature. Students instinctively feel this, and resent all
attempts to get them to pretend a knowledge which they do
not possess. On the other hand, they are beginning to be
dissatisfied with judging books and other works of art on the
ground of mere impulsive like or dislike. It is time, then, for
something less ambitious than criticism, and more thoughtful
Interpretation rather than criticism.
-- Freshman Rhetoric, John Rothwell Slater, Ph.D. Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in the University of Rochester, (1913)
They're avoiding literature courses because the professors work diligenly to take all the fun and enjoyment out of reading.
I was an English Literature major in college while I did my pre-med as electives. I loved it. That, of course, was over 50 years ago. I still have a couple of the textbooks, like "English and American Drama Since 1890." We read 20 plays.
I had been an engineer and could not get a student loan to go back and do pre-med so I became an English major.
It is ironic that this post follows so closely on the heels of the Book List post. If you have read Ulysses by James Joyce you may wonder who put it on a list of "The twenty greatest Engish-language novels". I took an English Lit class where our professor stated in the first minute that early 20th century English literature was her life and James Joyce was her favorite author. I seriously considered dropping the class. I found ulysses to be almost unreadable and unfathomable. I suspect that the reason Ulysses is on a list of the twenty greatest English-language novels is NOT because it is one of the greatest but rather because it elevates (in their eyes) the reader and advocate of this book. It makes them look/seem erudite and elite. This is especially true if they can offer some explanation of the book and Joyce's intent. Let me just say if you haven't read the book I would wait for the movie. But who, in their right mind, would make a movie of this book?
Yes. You might like this: http://www.theelliots.org/Soapbox2008/OntheReadingofOldBooks.pdf
I seem to remember an interview with a director or producer where he said that Ulysses in generally considered un-filmable because from the outside of the characters' psyches, it is the story of a rather unremarkable gentleman doing rather unremarkable things.
I will admit I'm two years from my next decadal attempt to read it. I usually get as far as snotgreen and give up.
I love Nabakov; I love word-play; Nabakov loves word-play and Ulysses. Nothing could be more natural than that I should love Ulysses, but in fact it's just sterile word-play to me. There's got to be something else, which I don't find there.
a lot of literature is wasted on students. can a 19 year old kollege kid / future barista appreciate the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V the way a 19 year old soldier or veteran or any adult man could?
if you're a student of literature, kollege is just Intro 101.
Interesting article; but, I'll add my own experience as well:
Deconstructionism! The dumbest thing since God-knows-what.
I enjoy reading, and once in a while I do try to read (or in some cases re-read) a classic. Since I am now much older, and have more life experiences, I find them to be more enlightening than when I was younger.
That being said, I found some literature courses in college to be absolute nonsense.
For example; while reading the Canterbury Tales, specifically The Man of Law's Tale which is filled with a lot of Christian symbolism, the professor didn't want to discuss any of that. No, he kept insisting that the whole purpose of the tale was to show how Christianity was about paternal incest (part of the tale is about a Christian princess betrothed to a Muslim Prince; his mother doesn't want her son to marry an infidel. This Muslim prince's mother keeps setting the young woman adrift at sea; and the young woman's boat finds her way back to her father's kingdom - this was the "incest" part the professor kept insisting on). This idiot professor also kept wanting to talk about the "cannibalistic" aspect of Christianity (This is my body, eat, this is my blood, drink).
This was complete nonsense! The professor only showed his ignorance and his own bigotry. Unfortunately, this professor had tenure - so the school and the students are more or less stuck with him.
Fortunately for me, his stupidity didn't turn me off from some of the "great works."
P.S. Not only was the course complete nonsense and a waste of my time - I paid for it too!