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06/12/2004

Comments

mallarme

I wonder if, in the face of indifference to or ignorance of literature on the part of most students, the administrators and teachers who attempt to yoke "literature to other purposes and other causes" are not simply making a well-meaning effort to sell the necessity of its study to an otherwise uninterested student body. An obvious point, to be sure, but perhaps one motivation for such actions.

Every time a discussion like this comes up William Carlos Williams gains a few more points in my mind (as if he needs them) for his lines:

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there . . .

Dan Green

I'm willing to believe there are those making a "well-meaning effort" to sell the study of literature. But ultimately I can't agree that such study is a "necessity" except for those who already feel it necessary to read seriously or who don't need much selling in order to accept it. Forcing it on the uninterested and unwilling only makes them regard literature as even more unnecessary.

mallarme

But isn't the point of education to teach students things they otherwise would not learn on their own, but are nevertheless important? The challenge is convincing "the uninterested and unwilling" of any given topic's necessity. Of course, the post is about literary theory, not just the study of literature. The two are very distinct things. The latter is arguably far more important, as well.

Ray

Condensare! Surely this would be sufficient for today's students:

It is difficult
to get the news.

But then poor Dr. Williams never had the benefit of an English degree.

(My own deferricized opinion: If there were any other way for careful editions and hard-working criticism of English-language literature to be published and for good unpopular writers of English-language literature to scrape a living, I'd gladly see all the classes shut down. As patronage systems go, this one's gone.)

Dan Green

Ray: I think you may be right, although I'm not sure whether I want to openly welcome its demise or mourn it for what it might have been.

Ray

In fact, I was just logging in to apologize for my dismissive tone -- too many worries had discolored my mood. I should have restricted myself to noting that the English department shares some problems with other patronage systems and adds some of its own (including, as you wrote, the problem of coercion).

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