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« Scary | Main | Transformations »

11/01/2005

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R. A.  Rubin

If it's French, throw it out!

Jefferson 1807

Cameron

As an English undergrad at a flagship state university (albiet one fettered with serious scandal in recent years), I've noticed that Derrida and similar ilk are still en vogue with my professors, but that the intellectual interest and of students seriously wanes whenever a French theorist's name pops up in class. Jaws drop, cell phones vibrate, tongues loll out, piebald. While the overintellectualization of literature and the vagaries of talking about what theories are of "value" when reading literature are perhaps running rampant in grad programs and literary peer review journals, I think the majority of students studying English at the undergrad level are in it for the emotional resonance that comes from reading. I (and they) get more out of writing and reading traditional thematic and character analysis in terms of individual works and authors than theory debate. The latter form of approaching literature purloins it of the raw storytelling ichor and form present in *good* books. Ironically, I think it's grad student T.A.'s that really get this concept across the best to their students. One T.A. in a Lit. Theory recitation I had often cancelled class just because she said Derrida ruined *any* form of communication for her. Permanently. At any rate, "studying literature for its own sake" may be "an unsuitable activity in the contemporary university" in the overtly esoteric, anaesthesized tiers of upper academia, but every English major and grad student I know worth his/her salt still considers the activity of literary analysis primarily a practical one. Picking a work and its author apart bit by bit. This, really, is the beauty of analysis. Unlike dissecting a frog in a biology lab, dissecting literature revives it; makes it more fully alive.
I couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for an excellent post!

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