Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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steve mitchelmore

"The purpose for which surely all novelists or poets want their work to be received--to provide aesthetic pleasure, to entertain and provoke"

Not all. Some want merely to write what's necessary and to be done with it. This is not to say they *write for themselves* but against themselves. Writing is always already public.


"Either reading great works is a series of singular experiences during which "essential things" are always open to question or it is part of a pre-established curriculum to be preserved and passed on."

This strikes me as a false dichotomy. Why not a curriculum of singular experiences? Couldn't passionate advocacy of singular works keep a curriculum vital and evolving? And why couldn't that curriculum be enriched by the findings of literary historians?

Assuming, as Chace suggests at the end of his essay, that the old battles could be set aside.

Dan Green

"Why not a curriculum of singular experiences?"

What would this look like in practice? A classroom taken up by students reading silently to themselves? I've never been able to think of an approach emphasizing "experience" that would effectively situate it within a classroom context. Other "approaches" have to be introduced.


Maybe we're talking about different things. I thought you meant that "curriculum" is necessarily opposed to something like a "vital experience of a single piece of fiction or poetry."

I just meant that I don't see why the goal couldn't be both to inform students about the context of a particular work and to have them understand its singular aesthetic virtues. Students may only gain the understanding after the fact, but they'll be better-armed for future readings, the hope being that ultimately they'll "experience" literature with as much richness as the professor presumably does.

But this is probably naive. I'm not an academic.

Dan Green

"To have them understand its singular aesthetic virtues" isn't the same, though, as actually experiencing the text. The "after the fact" or supplementary approach is probably the best that can be done as far as actual classroom practice is concerned. But as Chace more or less confesses in his essay, this strategy was tried and then discarded, found wanting. It isn't likely to return.

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