[ilds] baboonism

Richard Pine richardpin at eircom.net
Sun Jul 8 01:49:53 PDT 2007

Bill's question - 'why not start with a basic theory, : this passage probably means something, what is it?' - hits the mark. But it's not a theory, Bill, it's the application of the reader's common sense and the context in which s/he has lived and is reading. If you can't read a particular book, half the time it's because the author's context and yours are incompatible (Wordsworth in the Tropics?). If you read a book through a (possibly) distorting lens of a particular theory, your teacher has no doubt done you a grave disservice and possibly blighted your reading life. RP
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: william godshalk 
  To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca 
  Sent: Saturday, July 07, 2007 10:31 PM
  Subject: Re: [ilds] baboonism

  Pamela writes:

    Others of us want students to know that literature does mean something--that it came out of a particular context and makes certain points, undermines certain metanarratives, subverts this cultural assumption, bolsters that ideology.  

  Do you really think that George Bush -- either one -- feels threatened by literary theory and/or literary theorists? My classes seem to be confirmed in their "metanarratives" when I confront them with Darwin, Freud, Marx, Doctorow, Pynchon, Gould, Cabell, Krutch, Becker. Or even Shakespeare, god bless the mark! 

  And doesn't theory generate what meaning a student gets out of reading a passage? Theory provides a lens, surely, but one might also say that it distorts the student's reading. Why not start with a basic theory? I.e. this passage probably means something; what is it? As Norman Holland has argued cogently, each student brings his or her own personal theory to the reading of literature. Why not nurture their theories, use them to get at the multiplicity of possibility? The teacher's job, as defined by Plato, is to ask questions, not to produce reading machines for the pigs. 

  And what about John Masters? 


  W. L. Godshalk           *
  Department of English         *
  University of Cincinnati            Stellar disorder  *
  Cincinnati OH 45221-0069      *


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