14 feb. 2011

Novel and Poetry

Most of the best-known critics in my field write on the novel, not on poetry. Poetry is a sub-field with a few scholars of note, in contrast to the domination of narrative and, to a lesser extent, film. Most people have a much easier time writing on the novel, because it is easy to talk about characters and their actions. We all now how to talk about real people and what they do, so talking about people in books is not so hard. When faced with a poem, many otherwise intelligent students (and colleagues) throw up their hands and wonder what they can possibly do with such a text.

Poetry requires a special expertise beyond what is required for reading novels. Once you have that expertise, things tend to even out. What really distinguishes a good critic of the novel, after all, is not the capacity to talk about characters as though they were real people, but a higher degree of responsiveness and critical contextualization.

Since other people are very comfortable talking about novels, I feel I don't have to be a critic of novels too. There are enough people already doing that. I like teaching prose fiction, and have spent considerable hours reading Galdós, Beckett, Cervantes, Unamuno, Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Soseki, Virginia Woolf, Clarín, Paul Auster, Murakami, Kawabata, Tolkien, Vonnegut, Updike, Sorrentino, Flann O'Brien, and many more.

2 comentarios:

Clarissa dijo...

This is so true. I feel that analyzing poetry defeats me completely. The problem, in my opinion, is that we almost never are taught the mechanisms needed to analyze poetry. It is often somehow assumed that the same strategies as are used to analyze prose can be applied to poetry. As a result, many critics are completely baffled by a poetic text.

scott g.f.bailey dijo...

Even fairly straightforward poets I read and admire, like Heaney or Yeats or Dickenson, tend to dumbfound me if I attempt to step past the like/dislike line and say something more. I simply don't know how to talk about poems because I don't understand the mechanics of them. Or something. See what I mean? But I can go on all night about a novel.