8 dic. 2011

The Literature Haters

The joke back in the day was "the Duke English Department: united only in their common hatred of literature." I have often decried the kind of "empty center" of literary studies, the absence of a firm commitment to the object of study itself. I knew people in graduate school who disdained the primary text, whether through an allegiance to high theory or to crude Marxism. My Latin Americanist colleagues talk about feeling guilty for studying and teaching literature. It seems, sometimes, like anything else is going to be more interesting than mere literature.

Like everyone else, I am interested in a wide range of subjects, from music and film to politics. What literature offers, though, is the total package. It is an art form made of words, so it has an extremely significant aesthetic dimension, but is also inscribed in ideology and history. To be a really compelling scholar in this field you have to have erudition and theoretical sophistication as well as an aesthetic sensibility. It require some serious cultural capital.

5 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

What I always found really odd about some literature scholars was that they had clearly started out as literature lovers and then evolved into haters.

Jonathan dijo...

For many it's graduate school, the professionalization of their commitment to literature, that makes them hate it.

Andrew Shields dijo...

Many people choose to write about what they love (a favorite author, say), and by the time they are done, they don't love it anymore.

The people who never lose their love are the ones who do research not about what they love but about problems they have identified. In your case, you may love Lorca, but you write about him because you are interested in addressing problems in Lorca's work and in its reception.

Jonathan dijo...

A lot of it is whether thinking deeply about a subject makes you identify it with something unpleasant. For me it is the opposite. Theory does not interfere with my naive enjoyment of something, but deepens my understanding.

Andrew Shields dijo...

The haters lose their "naive enjoyment," yes, that's right, it seems to me.