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Forums > Social Discussion > The study of literature in Schools/Higher education.

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animatEd
BRONZE Member since Aug 2004

animatEd

1 + 1 = 3
Location: Bristol UK

Total posts: 3540
Posted:I was just thinking...

All these books that we have to read and analyse in education today, do you think that's what the writer was hoping to achieve by writing the book?

Did they purposefully set out to have children work out what the symbollic reference of such and such is? Did they really mean to put those obscure metaphors in there?

I suppose the same could go for Art Cinema, although the answer to this question on that front could very easily be: Yes. They were trying to achieve that.

But for novellists? are they just trying to tell/sell a story and make some cash? or are they actually some sort of preacher, trying to get a hidden message out to the world?


Empty your mind. Be formless, Shapeless, like Water.
Put Water into a cup, it becomes the cup, put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Water can flow, or it can Crash.
Be Water My Friend.

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thegreatBJ


Woman! Not gay Man!
Location: Hull...ish

Total posts: 332
Posted:thats what I always think about the poems we have to study... I mean did cloeridge mean to have all these hidden meanings and underlying metaphores in therime of the ancient mariner or was he just trying t write something pretty?

I think we look too hard

I also think John Donne was a womanising old perve and not that good at poetry anyway... but thats just my perception


I AM NOT A GAY MAN!

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Doc Lightning
GOLD Member since May 2001

Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 13920
Posted:Written by: Mark Twain
Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. By Order of the Author.
-Mark Twain



I put this quote at the top of a paper that we had to do analyzing one of Twain's works in high school.

I love reading, although I'm not much of a fan of "classics."

Written by: Mark Twain
A classic is a book that everyone wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
-Mark Twain



I love reading when I don't have to analyze and when I can simply enjoy the work for what it is, a work of art, a piece of entertainment and amusement, and a good story.

These literature classes poison reading for more than they tantalize, in my opinion.


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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lauz the caterpilla


lauz the caterpilla

goddess of all things slimey and an interchangeable insect!
Location: nottingham - the land of oppor...

Total posts: 2443
Posted:i think i agree with doc.
erm back at school (i love being able to say that), we were studying a novel called things fall apart by chinua achebe and i absolutely hated it. Then in my spare time i read it for just personal decisions on what i actually thought of the book. I appreciate it more now than what i did because it tells a story thats interesting, entertaining and educating in the truths of back culture in africa when it was all very tribal based etc.

i think that the writers wrote these things to entertain but i also think thats they wanted to put their view of something across to the world. i dont think they wanted people to sit back and pull there work to pieces to analyse every little thing in depth and try to make people understand their opinion.

so yes i think they wanted to educate people/ put their views across but more importantly to entertain and sell it.


Shhhhhh! the boobies are trying to sleep.
owner and the property of noddy.
*i was a caterpilla last night wink* - libby_tuesday

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Igirisujin
SILVER Member since Jul 2005

Igirisujin

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Preston

Total posts: 2666
Posted:I hated thr books we had to study in school, it was just Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet and An Inspector calls...yawn!!! sorry I odnt have anything usefull to say but I really hate those books!

Chief adviser to the Pharaoh, in one very snazzy mutli-coloured coat

'Time goes by so slowly for those who wait...' - Whatever Happend To Baby Madonna?

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Birgit
BRONZE Member since Jan 2005

Birgit

had her carpal tunnel surgery already thanks v much
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 4145
Posted:Once we were reading a novel by an East German writer, and one scene was about the young main character reading a newspaper about a young cyclist (I think) who was a big hope for the communist nation and a real hero (bla bla). Anyways, the book then went into the guy's thoughts about it.

Teacher: "Birgit, how would you interpret it?"
Birgit: "I think the author has already interpreted it by means of the boy's thoughts."
Teacher: "But how would you interpret that?"
Birgit: "I don't think any further interpretation is necessary."

From then on, whenever she was on about interpreting something, she'd add a poisonous little "even if Birgit thinks there's no further interpretation necessary", and I'd smile and nod fervently.

The worst thing in German is Kafka, not sure if you've heard about him. He was definitely at least half crazy, and in his will he asked his friend to burn his writings. Being a really good friend, the friend decided to publish them instead. An average essay about Kafka for 16-19 year-olds means writing 6-12 pages about a 12-line text. And if you don't make a reference to his relationship to his father and his (inappropriate) adoration for his sister, you lose points shrug

My way out of that was to conclude the essays by saying "Since this text clearly references to the troubled relationship with his family, I see it more as a diary than as a publication, and Kafka's friend should have followed his last wish and burned all his work." Funnily enough, I got never asked my opinion about Kafka again, AND I got an A for the essay because she couldn't really find anything wrong with it ubblol


"vices are like genitals - most are ugly to behold, and yet we find that our own are dear to us."
(G.W. Dahlquist)

Owner of Dragosani's left half

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jeff(fake)


jeff(fake)

Scientist of Fortune
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 1189
Posted:Anyone see Black Adder Back and Forth? I'm remembering the scene when Black Adder travels back to Elizabethan time and punches Shakespeare in the face saying

"That is for every school girl and school boy for the next three hundred years!"

ubbrollsmile


According to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle of Quantum Dynamics, we may already be making love right now...

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UCOF
SILVER Member since Apr 2002

UCOF

Carpal \'Tunnel


Total posts: 15414
Posted:ubblol

But that made no one hear of him... ever!


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Sethis
BRONZE Member since Mar 2017

Sethis

Pooh-Bah
Location: York University

Total posts: 1762
Posted:Well there's a difference between studying the intricacies of a well layered book, but there is also finding meaning that doesn't exist. Sometimes I think what we study in school consists more of the latter thasn it does the former.

(And Doc, I'm going to nick that first quote ubblol )


After much consideration, I find that the view is worth the asphyxiation.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

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animatEd
BRONZE Member since Aug 2004

animatEd

1 + 1 = 3
Location: Bristol UK

Total posts: 3540
Posted:Written by: Sethis

(And Doc, I'm going to nick that first quote ubblol )



I hope I get a mark twain book/film adaptation to analyse for that very reason, too... biggrin


Empty your mind. Be formless, Shapeless, like Water.
Put Water into a cup, it becomes the cup, put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Water can flow, or it can Crash.
Be Water My Friend.

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i8beefy2
GOLD Member since Mar 2003

i8beefy2

addict
Location: Ohio, USA

Total posts: 674
Posted:Anyone read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? A good deal of it is devoted to something like this. While there is an overarching beauty to the stories (the artist perspective), there can also be beauty in the small analysis of individual pieces (the technical person's view). While it seems to be destroying the whole beauty by analysing something already beautiful, there is a certain beauty in the analysis as well. For instance, its amazing that so many individual well-played elements are packed into a good story sometimes. A lot of the literary classics are like that, and are classics because for so long they have been analysed that way. But there are other books that are just good on the overarching quality of the story.

Which is why I think a lot of people can read a technical writing "classic" and hate it because it lacks the overarching beauty, and a technical person can read a good story and hate it because it lacks the elements that they can pick out as quality. But some of the real classics that they all agree on contain both, which is why they are masterpieces.

On a side note this is one of the things I dislike from Aristotle: that aesthetics can be reduced to only elements of quality. Completely leaves out the artistic sense of beauty, and so you can write a story with all the elements, and its still crap. But of course, you ca't really describe quality, just recognize it, so how do you talk about it when you can't define it? Same with Love, etc.

The Tao that can be named is not the true tao...


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newgabe
SILVER Member since Mar 2005

newgabe

what goes around comes around. unless you're into stalls.
Location: Bali

Total posts: 4030
Posted:My kids just studied Romeo and Juliet at school.. it was done so well. 'analysed', or rather, 'unpacked', in terms of love, and hate, and where they cross over and part... related to real choices and consequences in relationships/family/politics now. Helped them see things have not always been as they are now, and will not always be... All greatly helped by being able to use 2 film versions, particularly the wonderful Baz Lurhman that honours the text while bringing out the relevance...

Writers from another time were educated in a different time and wrote for that time, not to make problems or 'hide things'. Someone like Colerdige was not writing for future 14 year olds, but adults who like him understood ancient myth, the Bible, a whole world of reference.

Like today someone could write 'bring out the gimp' and the whole world of Pulp Fiction/Tarantino would be evoked... but in 100 years, that will need a footnote.

Another consideration is that a lot of people who are really impelled to write, and break out new ( and complex) forms of expression.. like Shakespeare did, or Dylan today... have a complex and multi reflective inner wordplay..There way of writing pours out in rhythm, not carefullly planned. Not even they themselves benefit from 'hacking into' every phrase. Have a look at some of those appalling interviews Dylan had to go through when earnest journalists tried to get him to 'analyse' his own work...


.....Can't juggle balls but I sure as hell can juggle details....

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Rouge Dragon
BRONZE Member since Jul 2003

Rouge Dragon

Insert Champagne Here
Location: without class distinction

Total posts: 13215
Posted:I think that yes, some pieces of writing (to cover poetry as well as novels, novellas, prose, etc) are written with those symbols and metaphores, yet, at the same time, many of them are written without them put in and teachers make them up.

I studied literature in highschool (for my VCE. equivelant to A-Levels) and the books I studied, yes, I do believe they were written with messages and symbols intended.

However throughout my entire time at highschool, I can't say I believe the same. In year 11 English, there was one book written in blank verse that everyone generally agreed was a load of junk. We just couln't believe that the cat throwing up on the door of the house was a metaphore for the bank dispossessing the family.

Therefore I think it just depends on the book. Especially when the teacher I had for the cat-throwing-up book said that English teachers make up metaphores half the time!


i would have changed ***** to phallus, and claire to petey Petey

Rougie: but that's what I'm doing here
Arnwyn: what letting me adjust myself in your room?..don't you dare quote that on HoP...

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newgabe
SILVER Member since Mar 2005

newgabe

what goes around comes around. unless you're into stalls.
Location: Bali

Total posts: 4030
Posted:So are English teachers frustrated poets then?

.....Can't juggle balls but I sure as hell can juggle details....

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DrBoo
BRONZE Member since Oct 2005

DrBoo

I invented the decaffinated coffee table.
Location: Cornwall

Total posts: 453
Posted:Written by: newgabe

Writers from another time were educated in a different time and wrote for that time, not to make problems or 'hide things'. Someone like Colerdige was not writing for future 14 year olds, but adults who like him understood ancient myth, the Bible, a whole world of reference.

Like today someone could write 'bring out the gimp' and the whole world of Pulp Fiction/Tarantino would be evoked... but in 100 years, that will need a footnote.



Brilliant, NewGabe. Exactly the sentiment that I was thinking of writing. Well put.

Written by: newgabe
So are English teachers frustrated poets then?


"Those who can, do. And those who can't, teach." wink

I also agree with what I think a lot of others have felt, which is that over analysing something removes all the joy for it. I think that is the problem with the way that some schools get pupils to analyse literature.
It's like seeking meaning by peeling the layers of an onion. If you peel away all of the layers of an onion, you soon find you don't have any onion left. And you're probably crying.

Having said that, what I learnt about literature analysis in A-level english has taught me so much. Quite a lot of it I find I reference still. Even though I hated it most of the time.


Boo x

I intend to live forever - so far, so good.

If it costs "a penny for your thoughts", but people give you their "two-pence worth", who is getting the extra penny?

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Doc Lightning
GOLD Member since May 2001

Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 13920
Posted:One thing that's miffed me is reading Shakespeare.

Shakespeare didn't write his works to be read. He wrote them to be *WATCHED.*

Fortunately, the BBC has done a rather good production of pretty much all of Shakespeare's plays on video...

I made use.


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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squarexbear
SILVER Member since Apr 2005

squarexbear

....of doom!
Location: Hastings, UK

Total posts: 585
Posted:I don't think that the writers of the books/plays we studied wrote them intending for future generations to hate them and regard them as boring...which is pretty much what happened to most of my class.

yes, some texts were written with metaphorical and symbolic devices that were meant to be appreciated by the reading audience. see 'the bloody chamber' by angela carter. feminist reworkings of fairy stories packed to the gills with reference to sex, menstruation etc. however, others were meant as pretty stories for people to enjoy...but the relationship between characters and devices used have come to provide a deeper understanding of the text and its context.

i miss a level english classes :'( and i managed to really upset my old teacher last night too.


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Pele
BRONZE Member since Dec 2000

Pele

the henna lady
Location: WNY, USA

Total posts: 6193
Posted:Wooooo....Something I actually can comment on! (been alot of threads I couldn't).

My education degree focus was...drumroll please...literature.
I've taught high school english and a junior college short story lit class.
(I also had to read Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for Art History beefy..and you are correct, it has alot to do with this).

Anyway...teaching literature is approached as a journal and a time capsule if you will. You get into psychology to understand people outside our realms. You study setting to understand era, location and sociological perspectives that differ from our own.
Very rarely do we as a reader simply read. We feel. We experience. We become and in doing so, we learn.

However, it is easier to do that when it is a choice. I would much rather read a book of my choosing rather than one forced upon me. But the selections chosen are those which are claimed to have profound effects on readers through psychology and sociology...and yet most people would never choose to read Shakespeare or Dickens.

So that is the standpoint of educators. To have the students understand things outside of their realms by use of representation.

Did the authors intend for these to become representations?
That really depends on the author. Mark Twain, Dickens, Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, etc did not. That is why they are perfect examples. Because there is an honesty to their works.
Mark Twain did not mean for Jim and Huck's relationship to become an icon for a politcal movement. Arthur Miller did not intend for the Crucible to be a political statement, though it was how it was taken and he was blackballed because of it. It simply was written how it was.
But the other side of that same coin is that some did. Did Tolkein intend for his characters to embody and represent absolute traits of basic human nature? (which was my thesis paper, btw). He did. C.S. Lewis intended for Narnia to be a statement. Atticus Finch *was* supposed to be iconic and moralistic and idealistic and Boo Radley *was* created to make people think outside the box. Truman Capote intended to make upper class white people shift in their seats and become afraid.
Tennessee Williams *was* a mysogonist who believed women were inferior.
Some intended their messages yes.

Do I think that educators go waaaaaaaaaaaay too far in the analytical process? Absolutely. It is one of the multitudes of reasons I am no longer a teacher. That brand of "teaching" does not inspire passion nor higher understanding but boredom and conempt.

Do I think that drastic form of analysis is a slap in the face to authors?
Absolutely. As a writer I get *so* frustrated when people tell me what I meant by my works. I think I know.

I think some analysis is good. I want readers of my stuff to think. To feel. To have a natural reaction to the story at hand. To walk away and two days later have it there in their heads haunting them. And I want them to figure out for themselves *why* they feel that way, why the story affected them...whether it is relation, fear of, etc. But that is something that can not be taught in a class because it is not the same for everyone...and should not be.
And that is my biggest issue of all. When the instructor "informs" that this is how it is, period, and that there is no room for alternate interpretations. Makes me want to choke them.

Doc. I used the same quote as my paper. I was supposed to write a 5 page paper analysing a story. I stapled 5 pages together with quotes as such from Twain...one on each page.

Hokay....I think I'm a bit passionate about this and need to stop now. lol wink


Pele
Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir
"Oooh look! A pub!" -exclaimed after recovering from a stupid fall
"And for the decadence of art, nothing beats a roaring fire." -TMK

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Rouge Dragon
BRONZE Member since Jul 2003

Rouge Dragon

Insert Champagne Here
Location: without class distinction

Total posts: 13215
Posted:Pele, this is a bit off topic, but as I wrote earlier, I did literature in highschool and loved it (fantastic teacher helped!). I'm not doing literature in university, but the thought had crossed my mind (my lit teacher was surprised I didn't do it). But there's something in the back of my mind about it:

Dad used to work with a lady who majored in literature at university, and she said she barely reads now because all the fun has been taken out of it and she now simply can't read books for pleasure anymore. Do you find this? Because I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading and I never want to do something that will make me hate it.


i would have changed ***** to phallus, and claire to petey Petey

Rougie: but that's what I'm doing here
Arnwyn: what letting me adjust myself in your room?..don't you dare quote that on HoP...

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Pele
BRONZE Member since Dec 2000

Pele

the henna lady
Location: WNY, USA

Total posts: 6193
Posted:Written by: Rouge Dragon

Dad used to work with a lady who majored in literature at university, and she said she barely reads now because all the fun has been taken out of it and she now simply can't read books for pleasure anymore. Do you find this? Because I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading and I never want to do something that will make me hate it.



RD, I actually think that question is right on topic. smile

No it did not diminish my love of reading at all. In fact, there were authors that I was turned on to which I wouldn't have concidered reading before.

However, I can compartmentalize easily. I can check things at the door and keep work analysis at work. Some people can not and the mode of thinking needed to analise these things every day stays with them.

I think you will need to decide for yourself whether or not that's true.

The other thing I can say is that during the school year I rarely had time for pleasure reading just because I was so busy, whether I was teaching elementary (with little to do with lit) or secondary literature.

Best of luck to you.


Pele
Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir
"Oooh look! A pub!" -exclaimed after recovering from a stupid fall
"And for the decadence of art, nothing beats a roaring fire." -TMK

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Stone
GOLD Member since Jun 2001

Stream Entrant
Location: Melbourne

Total posts: 2830
Posted:Hi Pele, I agree that having to study literature can often wreck a good book. Though, Im not sure I follow your thoughts on literature. Are you saying that Dickens was not making social comments and Tolkein was? Because I would have had them round the other way.

smile


If we as members of the human race practice meditation, we can transcend our fear, despair, and forgetfulness. Meditation is not an escape. It is the courage to look at reality with mindfulness and concentration. Thich Nhat Hanh

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animatEd
BRONZE Member since Aug 2004

animatEd

1 + 1 = 3
Location: Bristol UK

Total posts: 3540
Posted:To quote Tolkien on The Lord of The Rings:

"As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical, nor topical. [...] the crucial chapter, 'the shadow of the past' is one of the oldest parts of the tale. It was written long before the foreshadow of 1939 had become a threat of inevitable disaster, [...] It's sources are things long before in mind, or in some cases already written, and little or nothing in it was modified by the war that began in 1939 or it's sequels"

Along with so many more denials that it would take AGES for me to write out...

Still, I don't believe that Dickens was making social comments either...


Empty your mind. Be formless, Shapeless, like Water.
Put Water into a cup, it becomes the cup, put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Water can flow, or it can Crash.
Be Water My Friend.

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Harry_Potter


Harry_Potter

ToadStool Circus Acts
Location: Derbyshire

Total posts: 181
Posted:I'm studying English Literature. I remember thinking before i took the subject. Is this subject going to wreck my avid love for reading books. Through experience i can say no it doesnt. Ive been reading Books such as 'Death of a Salesman' by Arthur Miller and 'A Mid Summer Nights Dream' by William Shakespeare. I love these Plays. Analysing them is fun. Well i find it is.

But going from the title of the thread. Shakespeare stole his stories didnt he? So if he did that, how could he purposefully set out to have children work out what the symbollic reference of such and such is? Also mean to put those obscure metaphors in there?

Am i right in any of that? Pele? I'm only studying A Level so i could be very wrong.


Yo-yoist, Staffer and 3 Ball and Club Juggling
'Its people like us, who make them feel talentless.'

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Stone
GOLD Member since Jun 2001

Stream Entrant
Location: Melbourne

Total posts: 2830
Posted:Wot, no social comment in Dickens? *cough*cough* Then, I'm thinking that perhaps people dont read Dickens any more.

smile


If we as members of the human race practice meditation, we can transcend our fear, despair, and forgetfulness. Meditation is not an escape. It is the courage to look at reality with mindfulness and concentration. Thich Nhat Hanh

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Rouge Dragon
BRONZE Member since Jul 2003

Rouge Dragon

Insert Champagne Here
Location: without class distinction

Total posts: 13215
Posted:Wasn't it because of Dickens that they ended public executions??

i would have changed ***** to phallus, and claire to petey Petey

Rougie: but that's what I'm doing here
Arnwyn: what letting me adjust myself in your room?..don't you dare quote that on HoP...

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squarexbear
SILVER Member since Apr 2005

squarexbear

....of doom!
Location: Hastings, UK

Total posts: 585
Posted:Dickens fully intended his stories to be comments on the social inequalities of the day...however, i think that there is now a level of interpretation that goes completely beyond what was intended. i don't know if thats what pele meant..

also arthur miller - his writing of the crucible at that time wasnt exactly a coincidence..
oh, but i learnt that in englit.. wink


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nearly_all_gone
SILVER Member since Aug 2004

nearly_all_gone

Pooh-Bah
Location: Southampton

Total posts: 1626
Posted:Written by: i8beefy2


Anyone read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? A good deal of it is devoted to something like this. While there is an overarching beauty to the stories (the artist perspective), there can also be beauty in the small analysis of individual pieces (the technical person's view). While it seems to be destroying the whole beauty by analysing something already beautiful, there is a certain beauty in the analysis as well. For instance, its amazing that so many individual well-played elements are packed into a good story sometimes. A lot of the literary classics are like that, and are classics because for so long they have been analysed that way. But there are other books that are just good on the overarching quality of the story.



Which is why I think a lot of people can read a technical writing "classic" and hate it because it lacks the overarching beauty, and a technical person can read a good story and hate it because it lacks the elements that they can pick out as quality. But some of the real classics that they all agree on contain both, which is why they are masterpieces.



On a side note this is one of the things I dislike from Aristotle: that aesthetics can be reduced to only elements of quality. Completely leaves out the artistic sense of beauty, and so you can write a story with all the elements, and its still crap. But of course, you ca't really describe quality, just recognize it, so how do you talk about it when you can't define it? Same with Love, etc.



The Tao that can be named is not the true tao...



Possibly the best post ever. I love literature and its study. I find so much more in a book if I undertsnad why it does what it does to me. I can have the story as well as about fifty other layers (in a good book), and I can also enjoy some of the best (although considered the most challenging) writers that have ever lived. Joyce and Woolf, for example (if we're talking classics wink ).



If you don't want to see beyond the story or the peoem, you don't have to. But if you do then you're really just opening your eyes wider and wider, understanding how and why a book (or a poem, or anything literary)has been written the way it has, why certain things are simply beuatiful and others fall flat...



I'm no writer, I can't put it into words.



What he
Non-Https Image Link
said, only far less eloquently.



Good call on the tao reference, by the way. Have you read much Wittgenstein? I think you might enjoy him.


What a wonderful miracle if only we could look through each other's eyes for an instant.
Thoreau

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