Friday, January 30, 2015

English lit is bullshit...

I was thinking about writing more about my upcoming dental drama, but decided to write about something more interesting.  When I was a young woman in college, I majored in English.  I chose English as my major because I enjoy writing and it's something that comes relatively easily for me.  I also chose it because I figured writing was a skill that will always be in demand (I was naive) and frankly, I didn't know what else I could do.  That was before I knew I had musical talent, but even if I had majored in music, I'd probably be in the same position I am in right now.  I am not really what you'd call a "go getter".  I am also one of those people that tends to be loved or hated.

Anyway, this morning I was reading Alexis's blog and we got to discussing Robert Frost.  Robert Frost, as you probably know, was a great American poet.  Alexis had referenced one of his most famous poems to describe a situation she is dealing with right now.  I remembered learning that same poem set to music when I was a member of my college's choir.

"Frostiana" (otherwise known as "The Road Not Taken")

In a comment back to me, Alexis wrote that Frost was "incredibly cryptic in his writing."  And, according to Alexis, he would get annoyed when people would ask him what he meant by certain things he wrote.  She explained that he didn't want to discuss the deeper meanings and nuances of his works.  I'm sure it was irritating when pseudo intellectual literature professors or students would assume they knew what his words "really" meant.  I'm sure the prospect of people dissecting his words, looking for some hidden meaning or a look at his soul was unnerving to him.  To me, it seems kind of arrogant to try to figure out a writer's motives more than just enjoying the story.

This clip from Back to School is pretty telling about writers and literature professors...

Alexis's comment about Frost reminded me of an article I read about Flannery O'Connor, who basically had the same thoughts when a literature professor asked her to explain herself.  You can click the link to read her whole response to the professor, but this is the part that I think is pertinent to today's post...

"The meaning of a story should go on expanding for the reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it."

As an English major, I never really understood the full value of analyzing a writer's work, looking for symbolism and hidden meanings.  Now that I'm older, I see that analysis is good for teaching one to look beyond the obvious and find new ways to look at a piece of writing.  As someone who likes to write and used to do a lot of fiction writing back in the day, I wasn't sure I felt all that comfortable with some nameless person reading my words and making assumptions about what I meant.  How can a person really interpret a writer's meaning if they don't know the writer?  Sure, you can learn about history.  You can even learn a writer's life story.  But unless you are inside the author's head, you can't really know how he or she meant their work to be "interpreted" or even if such interpretations would even be welcome.  And if the writer was writing many decades before a reviewer's birth, I would think the lens would be even more skewed.

Reading that post about Flannery O'Connor kind of validated how I felt when I was an English major.  I was a pretty mediocre English major and didn't care too much about a lot of the works I was forced to read, some of them for the second or third time.  I was in classes with many women who intended to be teachers and would be forcing the same books down their future students' throats.  All I really wanted to do was creative writing.  At the time, my college didn't offer creative writing as an option and even if I had wanted to pursue it, I am sure my parents would have vetoed it.  Or maybe they wouldn't have.  Although I am a creative person, I am also very practical and don't wish to be a starving artist...  Thanks to Bill, it's highly unlikely I will ever will be one.

On the other hand, I kind of wonder how people interpreted what the writer of this piece meant...

Talk about a smelly headline.  Wonder if the SCAT team responded...

I wasn't going to write about this, but I feel impressed to share something with my few regular readers.  As you may know, Bill and I visited a dentist the other day.  I got the news that it's time for an extraction or a root canal.  We are leaning toward the extraction so I can be done worrying about this diseased baby tooth I have.  Anyway, I asked on the local Facebook page if anyone could offer me anecdotes about their experiences getting an implant done by this particular dentist.  My post was pretty clear as to what I was looking for.

Another dentist, an American just starting a new dental practice nearby, piped in and invited me to come in for a consult.  I am certain he's competent, but if I'm honest, it kind of turns me off for a dentist trying to poach customers from a colleague on Facebook.  Indeed, the fact that this guy was on Facebook in the afternoon also turned me off a bit, even though I know he's just now building his business.  I don't have a problem with that or even Facebook advertising, but when someone specifically asks about a doctor's or a dentist's work, it does seem tacky for another doctor or dentist to chime in and try to steer that person to his or her practice, especially on Facebook.  But perhaps all is fair in love and dentistry... and maybe, like some folks on RfM concluded, he has a boat to pay for.  As everybody knows, dental implants aren't cheap and I'm sure he'd love a few new customers that need that kind of work done.  

As an addendum, it always surprises me how carelessly people read things online...  Quite a few people seemed to think I was looking for advice when I was really just kind of venting.  But I did appreciate some of the comments anyway, which came from people who had been there and done what I'm about to go through very soon.

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