criticism gone awry

Denise DeGraf amergin at uclink4.berkeley.edu
Mon Aug 16 18:42:41 EDT 1999


At 02:21 pm 8/16/1999, Melissa Proffitt hammered into the ethereal keyboard:
>Only the most rigid of instructors is going to fail a student who comes up 
>with a theme
>that they haven't discussed in class, if the student can back it up with
>relevant detail.
That's what I have...  An entire department of professors that seem to 
require that all students walk the line between what we discussed in class 
and not repeating it to a plagaristic point.  There's also a strange line 
for breaking that rule: if you do it poorly, you're docked for a bad 
paper.  If one writes the paper "too well" (as I do), the professor starts 
making accusations of plagarism.  I've had it happen four times in two 
years...  :^P

>But the real point of traditional literary criticism (by which I mean not
>just the examination of theme, but of character and plot and rhetoric) is to
>get people thinking about books as a way to convey meaning that is not
>limited to the surface detail of the story.
I wish someone would tell my professors that.  The "new trend" this past 
year at my campus has been analysis of all literature based purely on the 
surface details.  Mentioning ANY non-literary concepts in papers seemed to 
be taboo last year...  Including psych, sociology, history--how one is to 
interpret Gulliver's Travels without mentioning history is something I 
never figured out, but we were supposed to do it...

>I never did finish Faerie Queene either.  Someday I will have to make a list
>of all the books I was supposed to read that I didn't enjoy.  I think there
>may be some common factor that would give me more insight into what I like
>in a book.  My college degree may be a tribute to the amount of BSing you
>can do and still graduate.
I know that my college degree--which I will hopefully get next Spring--is 
going to be a massive tribute to BS...  I write too many papers on books I 
have barely even opened other than to take quotes from for it to be 
otherwise.  As far as books I haven't liked for class, that's generally 
because either it's too much work in too short a time period (anything in 
long poetic form or convoluted) or the story itself puts me to sleep.  The 
stories in the Faerie Queene--ie what went on--were interesting, but 
dealing with it in the poetic form dragged things out so much that I got 
bored and quit.

Denise DeGraf
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