More than you ever wanted to know (was Re: answers from Diana)

Rosie Burroughs rosieburroughs at
Wed May 23 17:25:27 EDT 2001

----- Original Message -----
From: Melissa Proffitt <Melissa at>
To: <dwj at>
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2001 6:41 AM
Subject: More than you ever wanted to know (was Re: answers from Diana)

> So, in my scale:
> *Theme is mostly "objective" because I'm usually not worried about whether
> or not I like or agree with the messages that the writer is promoting.
> Books get a higher score depending on how easily I think I could write a
> critical essay using only the book as my source text.  Hmmm.  I guess that
> could be seen as subjective, but replace "I" with "people who know basic
> crit stuff, like from high school English classes."

Wibble. I don't think I could ever use this part of the scale! In spite of a
respectable pass in English Lit at A-level, and a theology degree, I cannot
do lit crit (or hist crit) to save my life, and trying to do it on a book I
enjoy rapidly kills the enjoyment, though fortunately this is usually only
temporary. I realise you're not actually saying you write critical essays
about every book you read, but I am awed by the idea that anyone could think
in a lit-crit sort of way for fun! I find it very frustrating, because when
I'm reading a book I can think of lots of things about it, but when it comes
to writing about it I either can't get a grip on them at all or they sound
too banal and obvious to bother with once written down.

My boyfriend once had to write a criticism of the film of The Go-Between
(for GCSE English). He wrote an essay discussing its relation to the book
and where it was inaccurate and why, and was told this was not what was
required. I don't understand this attitude (the teacher's) at all. Maybe I
just have the wrong sort of mind.

> *Mental challenge is obviously subjective, because it's dependent on each
> reader's experience and ability.
> *Craft is objective insofar as I'm using concrete ideas about what makes
> good writing technique, but subjective when it comes to how important I
> think those elements are.  I'm personally annoyed by certain techniques
> others don't care about.

Doesn't this, or at least the objective part of it, come under the first

> *Emotional impact is, naturally, subjective.


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