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    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2012
     

    Unlurking for a moment….

    I think part of modern literary fiction’s appeal is the common desire to be percieved as intelligent. In our society, people seem to think that the mere ability to comprehend opaque passages is a sign of intelligence and possibly depth. So since a simply-written passage takes less brainpower to understand than a near-incomprehensible one, reading the near-incomprehensible one makes you a smarter person. Therefore, if you write passages that are difficult to understand, they are “challenging” and “intellectual,” not a sign of poor writing.

    Yet I don’t feel that is necessarily true. Here’s a passage from Goblet of Fire:

    From far away, above his head, he heard a high, cold voice say, “Kill the spare.” A swishing noise and a second voice, which screeched the words to the night: “Avada Kedavra!”
    A blast of green light blazed through Harry’s eyelids, and he heard something heavy fall to the ground bside him; the pain in his scar reached such a pitch that he retched, and then it diminished; terrifed of what he was about to see, he opened his stinging eyes.
    Cedric was lying spread-eagled on the ground beside him. He was dead.

    And here’s a passage from All the Pretty Horses:

    While inside the vaulting of the ribs between his knees the darkly meated heart pumped of who’s will and the blood pulsed and the bowels shifted in their massive blue convolutions of who’s will and the stout thighbones and knee and cannon and the tendons like flaxen hawsers that drew and flexed and drew and flexed at their articulations of who’s will all sheathed and muffled in the flesh and the hooves that stove wells in the morning groundmist and the head turning side to side and the great slavering keyboard of his teeth and the hot globes of his eyes where the world burned.

    Now, what did you feel, reading the first passage? I felt fear, apprehension, sorrow, shock, and more than a bit of outrage. With the second passage, I felt mostly confusion. The outrage came later—at Cormac McCarthy for writing this crap, the editor for allowing it to be published, and my teacher for making me waste my time reading it.

    Yet All the Pretty Horses is considered literature and Goblet of Fire is not. I know there are many reasons for that decision, but I have to wonder: If the Harry Potter series had been written in a more verbose and pretentious style, would more of the literary elite consider it literary?

    •  
      CommentAuthorThea
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2012
     

    That is a great point Danielle. Surely being smart just means no one else knows what you’re talking about. That attitude sends me into fits, honestly.

    And when you’re talking about classics, they’re less opaque and more a product of style, so once you get used to the rhythms they’re more readable than most people assume. (Not across the board, there are some ‘classics’ I’m convinced only survived because fatter books are more impressive.)

    “keyboard of his teeth” makes me LOL forever. Which is bad, because I’m at work.

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2012
     

    Surely being smart just means no one else knows what you’re talking about. That attitude sends me into fits, honestly.

    Me too. And whenever I run into that attitude, I think of Eugene Meltsner, a character from a Christian radio show called Adventures in Odessey. He was the egghead of the bunch, and he used a lot of big words in everyday conversation. Whenever he’d say something like “Water under the bridge,” he’d add “to borrow the old colloquialism” or “water under the proverbial bridge.” He came across as a genius, and yet as a ten-year-old, I always knew what he was talking about. I never had to pause the tape to look up his words in a dictionary, or ponder over them for twenty minutes to figure out what he meant.

    And I must have not been the only kid who understood Eugene: He’s been a main character since the program started in the 80s (I think; might’ve been the late 70s) and most kids I know who still listen to the show think Eugene is funny. These are kids as young as seven, and they don’t have any trouble understanding a character who says “his lower lumbar and/or patella gave way” to say “he threw out his back.”

    And when you’re talking about classics, they’re less opaque and more a product of style, so once you get used to the rhythms they’re more readable than most people assume.

    Exactly. Mark Twain wasn’t striving for a lofty style (except for maybe when he wrote The Prince and the Pauper ). He was writing in a style that would have been very accessible to people of the time period. The same is true of Dickens, Hugo, Austen, and most of the other authors “literary” writers strive to emulate. Case in point: John Steinbeck. The language he uses is accessible because it is close to the language we use in everyday speech. It was also accessible to people in the 30s and 40s. He didn’t strive for loftiness; he just made everyday words sound extraordinary because they painted extraordinary pictures.

    “keyboard of his teeth” makes me LOL forever. Which is bad, because I’m at work.

    If I’m reading it aloud, I always lose it sometime between “the bowels shifted in their massive blue convolutions of who’s will” and “tendons like flaxen hawsers that drew and flexed and drew and flexed.” Seriously, that sentence is Eye of Argon bad.

    •  
      CommentAuthorKyllorac
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2012
     

    I still can’t get over how McCarthy spent all that wordage on poetically describing that horse’s bowel movements. Like, seriously.

    On the topic of accessible literature, pretty much anything by Dostoyevsky is extremely accessible. For example, the first two paragraphs of The Idiot:

    Towards the end of November, during a thaw, at nine o’clock one morning, a train on the Warsaw and Petersburg railway was approaching the latter city at full speed. The morning was so damp and misty that it was only with great difficulty that the day succeeded in breaking; and it was impossible to distinguish anything more than a few yards away from the carriage windows.

    Some of the passengers by this particular train were returning from abroad; but the third-class carriages were the best filled, chiefly with insignificant persons of various occupations and degrees, picked up at the different stations nearer town. All of them seemed weary, and most of them had sleepy eyes and a shivering expression, while their complexions generally appeared to have taken on the colour of the fog outside.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2012
     

    True, but it’s also full of a lot of unnecessary words and details. Then again, I’m pretty sure that’s to be expected of classic Russian writers.

    •  
      CommentAuthorFalling
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2012
     

    @Danielle

    Holy. That second example, I don’t even know what’s going on or at least not until I get to the end of it. And in the meantime the sentence is so long, the problem is compounded. But yeah, I feel like literary fiction takes great delight in being in-accessible as though accessible writing somehow implies shallow writing.

    As for comic strips simply from being for children- I think Calvin & Hobbes is a great example of how comics can be both accessible to young readers and yet contain these very funny critiques of post-modern art, commericalism, and much more. His writings on the false division between ‘high’ art and ‘low’ art is also very interesting.

    I also like the comparisons to the classic literary writers. You could pick up Jonathan Swift today and find it a very easy read through just as a surface story. It might take a little more to unpack his political parodies and philosophic critiques, but his prose isn’t a difficult challenge to overcome.

    Also Eugene Meltsner :)

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2012
     

    I feel like literary fiction takes great delight in being in-accessible as though accessible writing somehow implies shallow writing.

    Me too! I feel like they all seem to think that if the readers understand what you’re trying to say right off the bat, then you’re saying it wrong. Which is baloney. Steinbeck could be (and often is) considered literary, but it doesn’t take long at all to decipher what he’s saying. And that, in my opinion, is what constitutes good writing: If a modern literary writer (say, Cormac McCarthy) had written Of Mice and Men, the ending wouldn’t have a quarter of the impact because it would be too difficult to figure out what the heck’s going on. You’d spend twenty minutes staring at the last few paragraphs, and then when you finally figured out what happened, you wouldn’t say “HOLY SHIT, DUDE! THAT’S SO TWISTED AND SAD AND YET I CAN’T THINK OF ANOTHER POSSIBLE ENDING FOR THE STORY BUT STILL, HOLY SHIT!” You’d say something more like “Ooooohhhhh, so that’s what happened! George killed Lenny because….wait a second…..why didn’t this guy just say so in the first place?”

    If Proulx wrote Of Mice and Men, she’d spend too much time comparing Lenny’s shoulders to bookcases and his feet to loaves of French bread that the plot would never show up.

    As for comic strips simply from being for children- I think Calvin & Hobbes is a great example of how comics can be both accessible to young readers and yet contain these very funny critiques of post-modern art, commericalism, and much more.

    “The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes.” XD

  1.  

    unnecessary words and details

    At least these are poignant details. I love me some Dostoevsky, but I wouldn’t say that being difficult to read is necessarily a bad thing. Henry James can be quite convoluted (and it does get annoying after a point), but I found that tone really contributed to the overall atmosphere in The Turn of the Screw. It’s the only work of his I’ve read, but Portrait of a Lady is definitely on my list.

    Nabokov is also difficult (I remember a whole passage of nonsense bits of different languages strung together in Lolita), and I think that he is the author these modern writers try to imitate in their lyrical descriptions. But they take the trappings of difficulty like those nonsense paragraphs and witty wordplay and completely skip over the more subtle aspects that I think contribute most to the beauty of Nabokov’s prose. He is so good at describing ordinary things in a new way that seemed completely natural, even if a bit odd.

    “And presently I was driving through the drizzle of the dying day, with the windshield wipers in full action but unable to cope with my tears.”

    “We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night — every night, every night — the moment I feigned sleep.”

    Nabokov could pull off a dizzying sentence, but he knew better than to cram it in with a bunch of other dizzying sentences.

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2012
     

    You could pick up Jonathan Swift today and find it a very easy read through just as a surface story. It might take a little more to unpack his political parodies and philosophic critiques, but his prose isn’t a difficult challenge to overcome.

    But they take the trappings of difficulty like those nonsense paragraphs and witty wordplay and completely skip over the more subtle aspects that I think contribute most to the beauty of Nabokov’s prose.

    I agree with both of you, though I haven’t read any Nabakov. Silas Marner, for example, contains paragraphs jammed with detail and long sentences, and the story is quite slow. There is very, very little action throughout. Yet it is still an enjoyable read, because those details are vital to understanding Marner as a character. It’s essential to understand why the villagers didn’t like him much, why he didn’t do anything to dispel their notions, and how all this impacts the story.

    Yet modern authors read Silas Marner with an eye toward emulation, and they ask themselves, “Why did this story endure? What must I do to write an enduring story?” But instead of picking out things like a sweet, heartwarming story; complex characters and in-depth character studies; and universal themes like running from the past, isolation, and redemption as a process; these authors see complex sentences, a slow-moving storyline, limited focus, and not much action. I think they mistakenly believe that those elements are what made Silas Marner a classic. So they write these stories that contain all of the surface elements of the book they’re emulating, but none of the real, lasting qualities. They clothe their stories in the robes of classics, but they completely remove the soul.

  2.  

    though I haven’t read any Nabakov

    If you want to see a very literary style done right, I’d recommend Lolita, although the squicky plot elements tend to turn some people off. For the record, Nabokov thought Humbert was a despicable character, but I can see why it could be uncomfortable. The plot does kind of sag towards the middle, but the writing is gorgeous, in my opinion.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2012
     

    that horse’s bowel movements

    Is that what it was supposed to be talking about? I honestly had no idea.

    Nabokov could pull off a dizzying sentence, but he knew better than to cram it in with a bunch of other dizzying sentences.

    See now, that second example you posted? Whoa. That was good. There’s like six different things going on at once, yet I could still follow the sentence. And best of all, there were no out-of-place comparisons or references to defecation or urination.

    So I guess the conclusion is that convoluted or high-brow sentences are just fine, just most people can’t do them well. And by “most people” we mean “most literary fiction authors”.

  3.  

    horse’s bowel movements

    Oh yeah. :P

    Not that I have never read weird digressions- there’s one in The Picture of Dorian Gray that basically goes on for pages about perfume- but at least the topic wasn’t so ridiculous. I have no other words for it.

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    See now, that second example you posted? Whoa. That was good. There’s like six different things going on at once, yet I could still follow the sentence. And best of all, there were no out-of-place comparisons or references to defecation or urination.

    It made me want to start reading Nabakov.

    So I guess the conclusion is that convoluted or high-brow sentences are just fine, just most people can’t do them well. And by “most people” we mean “most literary fiction authors”.

    I think of an episode of Worst Cooks in America. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the link, but here’s what happens:

    The cooks (who are on this show to improve their sorry cooking skills) have to cook meatballs from different countries. One of them gets Turkey (I think; it might’ve been another country in that general vincinity) and her recipe calls for a pinch of saffron in the meatballs. So she cooks the recipe as best she can, adds the saffron to the meatballs, and then decides her dish doesn’t look pretty enough. Well, she’s running short on time, and she has an entire jar of deep red saffron sitting right there....

    Yeah. She garnishes her meatballs with $200 worth of saffron.

    And I think that’s what literary authors do. They think of a story, and decide that it’s not pretty enough. Because it usually isn’t—literary authors are lousy at coming up with good plots*. (That most of them are book snobs who think plot is what the proles read for doesn’t help.) So they say “Heeeeyyyyy….why don’t I liven up this sentence a bit! I’ll add some more words, complexify the structure a bit, and make it drag on and on FOREVER! Oh, and I’ll do it with this one, and this one, and that one over there….” Pretty soon, the story is a jumble of nigh-incomprehensible BS masquerading as good writing, and the literary elite fall for it. Every. Single. Time.

    *I am of the opinion that sometimes, a bad plot doesn’t matter. Many a well-written bestseller has followed a somewhat stale storyline. Heck, even Lord of the Rings is just another heroic quest kind of story—the same type we’ve seen in almost every iteration possible. What matters is that the author takes the stale storyline in new, fresh directions and that, above all, she is passionate about what she’s writing.

    •  
      CommentAuthorThea
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012 edited
     

    She garnishes her meatballs with $200 worth of saffron.

    That sounds about right. And sorry for the short comment, but I remembered a throwaway comment in a book called Literary Feuds. In discussing…Sinclair Lewis, I think, he pointed out that his very accessibility is why he isn’t read anymore. Because many ‘classics’ survive through being taught in school, and when they’re talked about. Have you taken the higher level literature classes? You generally are required to read lots of critical analysis. So doctorate students have to find a new theory about a novel that’s been written about for at least a hundred years, and the more opaque it is, the more they can make stuff up. It snowballs from there, in my opinion. Job security, if you will

  4.  

    the idea that real art never actually makes money

    Bullshit. Real art should make money. If you think it’s bad with literature, think about theatre. Think about Broadway. Think about the West End. Think about opera anywhere. They use $200 of saffron every night for weeks, months, even years. And that would be for a single course (meatballs), but have six courses besides just like it. Eventually you get to dessert with explosions and gold foil for big set pieces nobody with any sense of accounting would ever imagine. And it is glorious. Glorious, I say. But also ostentatious and bloated.

    I’m not really sure just why sci-fi is lower on the totem pole than fantasy. It shouldn’t even be the folklore thing (Novels about folklore seem to automatically have some literary merit)

    Of course novels about folklore have literary merit. They even have their own special genre. It’s called magical realism.

    You also have to think about the opportunities for allusion even in more “realistic” books. Your readers won’t know you’ve Read Big Books unless you have riffs on Ovid, Virgil, or Homer. The appeal to classical mythology is a core concept of humanism, which later blossomed into the humanities we know and love today. Sometimes Shakespeare, Byron, Milton or the King James Bible work too, but classical writers are the best. Shakespeare hasn’t transcended millenia. Shakespeare, Byron and Milton all ripped off the Greeks and the Bible anyway. Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno are fan fiction. Being able to parse the text and identify the fan fiction and what Harold Bloom (among others) calls “intertextuality” are what make graduate studies in the humanities possible.

    Dostoyevsky is cheating because it depends on the translator. Not all of us speak or read Russian, and Russian orthographic standards have changed a lot since 1869, especially after 1917. Translation is a form of creative writing, and clarity is based on the work of the translator(s) and editor(s), not the writers themselves. One should strive to always translate (and especially verbally interpret) into one’s native tongue if possible. However, nobody (not even the editors of dictionaries) knows every word, proverb or dialect in their native language. The idea of a nonnative speaker managing to communicate this richness is absurd. Some things just don’t make any sense in another language. Translation is a noble vocation and makes the world a better place, but it is a forever imperfect art.

    See almost any modern translation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata for an example of translation generally making the text worse.
    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    On a side note re: translations, I’m not sure how good the translations I’ve read of Lysistrata are, but quite frankly, if the original is funnier than what I’ve read, I want to give it an award for the funniest thing ever written ever. It’s great.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPryotra
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    They even have their own special genre. It’s called magical realism.

    Magical realism is slightly different. Like “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” and “the Library of Babel” are magical realism but not folklore by any stretch of the imagination. From what I’ve been taught, magical realism is has something magical in it, but the stories don’t really seem to acknowledge them as odd or magical.

    “East” is a book based on “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” but while it has a kind of literary merit according to be my teachers, it’s not literary fiction. That’s what I meant.

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    Because many ‘classics’ survive through being taught in school, and when they’re talked about. Have you taken the higher level literature classes? You generally are required to read lots of critical analysis. So doctorate students have to find a new theory about a novel that’s been written about for at least a hundred years, and the more opaque it is, the more they can make stuff up. It snowballs from there, in my opinion. Job security, if you will

    Just doctorate students? Try high schoolers in college-prep courses. For one college-prep English class, we had to do our own literary criticism of a classic of our choosing. We got to choose our own themes, but we had to support our decisions with at least three lit-crit essays. So my essay on how three different characters in Frankenstein represent three natures in man (good, evil, and the one torn between them) was very difficult to write, simply because nobody else had written about it yet.

    Which is dumb, in my opinion. Rather than reward students for originality, that method of literary criticism punishes them for having and pursuing original thoughts. And I know that this attitude prevails in professional criticism, too; every lit-crit essay I read cited at least three other lit-crit essays, as well as the book.

    See almost any modern translation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata for an example of translation generally making the text worse.

    So if translation of foreign texts can’t uphold the integrity of the prose, why do professors and teachers force us to study translations of foreign prose for style instead of substance? Or, if the prose is unique (like Nabakov’s) why don’t professors tell us “This is an imperfect translation. Keep that in mind as you read.”

    Just a thought.

    (PS: Lysistrata is one of the dirtiest things I’ve read….but it’s also one of the funniest.)

    Magical realism is slightly different. Like “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” and “the Library of Babel” are magical realism but not folklore by any stretch of the imagination. From what I’ve been taught, magical realism is has something magical in it, but the stories don’t really seem to acknowledge them as odd or magical.

    I’d say the line blurs somewhere, but it could be drawn in how the fantastic elements are treated. Like Pryotra said, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” contains fantastic elements, but they’re not exactly treated as fantastic. Percy Jackson, on the other hand, could be considered a modern revamp of Greek folklore, but the fantastic elements are treated as fantastic.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    every lit-crit essay I read cited at least three other lit-crit essays, as well as the book.

    I actually just turned in a paper on Frankenstein earlier this week, and this is something I noticed. Our professor talked about how we’re entering a conversation and responding to what others have said, and I recognize that that’s an important and valuable aspect of literary criticism, but I did kind of wonder how you get critical analysis in the first place, if everyone is just responding to what others said. At some point, somebody just had to start with the original material and maybe some relevant background information (in the case of Frankenstein, an understanding of the book of Genesis or Paradise Lost, for example) and write about things based on that.

    If this perspective truly is common throughout academia (and it wasn’t just my professor recognizing that we’re college students and therefore probably aren’t going to come up with anything shocking and new for something that’s been around for two hundred years), then yes, that does seem like a problem.

    Re: Lysistrata again: oh man, so dirty. I read it in a high school textbook, too, and I was like “They put this in a textbook?!” But it’s old, so the endless sex jokes don’t count, apparently.

    •  
      CommentAuthorKyllorac
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    See almost any modern translation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata for an example of translation generally making the text worse.

    OMG THIS.

    My copy…interpreted Lampito as a back-country mountain hick. I mean, he did so to emphasis the Athenian view of Spartans as backwards, barely-civilized, and stubborn about it, and it worked, but still. So painful.

    Re: Lysistrata again: oh man, so dirty. I read it in a high school textbook, too, and I was like “They put this in a textbook?!” But it’s old, so the endless sex jokes don’t count, apparently.

    coughShakespearecough

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    I did kind of wonder how you get critical analysis in the first place, if everyone is just responding to what others said. At some point, somebody just had to start with the original material and maybe some relevant background information (in the case of Frankenstein, an understanding of the book of Genesis or Paradise Lost, for example) and write about things based on that.

    If you carry on a conversation like that IRL, you are going to run out of things to say eventually, because you’ll just be repeated what everyone else said. Real conversations are more than just responses to what others say; sometimes, you have to segue into new material to keep the conversation going.

    If this perspective truly is common throughout academia (and it wasn’t just my professor recognizing that we’re college students and therefore probably aren’t going to come up with anything shocking and new for something that’s been around for two hundred years), then yes, that does seem like a problem.

    If it’s a common problem (and from what I can see of academia, it seems to be) then nothing new is ever going to be said. No one will ever express their own opinion, because it has never been said before and can thus never be said at all.

    Re: Lysistrata again: oh man, so dirty. I read it in a high school textbook, too, and I was like “They put this in a textbook?!” But it’s old, so the endless sex jokes don’t count, apparently.

    It’s weird, this attitude we seem to have toward the past. From college courses that stress how OMG NO ONE HAD SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE WE WERE SO IN THE DARK AGES Y’ALL, you get the idea that the past was pure and virginal, where sex was kept in the bedroom and never enjoyed. Yet we have mountains of evidence that it was the opposite, with Lysistrata being some of the most damning.

    My prof treated it like the forty pages of dirty jokes it is. He said that while many scholars see it as a satire of war between the various Greek city-states, he saw it as a satire of sex, because most of the jokes were about how horny everyone is—not how warmongering they are.

    And then he joined in with the dirty jokes.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    @Kyll – the difference for me with Shakespeare is that typically, you learn Shakespeare in Ye Olde Englishe, whereas the translation of Lysistrata I read was in fairly modern English. So if you know Ye Olde Englishe (say, if you grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible…), you get all the dirty jokes in Shakespeare and laugh uproariously while everyone else is confused, but the dirtiness of Lysistrata in modern translation is fairly accessible to most readers.

    •  
      CommentAuthorWiseWillow
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    Lysistrata… we didn’t read it in class, but it was in our lit book. I about died trying to keep my laughs internal, as I was reading it in class during lecture.

    •  
      CommentAuthorKyllorac
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    I once started a “translation” of Romeo and Juliet into modern English, years ago. You can see the result here.

    Times like these, I am tempted to go back and finish it.

    •  
      CommentAuthorThea
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    I think you should! It’s a lot of fun, had me cracking up :)

    •  
      CommentAuthorPryotra
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012 edited
     

    You should really complete it! It’s the best modern version of the play that I’ve ever read!

    I’d like to see certain author’s faces if they ever saw it. evil grin

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    Kyll, that is great! You need to at least “update” some of Juliet’s nurse’s lines.

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    Agreed! Best translation I’ve ever read! XD

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    ...and now I just spent like thirty minutes looking up dirty Shakespeare quotes. I was unaware of quite a few of them—I need to read more Shakespeare, apparently. My word, some of them are filthy!

  5.  

    As far as filthiness is concerned- The Miller’s Tale. That is all.

    •  
      CommentAuthorFalling
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    Haha. My professor was delighted that Chaucer had managed to rhyme ‘kiss’ with ‘piss’

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    Judging by the edition of the Miller’s Tale that I just read, I really need to read the rest of Chaucer. However, the wife has the same first name as I do. I’m… not sure what to think about that!

    •  
      CommentAuthorKyllorac
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    “What are you thinking about?”

    “Nothing.”

    •  
      CommentAuthorThea
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    I found the local writer’s group and we spend a whole fifteen minutes talking about the Miller’s Tale.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2012
     

    I’ll just leave this here…

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeNov 3rd 2012 edited
     

    Jumping in here for this one comment, then I’m backing out again.

    that method of literary criticism punishes them for having and pursuing original thoughts.

    That was the modus operandi for my bachelor degree, too. I was strictly not allowed to make any sort of statement of opinion, even in essays of literary criticism, without backing it up with at least three different sources per statement. So much for expanding my mind and exploring new ideas and ways of thinking. And that was a standard attitude for every ‘stream’ of literature, be it poetry, romanticism, the Greek tragedies, or even modern short fiction. We were actively prohibited from expressing any original thoughts about the literature we were studying.

    Also, Kyllorac, I really think you should keep working on that modern English translation of R&J. it’s brilliant! So few ‘modern English’ translators write with even half of your eloquence or understanding of the subject matter. I’ve read a few, and nearly all of them ignore most of the in-jokes and subtleties and just write what they thought Shakespeare meant (i.e. shallow surface-driven interpretations without the undercurrents). Yours has all the subtlety and grace of the original, but with carefully chosen updates to working and style to make it accessible to modern readers. I was also deeply impressed with how closely you stuck to the original; most of the aforementioned adaptations take far too much liberty in condensing and modernising, so they’d reduce important scenes like the opening with the servants to a few hasty lines, cutting out a good deal of the banter and in the process destroying the charm and attraction of the original text.

    • CommentAuthorDeborah
    • CommentTimeNov 3rd 2012
     

    That modern version of Romeo and Juliet was hilarious! Please finish it.

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      CommentAuthorKyllorac
    • CommentTimeNov 3rd 2012
     

    Yours has all the subtlety and grace of the original, but with carefully chosen updates to working and style to make it accessible to modern readers. I was also deeply impressed with how closely you stuck to the original

    This really means a lot. I took a lot of pains in “translating” those sections, and it was not easy (and I had to leave out/replace SO many innuendos and puns), which is why I never actually finished. But I might just take it up again. :3

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeNov 3rd 2012
     

    This really means a lot. I took a lot of pains in “translating” those sections, and it was not easy (and I had to leave out/replace SO many innuendos and puns), which is why I never actually finished. But I might just take it up again. :3

    The work you put in certainly shows. Most modern English translations opt for lukewarm jokes (to make it appropriate for freshmen….even though they’ll be reading Oedipus in a few years) and a couple of puns. Reading your translation was the first time I ever laughed out loud while reading Shakespeare.

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      CommentAuthorFalling
    • CommentTimeNov 3rd 2012
     

    @Danielle and Taku

    That’s bizarre. No wonder it’s so difficult for certain genres of books to break into academia. At some point, somebody needs to start the conversation if no-one is talking about it. I can see how it’s useful to see how other people have critiqued works as examples. But you’d think at some point, being able to apply the tools of critique would be sufficient.

    Perhaps one of my favourite papers I ever wrote was for a European History course- but it was about popular film’s portrayal of European history. My topic was somewhat limited in that I needed to find historians that had actually written articles on historical films (Zulu.) However, a large part of my essay was my own analysis of how the film portrayed imperialism. Was it earth shattering? No. But being able to analyze something on its own without armour plating the essay with hundreds of quotes was very fun.

    Best of all I got a free trip to present the paper at U of Notre Dame for an undergrad film conference :) (I was the one oddball history student trying to figure out what Mise en scène and auteur meant.)

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeNov 3rd 2012
     

    Perhaps one of my favourite papers I ever wrote was for a European History course- but it was about popular film’s portrayal of European history. My topic was somewhat limited in that I needed to find historians that had actually written articles on historical films (Zulu.) However, a large part of my essay was my own analysis of how the film portrayed imperialism. Was it earth shattering? No. But being able to analyze something on its own without armour plating the essay with hundreds of quotes was very fun.

    That’s awesome. So cool that you had a prof willing to let you take that risk. I had a prof who let me do that once—admittedly, it was in a much smaller way. I was doing my final project for an Images, Messages and Meaning course on how and why Harry Potter became so popular, but all of the scholarly articles on racism in the series were about the house-elves, instead of the much more prevalent Death Eaters. So my prof said I could compare text from the books with quotes from books about the Nazis and the KKK. He gave me a 4.0.

    Best of all I got a free trip to present the paper at U of Notre Dame for an undergrad film conference :) (I was the one oddball history student trying to figure out what Mise en scène and auteur meant.)

    That’s hilarious. XD (I don’t know what Mise en scene means, either, but I know what an auteur is.) How did they like it?

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      CommentAuthorWiseWillow
    • CommentTimeNov 3rd 2012
     

    OMFG ZULU.

    I love that movie! It does have some unfortunate implications here and there, but it is remarkably well done.

    •  
      CommentAuthorFalling
    • CommentTimeNov 3rd 2012 edited
     

    I think they were alright with it. Although after hearing the first couple presentations/ panels, I was a little afraid I would have to know something about queer theory interpretation for my film. Our papers were grouped and then there was a panel where they asked questions of us. My group was generally the History group.

    Apparently Freud is still a thing in film criticism. There was also a couple Marxist critiques from Canada. I was looking up words after the first day so now I do know about auteur theory and a little about mise en scene, haha.

    I got one or two questions directed specifically at my presentation, but it’s a pretty small crowd (basically all the presenters and the University’s film faculty.)

    Oh, hey Danielle, have you heard of Corey Olsen? He’s also known as the Tolkien Professor. Anyways, he’s created multiple university courses based on Tolkien’s writings and then by demand he’s now creating a literature course analyzing Harry Potter. He wasn’t convinced himself that there was much literary merit in it, but he found a couple professor who did and they’ll be running it. He records his lectures and discussions and then releases them for free as podcasts.

    I can’t remember when the Harry Potter course is going to start, but it might be in the spring semester. So at some point, those lectures/ discussions ought to be released as podcasts as well.

    edit.
    Yeah Zulu is a really excellent film. I actually hadn’t watched it prior to beginning my essay. I was originally going to base it on Four Feathers (and had found the 70’s version of it and the 20’s version of it- or maybe it was the 39 version.) I was going to look at a couple different films that portrayed British imperialism, which then led to Zulu. In the end the paper needed to be shorter and more focused so I dropped all three Four Feathers and ran with Zulu. There were also a couple more historians weighing in on Zulu.

  6.  

    Good literary fiction is good. Pretentious literary fiction is a snooze fest.