Discussion:
English Literature a "subject"; was Jonson Molded England's Marble Monuments
(too old to reply)
Don
2017-12-05 14:46:37 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, 4 Dec 2017 12:02:13 -0500, John W Kennedy
<***@gmail.com> wrote:

(snip discussion of previous thread)
“One sad result of making English Literature a ‘subject’ at schools and
universities is that the reading of great authors is, from early years,
stamped upon the minds of conscientious and submissive young people as
something meritorious. When the young person in question is an agnostic
whose ancestors were Puritans, you get a very regrettable state of mind.
The Puritan conscience works on without the Puritan theology—like
millstones grinding nothing; like digestive juices working on an empty
stomach and producing ulcers. The unhappy youth applies to literature
all the scruples, the rigorism, the self-examination, the distrust of
pleasure, which his forebears applied to the spiritual life; and perhaps
soon all the intolerance and self-righteousness. The doctrine of I.A.
Richards in which the correct reading of good poetry has a veritable
therapeutic value confirms him in this attitude.
—C. S. Lewis: “An Experiment in Criticism”
BIG question, I assume, about using "English" as part of a subject
label. My MA diploma from an American university identifies "English"
as the subject area, when I actually wrote my thesis in American
Literature.

Idea of studying English Literature seems sound to me, and probably
students around the world. I appreciate the rhetoric Lewis invests in
his criticism cited, but while one can follow it, perhaps s/he can
mostly dismiss it as peculiarly provincial. We know Eliot assumed
British citizenship after moving from New England. Strange case of
him completing his doctorate at Harvard, then refusing to defend it.

But I'm sure we all like to humorously disparage the academic's
weighty and sometimes arbitrary ambulations, and students learn to
recognize when to bother taking notes. I like the sketch of a stodgy
academic as one who can dive into a subject from a great height, hold
his/her breath a long time while swimming under water, then coming
back to the platform without getting wet.

I would come back to the criticism of studying English Literature as
something merely meritorious. Something missing in Lewis' surmise
that it's "millstones grinding nothing; like digestive juices working
on an empty stomach." Maybe he thinks literature is a "Wasteland,"
too, but lots of us like it for what it does for the human condition.

Can't read the cite by a psychologist at
http://www.shakespearemelodijo.com/2015/10/william-j-ray-droeshout-portrait-and.html
and not recognize what you can do with just looking at Shakespeare or
Spenser with some insight and originality, IMO. Just look at what
bones to chew on Art N has found. bookburn
John W Kennedy
2017-12-05 20:34:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Don
On Mon, 4 Dec 2017 12:02:13 -0500, John W Kennedy
(snip discussion of previous thread)
“One sad result of making English Literature a ‘subject’ at schools and
universities is that the reading of great authors is, from early years,
stamped upon the minds of conscientious and submissive young people as
something meritorious. When the young person in question is an agnostic
whose ancestors were Puritans, you get a very regrettable state of mind.
The Puritan conscience works on without the Puritan theology—like
millstones grinding nothing; like digestive juices working on an empty
stomach and producing ulcers. The unhappy youth applies to literature
all the scruples, the rigorism, the self-examination, the distrust of
pleasure, which his forebears applied to the spiritual life; and perhaps
soon all the intolerance and self-righteousness. The doctrine of I.A.
Richards in which the correct reading of good poetry has a veritable
therapeutic value confirms him in this attitude.
—C. S. Lewis: “An Experiment in Criticism”
BIG question, I assume, about using "English" as part of a subject
label. My MA diploma from an American university identifies "English"
as the subject area, when I actually wrote my thesis in American
Literature.
Pooh! A silly verbal quibble, especially when the news has been full
these last few weeks of the publication of “Harry Potter and the
Philosopher's Stane”.

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, o nummer fower, Privet Loan, were prood tae say
that they were gey normal, thank ye awfie muckle. They were the lest
fowk ye wid jalouse wid be taigled up wi onythin unco or ferlie, because
they jist widnae hae onythin tae dae wi joukery packery like yon.”

/That’s/ a different language.
Post by Don
Idea of studying English Literature seems sound to me, and probably
students around the world. I appreciate the rhetoric Lewis invests in
his criticism cited, but while one can follow it, perhaps s/he can
mostly dismiss it as peculiarly provincial. We know Eliot assumed
British citizenship after moving from New England. Strange case of
him completing his doctorate at Harvard, then refusing to defend it.
But I'm sure we all like to humorously disparage the academic's
weighty and sometimes arbitrary ambulations, and students learn to
recognize when to bother taking notes. I like the sketch of a stodgy
academic as one who can dive into a subject from a great height, hold
his/her breath a long time while swimming under water, then coming
back to the platform without getting wet.
I would come back to the criticism of studying English Literature as
something merely meritorious. Something missing in Lewis' surmise
that it's "millstones grinding nothing; like digestive juices working
on an empty stomach." Maybe he thinks literature is a "Wasteland,"
too, but lots of us like it for what it does for the human condition.
Can't read the cite by a psychologist at
http://www.shakespearemelodijo.com/2015/10/william-j-ray-droeshout-portrait-and.html
and not recognize what you can do with just looking at Shakespeare or
Spenser with some insight and originality, IMO. Just look at what
bones to chew on Art N has found. bookburn
I’m afraid that your focus on the word “English” has led you down a
completely false trail. Lewis’s complaint is that, by insisting on
making—“Literature”, shall we say?—an academic discipline, even for
adults dealing with their own language, we have destroyed young people’s
native ability to read and appreciate literary art. Looking at students
that he knew, he said, “The all-important conjunction (Reader Meets
Text) never seems to have been allowed to occur of itself and develop
spontaneously.” And I believe that much of the foolishness to be seen in
HLAS is grounded in exactly that, specifically, in the refusal to see
what Shakespeare actually has to offer, and the insistence that there
must be something else that he “really means”.
--
John W. Kennedy
"The blind rulers of Logres
Nourished the land on a fallacy of rational virtue."
-- Charles Williams. "Taliessin through Logres: Prelude"
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