Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Something Rotten in the State of Literature

Deep Furrows wrote the other day about the disconnect between the love of literature that often inspires people to go into Literature as an academic field, and the often highly anti-literary modes of analysis that are currently in vogue thoughout great swaths of the academic establishment in Eng. Lit. faculties.

One of the commenters linked to an article in the New York Review of Books on the same subject which is also very much worth a read, if only to hear the sad tale of how the phrase "the invaginated eyeball" came to be presented in all supposed academic seriousness.

It all reminds me of the high-school-clever comeback I developed by Junior and Senior years when people kept asking me "if you're so into books, why aren't you planning to study English?" Answer: "Why, because I like literature." In all too many of today's elite colleges, though who actually love the written word (especially if they love it for what it is rather than what can be done to it) would be well advised to stay far away from the English department.


Fred said...

No. We can't give up on literature. To give up on literature and its study would be to renounce a large share of the rich and beautiful heritage of Christianity (which still survives in contemporary novels considered to be entirely secular).

I would, however, highly recommend that those who love literature seek out those professors and places where literature is respected for its ability to help us reflect on ourselves and the world - and where literature can be understood in the totality of its historical-cultural context. First-hand reports from those currently at a college or university are invaluable probably the only accurate means of assessing the state of literature.


Darwin said...

Actually, I think choosing to major in Classics was my own way of not giving up -- in that my interests leaned towards ancient literature anyway and Classics (though it has it's odd places) is not nearly as messed up these days.

I wouldn't for a moment suggest giving up on literature (which in a fairly real sense would mean giving upon on ourselves), what I do wonder about, however, is whether it may be worth, in many cases, giving up on the English faculty.

Maybe in part this is a reflection of my own life choices showing through strongly here, in that the objects of several fields of academia hold a strong interest for me, but for a number of reasons I decided I was better off making my way 'in trade' and trying to keep up with my various areas of interest in my leisure time (such as it is) rather than trying to go into academia.

Of course, one might complain that it is because so many people from a Christian background with a strong desire to raise a family head into the professional rather than academic world that the academic world is in the dire straights that it is...

Fred said...

I think there's room in the Church for folks to take both paths: some to risk a daunting battle in the public sphere; and others to cultivate humanity in a personal way. In fact, I'd say that most who take this challenge seriously will end up doing both, in the proportions that are appropriate to their life and talents.


Darwin said...

Indeed. I very much support anyone willing to brave the slings and arrows of a modern day English department in order to try to improve things. It's just more strife that I felt ready to let myself in for.

Fred said...

I was driven to English grad school by a strong drive and a positive undergrad experience. Such was my desire that warnings only intensified it. I didn't have the stomach to continue past the MA, however. Love of literature was not enough.

Nevertheless, I did return to grad school to earn my ed certification. This time, however, I was driven by a desire to help students encounter Christ in the Western literary tradition.

I don't think I'm a glutton for punishment, but I do believe that God has opened a path for me to serve in this way. Quite frankly, I also found the path of professional life increasingly closed to me.