I believe that I better appreciate now the extent and purpose of the 299 class. We’ve been going through the necessities of the course, and how it will improve our work in other classes in the future 300 level courses. I see this and acknowledge that this is how these classes go from now on, as in discussion on the viewpoints of literary works, lectures on the time periods and customs therein, analyzing aspects of form and style within works, and writing research papers based upon these factors(among others). I find it most curious. The following is probably going to seem critical, but I promise I do not intend for this to be directed so negatively, but more so to explore through writing different visions I have of English Studies.
From that aspect, it seems that the majority of English Studies classes are fairly “cookie cutter” in that approach, and I see the reason and purpose. A place to have discourse, a place to see and react to different aspects of literature, different conventions, etc. And, of course, to have the research paper which seems more or less the same no matter where you go in how it is written, its purpose, etc. I have a question here of, “is this the case?” I am currently engaged in such a course, and I cannot help but think that these courses engage the material, but almost in a way that screams, “try to find something original that no one has(or at least few people haven’t) already noticed about this work after 100+ years and try to put that out there.” I understand, with the New Critical approach of appreciating the text for what what it is, and that there will always be a developing “cutting edge” which comes from the new approaches, but eventually, it seems that one could also define a work by what isn’t there…and I initially meant that as a joke out of absurdity until I really JUST thought about it. Give it fifty years…
This is not a moment of disillusionment regarding this class, as this class is meant to teach us the basics of upper level English courses. I understand that there are plenty of upper level English courses that are different. However, the unfortunate thing about basic training in a discipline is that it does tell you about its core and what it wishes to accomplish. I guess when it comes down to it, the research paper has me question a lot of things when I read my sources. We just had a few articles presented in the 300 level course I’m in, and thankfully, several students debated the purpose of several articles. At what point is the hair split too far? At what point do things need to be left alone?
I ask these questions not to insult, but more so simply to be honest with myself about the commitment that goes into English Studies. It seems to turn us all into critics instead of focusing on the works themselves. Sure, they have importance when it comes to history, culture, form, technique, etc. Yes, you can tell great things about culture, time, customs, and writers by their work. Yes, you can study a work for the work itself, cutting off all of these things. But it seems to still be lacking. I remember a friend remarking that each time she read an article of the sort, she questioned whether or not these pieces would have a platform for publication if it were not assigned for students like us to read–would that circulation continue to exist? I think her point has some validity. And I know it is extremely arrogant to say, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is saying it. And it probably all goes over my head–my world, isn’t that a grand notion? But ultimately, I just question a lot of it. Like I remarked about Mark Twain’s note in Huckleberry Finn- “PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” I think, in light of this, there have been too few lawyers, governmental bodies, and firing squads, respectively of course.