Bressler shed some insight on the various levels of criticism, as well as attempting to form a concrete definition of “literature”. When describing the different types of critics, he showed how they relate to one another. I was under the assumption that a literary critic was just a critic who evaluated a piece of literature; after reading Bressler’s definition of the different roles a critic takes, however, I feel much more informed and now view the literary critic with more respect and reverence. He then drew my attention to the theory of literature. I have had a brush with a few key terms from the theory toolbox in other classes, but I found his explanation more comprehensive. I especially like the quote: “Whereas literary criticism involves our analysis of a text, literary theory is concerned with our understanding of the ideas, concepts, and intellectual assumptions upon which our actual literary critique rests” (8). The distinction between the two made these broad concepts more understandable for me, and I enjoy thinking of literary theory as “concerned” with what my personal experiences and knowledge lends to my analysis of a text.
I found the definition of what exactly literature is to also be highly entertaining. I was drawn in by the implications which language and the construction of words can have on something’s meaning. The examples of the Latin term littera and the German word Wortkunst depicted this distinction of carefully chosen words to represent a body of works—whether oral tradition or the “written word”. It never occurred to me that the written word would have its own flaws (hence the example of the phonebook); however, upon reflecting on this crucial part of deciphering just what constitutes “literature” I began to think of many example where the written word wouldn’t actually have any literary merit.
Bressler also brings back the idea of a ‘canon’ when he explains the “hyper-protected cooperative principle” (13). I agree with Bressler when he asserts that though published works may be superior to a phonebook, not all published works are worthy of being included in a significant literary canon.