Today we focused on the different ways that you could respond to a paper in an academic way. I was very interested when I saw the essay that Professor Seaman showed us and the way that it went about doing what it did. The essay took the Tompkins essay that we were assigned and used it to formulate an argument an argument for the inclusion of Appalachian Folklore into the canon and how doing so might benefit the literary understanding of regional works of American Literature like Falkner. This is the kind of response paper I always want to write, but always feel like I would be breaking some code of conduct if I did. The for some reason I feel like integrating knowledge from my background and the other classes I have taken would be frowned on, but I am becoming more and more aware of the interdisciplinary nature of academia and it is invigorating really. By having to focus on traditional responses to a text I feel really stifled and this usually makes writing a paper a chore that I tend to put off, but the discussion in class we had today really broadened my horizons for the kind of creativity that can go into writing a research paper. I don’t know how this response paper is going to turn out, but I am definitely interested to find out…..
It is interesting to be looking at the biography of a man that we, in truth know little to nothing concrete about. Chaucer, like everyone, is a man most decidedly of his times however and much can be pulled from what we know about the everyday life of people living during that time period. Much of what we read this week seemed to be giving us a flash course in the major events that shaped the lives of the Englishmen of Chaucer’s day and how these might be used to understand the context in which the Wife of Bath was written.
Events like the Black Death and the people’s uprising that, seem to play important roles in the story. What I find interesting though is that the book also seems to draw a lot of inferences about Chaucer from what he writes in the Canterbury Tales. Scholars take the description of Chaucer in the Prologue of the Tales and use it to try and approximate a picture, even going so far as to say that it is a correct rendering based on a “portrait” of Chaucer that was included in a particular manuscript of the Tales. A picture which, at least to me seems like it was likely just done based on the character of Chaucer in the Tales and may or may not have any bearing on what the real life Chaucer looked like. It is interesting to see how little we really know about one of the most highly regarded writers in the tradition of the English language.
This week we talked about the basics of academic theory and more specifically the academic writing style that dominates English as a discipline. The crux of the week, for me at least, was the Dobie and Garrett-Petts readings and their attempts at describing the idiosyncrasies of the literary scholarship. While Dobie was exclusively about English scholarship, Garrett-Petts seems as though it can be applied to academic literature as a whole.
Dobie gives an in depth survey of what has made up literary analysis for the past few hundred years, with the bullet points being Genre analysis, Biographical analysis, and looking at it in the context of a writer’s body of work. This article is helpful in giving the class a point of reference and vocabulary for what many of us more than likely already knew. We can now talk about these types of scholarship in the way that Garrett-Petts suggests we do. Petts’ article focused on what it means to write in an academic setting; seemingly focusing on the idea that one must learn the academic jargon for whatever field you are interested in. In order to be taken seriously in the scholar system, you must be able to understand the conventions. While it might seem at first that these conventions have no purpose other than to box out those who aren’t part of the system, it is-at least according to Garret-Petts- something that allows for a sustainable discourse. Every field has its own lexicon and conventions: from sports analysis, to microeconomics, to the explication of a poem; each draws on the wealth of scholarship done before it, and the technical jargon which provides its members a toolbox of handy shortcut terms, in order to trying and understand.