Thursday, August 27, 2009

Trivialization of Literary Studies

What I hate the most about today's language and literature departments is how easily they believe in their own irrelevance and how apologetic they are inclined to feel about their own existence. While going through my daily blogroll I just encountered the following announcement: "Professor Scott Calhoun of Cedarville University in Ohio has found a modern approach that avoids the pitfalls of Moby Dick or The Scarlet Letter. Old stories don't have the messages that resonate with the modern college students. They've found other spokesmen for the current generation.All are welcome to an academic conference scheduled for October 2 at North Carolina Central University in Durham. No coincidence that U2 will be performing in Raleigh, NC, that weekend. The academic conference is all about U2.U2: The Hype and the Feedback will feature guest speakers delivering lectures that relate to English literature studies, but without the great white whale."

Academic conferences and doctoral dissertations on rock stars only turn our field into one huge joke. With all due respect towards U2, what they do has nothing to do with literature. We can "analyze" their lyrics for fun (say, at a drunken party this type of "analysis" always entertains people). But trying to milk their songs for enough content to be discussed at an academic conference is pointless.

The idea behind this joke of a conference is that students find classical literary texts "irrelevant." This attitude betrays the pedagogical impotence of the teachers who are incapable of helping their students discover the beauty of these texts. Such professors think that conferences on rock stars and classes dedicated to analyzing the lyrics of what are in reality very silly songs will make them seem cool and hip to the students. Of course, they will achieve some easy popularity with the C-students who want a course where no work needs to be done and no intellectual effort expanded. But I don't think that smart, motivated students who actually want to get an education and not just have a good time will be interested.

As to "irrelevant" canonical texts, I don't want to blow my own trumpet too much here, but when I was teaching Cervantes to high school kids ages 13-16 (as an extracurricular course), I couldn't force them to go home 45 minutes after the end of class. Even after I started walking away from the classroom, the students kept following me and trying to continue the discussion of Don Quijote. If it's possible to make Cervantes relevant to a 15-year-old, I don't see why it would be all that hard to make The Scarlett Letter relevant to a 19-year-old.

I hate it when people try to present the younger generation as stupid and only interested in texting and Facebook. Today's students are great. They are smart, motivated and they are dying for someone to introduce them to the finer things in life. They are perfectly capable of finding out everything they need about U2 on their own. It's our help with understanding Cervantes, Jane Austen, Flaubert, and Thomas Mann that they need. Let's not let them down and substitute real education with senseless blabber about equally meaningless songs.

57 comments:

Kristofer Layon said...

This comment is so unfortunate, and for so many reasons, that it barely merits a response. But it does merit a few brief comments:

1. Look up what literature is, and realize that while the U2 conference announcement might inappropriately belittle the study of classical literature like Moby Dick, this does not mean that U2 songs are not literature.

2. Studying U2 is not a "joke" of an academic pursuit. Academics can and should study whatever they wish. The fact that something is studied does not relate to the topic's artistic merit, which is a separate issue.

3. The fact that U2 is such a major artistic and political force in the world's culture probably also suggests that the study of U2 is not a "joke". All of academia involves the study of things that are culturally relevant, whether the relevance is scientific, artistic, political, etc.

All this blog post proves is that academia can be close-minded, overly conservative, and ignorantly unadventurous. (and please note that I write this as an academic, so I have no inherent bias against all of academia)

Kristofer Layon, MFA
University of Minnesota

Clarissa said...

"Look up what literature is"

-Thank you, my friend, the time when I needed that information is long over. Now I mostly teach others what it is. :-)

"Academics can and should study whatever they wish"

-Absolutely. But if they decide to study the piece of lint they have taken out of their belly button, I reserve the right to haave an opinion about it. Or do you think that while some academics should study whatever they wish, other academics (like me, for example) shouldn't express our opinion on whatever we wish?

"The fact that U2 is such a major artistic and political force in the world's culture probably also suggests that the study of U2 is not a "joke". "

-I strongly recommend Pierce's Idiot America and Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason to you. Good books, very relevant to what you are saying.

"All this blog post proves is that academia can be close-minded, overly conservative"

-Your comment, on the other hand, is oh so open-minded and liberal, isn't it? :-)

Clarissa, PhD

EyesWideOpen said...

I hope this blog is a joke! The inability to look at today's writers, including songwriters, and find that there is substantive material being produced is evidence that this blogger has not taken the time to become familiar with that material and the ideas that are being discussed. It's the intellectually easy way out of this discussion and comes with the added bonus of not needing to be familiar with the material in order to make a judgment on it.

The idea behind this conference is not to denigrate classical literature, but that is a wonderful strawman argument to provide more material for your blog. I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but high school kids ages 13-16 who understand the concept of a strawman argument would be able to see through this one as well.

I hate it when people try to present Cervantes, Jane Austen, Flaubert and Thomas Mann as being examples of the types of authors who should exclusively be studied and that such studies are the only "real education" to be had. That type of senseless blabber is an insult to the younger generation who understand that there is merit in today's writing whether in the guise of traditional literature or within the context of a song.

I understand your fear of an expanded syllabus. I wish you luck in overcoming that fear. Perhaps some time spent at this conference would help?

Miro said...

As a rabid U2 fan and also as an English major at Michigan State, let me say I agree with everything you say, except what you say at the very end.

U2 songs are not meaningless. U2 songs contain sometimes complex ties to historical and social context, references to other songs and ideas, and other little things. We aren't talking about the Black Eyed Peas having feelings here.

That said, I agree that an "academic" U2 conference is a meaningless and offensive effort and I really hope the members of U2 are rolling their eyes at news of this conference's existence.

Clarissa said...

And I sincerely hope that you do not teach English literature because the way you express yourself in writing is... how do I put it politely... a little limited. Maybe some Jane Austen would help?

I have no fear of and no objection to an expanded syllabus, so please don't project your secret fears onto me.

"I hate it when people try to present Cervantes, Jane Austen, Flaubert and Thomas Mann as being examples of the types of authors who should exclusively be studied and that such studies are the only "real education" to be had."

-There are no such people on this web-site, so I have no idea who you are arguing with.

I am against including things that have nothing to do with literature into courses on literature. There are entire programs dedicated to mass communications and popular culture. There are also entire programs devoted to music. Why not study such things there?

Would you also suggest including a course on U2 in a biology curriculum? Physics? Computer science?

Kristofer Layon said...

"Thank you, my friend, the time when I needed that information is long over. Now I mostly teach others what it is."

Then I'm glad to not be taking your literature courses.

"Or do you think that while some academics should study whatever they wish, other academics (like me, for example) shouldn't express our opinion on whatever we wish?"

You're certainly justified in having an opinion on U2's writing as being good or bad literature. But to say it *isn't* literature at all is a completely ignorant statement.

"Your comment, on the other hand, is oh so open-minded and liberal, isn't it?"

Yes, my comment is completely open-minded. I'm not attacking a reasoned argument or opinion, but rather am exposing a factually ignorant statement masquerading as academic analysis.

U2's writing is metaphorical, theological, political, and arguably highly creative. The format of short phrases timed to music does not make it trite and meaningless. In fact, I would argue that all musical lyrics are literature. Wouldn't it be just as intellectually vacuous to quickly dismiss Michael Jackson lyrics?

Literature are stories that stand the test of time. With all that has been written about U2's music and lyrics for the past 3 decades (so, in other words, way before this conference), it is demonstrably true that U2 writes literature. And I have no doubt that their writing will continue to be discussed by academics for decades, if not centuries, to come.

But don't take my word for it: the point of this is, it also takes time to adequately judge literature. Neither you nor I can trump the test of time.

Though I still think I'm accurately exposing your commentary on U2 as ignorant and close-minded rather than informed and openly critical, which is a bad position to be in as an academic who claims to study things while taking evidence, history, and other people's opinions into proper account.

Clarissa said...

Miro: Thank you. You know, my music tastes are less developed than yours. I love the Pet Shop Boys, and know all their songs by heart. When I heard, however, that a scholar in GBritain was writing her doctoral dissertation on their lyrics, I laughed like crazy.

Heather said...

I can understand why you may have reservations about this conference but you are very patronizing about it. No of course no one is suggesting a U2 Biology course -or a course at all really--it's just a conference. This is the start of a great debate and I am glad you brought up the subject.

First I have to suggest one thing to you; Perhaps if you attend and took in the lectures at this conference and heard about the subject matter you might have a more informed opinion. As it stands you have no idea what you are talking about because you have never even bothered to take a moment and consider all sides of the argument and clearly, you know nothing about U2. Not that you should, but if you know nothing about the subject matter why spout forth such trash talk? Without understanding how can you declare U2 songs are meaningless?

What is the meaning behind U2's song The Ocean? Was Bono moved by Oscar Wilde? Is Wilde of literary significance? I would argue yes. Do you think all modern songs are meaningless? (by your petshop boys statement it would seem so)

I think the conference is also about the effect of literature on U2 which is obvious in their work.

I took a class in University called "English Literature and the KJV of the Bible" and we discussed
U2 often and my professor was open to thinking about literature in a new way while all the time preserving the class as a literature class. It was a wonderful experience.

I hope you will open your mind up and learn more about U2 because you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Clarissa said...

"Then I'm glad to not be taking your literature courses."

-Not more than I am. :-)

"You're certainly justified in having an opinion on U2's writing as being good or bad literature. But to say it *isn't* literature at all is a completely ignorant statement."

-In the months I've been blogging, I have discovered that people start screaming "ignorance" when they have no arguments to support their point of view.

"Wouldn't it be just as intellectually vacuous to quickly dismiss Michael Jackson lyrics? "

-I invite you to read my post on Michael Jackson if you want to know what I think about him.

"Literature are stories that stand the test of time. With all that has been written about U2's music and lyrics for the past 3 decades (so, in other words, way before this conference), it is demonstrably true that U2 writes literature. And I have no doubt that their writing will continue to be discussed by academics for decades, if not centuries, to come."

-This is a very negative vision of intellectual life. I hope academics have better things to do with their life for centuries to come. :-)

"But don't take my word for it: the point of this is, it also takes time to adequately judge literature. Neither you nor I can trump the test of time. "

-I'm sorry, are you writing all this seriously?

Clarissa said...

"No of course no one is suggesting a U2 Biology course -or a course at all really--it's just a conference."

-OK then, U2 biology conference. How would you feel about that? Or do you think literary studies is less of a cience and requires less rigor than biology?

"What is the meaning behind U2's song The Ocean? Was Bono moved by Oscar Wilde? Is Wilde of literary significance?"

-That's exactly what I hate. We are supposed to make students feel that Oscar Wilde matters because Bono happened to mention him. This seems so ridiculous to me.

"I hope you will open your mind up and learn more about U2 because you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find."

-Whatever I may find, I'll never come to believe that it's literature and that it merits a conference.

Clarissa said...

"Not that you should, but if you know nothing about the subject matter why spout forth such trash talk? Without understanding how can you declare U2 songs are meaningless?"

-AS A SUBJECT OF LITERARY ANALYSIS they definitely are. As songs, they aren't.

Anonymous said...

"Monday morning
Eighteen years of dawning
I say how long
You say how long

It was one dull morning
Woke the world with bawling
I was so sad (so sad)
It was so bad

I was of a feeling it was out of control
I had the opinion it was out of control

Boys and Girls
Go to the school and girls
They make children
Not like this one

I fought fate
There's blood on the garden gate
The man said childhood
It's in his childhood

One day I'll die
The choice will not be mine
Will it be too late
You can't fight it"

Can anybody in their right mind call this literature? Come on, guys. And this is a totally random lyrics I chose.

Clarissa said...

Good idea, Anon. As we literary critics say, let's go to the texts. I lloked up "Ocean" as suggested by Heather and now I'm puzzled. Here it is:

A picture in grey
Dorian Gray
Just me
By the sea
And I felt like a star
I felt the world could go far
If they listened
To what I said
By the sea

Washes my feet
Washed my feet
Splashes my soul

Is this what's supposed to be an Oscar Wilde inspired song? I shudder to imagine professors who would actually find a connection between Wilde and this (besides the absolutely gratuitous mention of Dorian Gray.

Clarissa said...

My deepest gratitude goes to everyone who suggested I read U2 lyrics. When accompanied by music, their songs sound great. But just reading the lyrics made me beat my head against the keyboard with laughter.

A Man and A Woman

Little sister don't you worry about a thing today
Take the heat from the sun
Little sister
I know that everything is not ok
But you're like honey on my tongue

True love never can be rent
But only true love can keep beauty innocent

I could never take a chance
Of losing love to find romance
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman
No I could never take a chance
Cos I could never understand
The mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

You can run from love
And if it's really love it will find you
Catch you by the heel
But you can't be numb for love
The only pain is to feel nothing at all
How can I hurt when I'm holding you?

Conference topic, anyone?

Anonymous said...

The guy who organizes the conference has a total of 2 publications (both of which appear in the same collection dedicated to C.S. Lewis.) Well, we could have guessed that from the topic of this so-called conference.

Anonymous said...

Your ignorance astounds me. How you got a university-level teaching position is beyond me.

This conference isn't just about analyzing U2's lyrics, it's about celebrating U2 as an influence in the musical and political world.

Take a look at the programme. I'm sorry if you think that talking about U2's involvement with Agnes Nyamayarwo and the Aids crisis is "huge joke." Even the papers that are more literary-based are more about U2's activism and influence and less about the source or the meaning of the lyrics.

In my department we offer a Music and Literature course and it is getting bigger and better every year. We study some classics in the course, sure, but we also spend a lot of time talking about contemporary musicians and songwriters. The students love it, and NEVER have they suggested that we are wasting their time or trivializing literary studies. I fail to see how opening up literary studies to include the contemporary is trivial.

Enjoy your classics - nobody attacks you for teaching them - so maybe back off your attacks on people who find contemporary literature (in all of its forms)worth discussing.

Anonymous said...

Is it the study of popular lyrics in general that you disapprove of? Should we stop studying Beowulf, then? It was, after all, meant to be sung, and it was quite "popular" in its time.

I guess the Beowulf poet wasn't a "rock star," but I hear he played an awesome lute.

I'm also sorry to hear that you think u2's songs are "very silly." Does this include their songs about war, Irish history, Bloody Sunday, Martin Luther King, aids, etc? Or are you just not familiar with those ones?

alphasqix said...

Well, just to get it out of the way: I disagree that there's nothing in U2's lyrics worth discussing, or even (gasp!) in a large, organized body, over a course of a few days.

But my more serious concern is that an academic approach that makes an idol of "canon" (whatever a bunch of old white guys, and others who are willing to act like/conform to the culture of old white guys, decide that is -- and which i hope you have not actually swallowed part and parcel), and that holds only what passes muster as "the classics" worthy of serious study, does extreme disservice to students and the entire academic enterprise: it renders students unable -- or worse, disinclined -- to critically consider their own culture, or indeed anything that hasn't passed review by the editorial boards. Thus, students are effectively rendered said students incapable of genuinely original thought and propagating the androcentric, eurocentric hegemony of the ivory tower.

To draw an analogy somewhat more germane to the topic at hand: it isn't as if Bach suddenly became a genius only when Mendelssohn revived interest in his work, some 80 years after his death.

As far as the conference is concerned, I feel like you have put forth a gut reaction here without much research into what the conference will actually involve, never mind your conclusion there couldn't be any academic disciplines other than literature with some interest in a certain Irish rock band (a conclusion which I find somewhat offensive, since I am in one of those disciplines.) But I suppose our disciplines invalidate our very existence by dint of our interest in ephemera.

Clarissa said...

"Your ignorance astounds me"

-I have already said all I could about such pronouncements and why they are boring, so I won't repeat myself.

My post was written in response to what another blogger has written. I provide the quote from them at the very beginning of my post. There was absolutely nothing there (not a single word) on U2's activiism. It was all about how the classics are boring and irrelevant. That is what I was responding to. Please take the trouble to read the original discussion before you write your comments, if that's not too much to ask.

"The students love it, and NEVER have they suggested that we are wasting their time or trivializing literary studies."

-I addressed that too in the the original post. Why didn't you read it bbefore commenting is beyond me. Many students want an easy course that involves the minimum of intellectual effort. As sad as it is, it still happens. So I'm sure those students who take it are happy to get an easy grade.

"so maybe back off your attacks on people who find contemporary literature (in all of its forms)worth discussing"

-Or maybe I will say whatever the hell I want to say on MY OWN blog.

Clarissa said...

"The guy who organizes the conference has a total of 2 publications "

-You never know, maybe he has some things in print or as submissions. Let's not judge in advance.

"Is it the study of popular lyrics in general that you disapprove of? Should we stop studying Beowulf, then? It was, after all, meant to be sung, and it was quite "popular" in its time."

-That argument is very tired. If you have read Beowulf and compared it to the quotes from U2 I give above (as well as a reader, thank you!), I'm sure you can appreciate the difference.

"I'm also sorry to hear that you think u2's songs are "very silly." Does this include their songs about war, Irish history, Bloody Sunday, Martin Luther King, aids, etc? Or are you just not familiar with those ones?"

-I already said that these are good songs. Which does not make them literature.

Anonymous said...

So by your equation the study of contemporary music, literature, etc. = "easy," and therefore is also only appealing to C-level students.

Nice. I'll be sure to pass that gem on to my A-level graduate students who (gasp) occasionally like to use maximum intellectual effort to study contemporary "silly songs."

Clarissa said...

"But my more serious concern is that an academic approach that makes an idol of "canon" (whatever a bunch of old white guys, and others who are willing to act like/conform to the culture of old white guys, decide that is -- and which i hope you have not actually swallowed part and parcel), and that holds only what passes muster as "the classics" worthy of serious study"

-I never suggested anything like that and I wonder why you would want to ascribe to me some ideas I never held and then argue with them. Who are you arguing with?

As I already mentioned (about 5 times), I was responding to a post who said that The Scarlett Letter cannot be made relevant to today's students. I think a good techer can do that easily. How anybody can infer from that a suggestion that no author except a white dead male should be read is truly beyond my comprehension. I would also like to add that my doctoral dissertation is on female Bildungsroman in Spain. So dead white men are not even a specialization of mine.

"never mind your conclusion there couldn't be any academic disciplines other than literature with some interest in a certain Irish rock band "

-Can you please show where I said that? A little hint: I actually suggested that a mass communications and popular culture program would be great for such a course.

It's very frustrating when people argue not with what you said but with voices in their head.

Clarissa said...

"So by your equation the study of contemporary music, literature, etc. = "easy," and therefore is also only appealing to C-level students. "

-here is yet another example of people talking with the voices in their head. I specialize in contemporary literature, my friend, so I know it isn't easy. U2's music, though, isn't literature. Taking it as a literature course is, indeed, easy, because there is nothing there to analyze IN LITERARY TERMS. It does make sense, however, to teach it as a music course or popular culture course (which I have repeated twice already).

Clarissa said...

"I'll be sure to pass that gem on to my A-level graduate students who (gasp) occasionally like to use maximum intellectual effort to study contemporary "silly songs.""

-It's sad that they have nothing else to do with their time and intellect.

Anonymous said...

I ALWAYS KNEW THAT FEMINISTS WERE NASTY. THERE IS NOTHING BUT HATRED COMING FROM THEM VILE BITCHES.

Clarissa said...

"I ALWAYS KNEW THAT FEMINISTS WERE NASTY"

-This time the crazies have arrived way too soon. Normally they appear much later in a discussion.

Anonymous said...

The academic code at the university where I teach stresses, above all, that we have respect for each other's academic work, whether we agree with it or not. You wouldn't fit in very well.

And I'm not at all involved in the conference, but I find that personally attacking the organizer is about as low as you can get.

The only one trivializing literary studies is you.

Clarissa said...

"The only one trivializing literary studies is you."

-So it's not ok for me to say this about somebody else, but it's ok for you to say this same thing about me. Interesting logic.

"The academic code at the university where I teach stresses, above all, that we have respect for each other's academic work, whether we agree with it or not. You wouldn't fit in very well. "

-You are right, I wouldn't fit in a place that promotes censorship. Nor do I want to.

Matt Staniz said...

I'm looking forward to attending the conference, as I find U2 to be a topic that deserves rigorous analysis. I'll also admit that U2 is a topic that interests me in a very non-academic way.

As I read the comments thus far, I sense a tone that stifles academic curiosity and integrity. This tone is present in both directions. I'll assume that has more to do with the forum of blogging than it does with the curiosity or integrity of any of the people involved.

As suggested, I took the time to read the post that served as a catalyst for this post. What a terrible description of what I expect to find at the conference. Clarissa's response to that post is absolutely justified. At the same time, I think the conference was not accurately portrayed.

I want to call U2 literature, because they are worthy of being remembered, but think that what they contribute is not easily assigned to a field of study. As much as I appreciate their contribution, it is not a book. It isn't appreciated in the same way and can't really be studied in the same way. It is something else. I expect that the conference will make this clear. I wish the original post would have done the same.

Clarissa said...

Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to acquaint yourself with the context of the discussion. maybe the next time I'll have to quote the original text in full, although that would occupy tons of space.

Obviously, the author of the original post tried to promote the conference in terms that did it a huge disservice.

Natalee said...

Ohmigod, what a great discussion I've been missing. You're right, it seems like many commenters respond to things you never said. And they also get pretty angry at you for saying them. Which of course you never did.

Weird. I wonder if they will do the same during the discussions at the conference in question.

dtkline said...

I think the "U2 = literature" is not quite the right articulation. I prefer to remember that Shakespeare, for example, was a popular entertainer, the Neil Simon of his day, let us say, a working playwright and actor making a living. It just so happens he was a really good writer (most of the time) and became culturally useful post-mortem.

The importance U2 or other pop phenomenon is in the wider cultural impact rather than the narrow confines of what should or should not count as literature. Some scholars find the opportunity to examine U2 in a wider academic context to be compelling, others not so much. No problem. I hate 19th century novels, on the whole, but that other people find them worthy of study doesn't pose any problems for me.

If this kind of cultural analysis ain't your thing, fair enough, but wholesale attacks don't really get us anywhere.

Dan Kline
U of Alaska Anchorage

Clarissa said...

I'm sorry, what 'wholesale attacks' are you responding to? have you read any part of the preceding discussion?

"The importance U2 or other pop phenomenon is in the wider cultural impact rather than the narrow confines of what should or should not count as literature. "

-As I have mentioned about 6 times already, all I was saying is that it's stupid to substitute classical literature with rock lyrics (as was suggested by the author of the post I was responding to initially). If people want to study U2 in a popular culture course, that's a great idea. This I already repeated about 9 times.

This is exactly what you are talking about, Natalee. People start responding to whatever idiocy they have managed to come up with on their own.

Anonymous said...

How sad. People studying, interested in, or specializing in literature, cultural studies, or communication, yet incapable of reading Clarissa's post. Oh, and incapable of contextualizing it too.

Words are important!

Anonymous said...

Alaska, huh? Coming from the people who gave us Sarah Palin, dtkline's post is not surprising.

alphasqix said...

"I never suggested anything like that"

You did, in fact, suggest something just like that, by your repeated dismissal as popular music as a topic worthy of study. If "being a good song" isn't sufficient qualification to merit academic study, then who gets to decide what the sufficient qualification is? If you say "I do," that's fine, but I have no reason to privilege your preference over mine.

Why are bildungsroman more deserving of study? A few more years, a fancy German name, a lot more words?

"Can you please show where I said that?"

Your entire post and all replies up to this point are predicated on the notion that the conference is literary in nature. If you'd like a list of places I see this assumption at work, I would provide you one, though, frankly, I'd rather not.

"It's very frustrating when people argue not with what you said but with voices in their head."

It's equally frustrating when people completely ignore your concerns about what they did say.

Clarissa said...

"You did, in fact, suggest something just like that, by your repeated dismissal as popular music as a topic worthy of study."

-Worthy of study IN A LITERATURE COURSE. Can you read? Let me repeat for the 10th time: it is a topic worthy of study in a music program, or a popular culture program, or a mass communications program. But NOT IN A LITERATURE PROGRAM.

"Your entire post and all replies up to this point are predicated on the notion that the conference is literary in nature. If you'd like a list of places I see this assumption at work, I would provide you one, though, frankly, I'd rather not."

-I don't need a list of places where YOU see assumptions or whatever. I want a quote where I SAID that. Not a quote of what you assume I say but a quote where I actually say it. If you can't do that, you have to recognize that your assumptions are not my problem.

"It's equally frustrating when people completely ignore your concerns about what they did say."

-As I have demonstrated, you have no concerns about what I said. You have concerns about what you assume I said. I repeat, I am not responsible for your assumptions, your generalizations, and your inability to read and process a short post.

"Why are bildungsroman more deserving of study? A few more years, a fancy German name, a lot more words?"

-Ignorance is nothing to be proud of. A hint: a Bildungsroman is literature. A U2 song isn't.

Anonymous said...

The people making insulting comments like "Alaska, huh?" and "the guy who organizes the conference..." are unfortunately ruining what could be a very interesting debate on your blog with their uncalled for personal attacks.

Clarissa said...

You are right, Anon. It's funny, though, how you didn't notice the comments about "feminists, the vile bitches."

Something tells me you are male. :-)

Dirk said...

Clarissa, that last anonymous was pointing out how people throwing around casual, shallow insults are keep any real debate at bay -- to which you note his/her failure to explicitly include the slander against feminists and deduce s/he is probably male. This is just another insult that doesn't need to be here.

C'mon now. Your insistence on these barbs -- one-upping even those making cases for a fair debate -- is anything but healthy for discussion.

Anonymous said...

You do "literature" a huge disservice when you block it off with a wall from "popular culture." You also do it a huge disservice when you attempt to define it in narrow terms. Isn't the point of literature studies--and yes, it's what I do too--to teach people how to unfold meaning through reading? Who are you to decide what counts as literature and what doesn't? Remember when we didn't study women writers?

The personal attacks on the commenters, particularly the ones who have been very respectful to you, are very much out of line.

Ian said...

I guess the easiest thing to do would be to go to the dictionary and look up the definition of literature. From dictionary.com, here you go:

1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.
2. the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc.: the literature of England.
3. the writings dealing with a particular subject: the literature of ornithology.
4. the profession of a writer or author.
5. literary work or production.
6. any kind of printed material, as circulars, leaflets, or handbills: literature describing company products.
7. Archaic. polite learning; literary culture; appreciation of letters and books.

Seems to me like definition number 1 pretty much covers Bono's lyrics. Therefore, it can go forward as a literary conference with its head held high. Phew!

Clarissa said...

"This is just another insult that doesn't need to be here."

-I'm sorry but I will be the one to decide what does or doesn't need to be on my blog. Your desire to moderate the format of other people's discussion without contributiong to its content is very surprising.

Clarissa said...

"You do "literature" a huge disservice when you block it off with a wall from "popular culture."

-Dear Anonymous, have you had a chance to read the entire discussion? Have you been able to understand that i was responding to a post suggesting that the study of literature should be substituted by the study of popular culture?

If so, then what is the purpose of your comment? Who are you arguing with? What sense does it make to participate in a discussion in such a way?

"Remember when we didn't study women writers? "

-No, I don't, I'm 33 years old. If there was ever a time whenn you diddn't study female writers, then shame on you.

Note how you are talking about women WRITERS. I am still waiting for one of the defenders of U2's lyrics as literature to analyze one of the songs I quoted. If you think it's literature, you have to be able to defend that opinion.

"The personal attacks on the commenters, particularly the ones who have been very respectful to you, are very much out of line."

-I could ask you to show me where I "personally attack" people who have been respectful, but it's no use. Commenters like you never offer proof. The very desire to discipline another person's speech on their own blog is a sign of that.

Clarissa said...

Ian, can you please apply your definition to the lyrics that have been quoted on this siite and demonstrate where these are "writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays."

At the same time, I would warn you against using any source that relies upon the vocabulary like "permanent" and "universal." Nothing is universal, not even Cervantes.

For now, however, this definition will do. Since the song "ocean" was promoted here as an example of literature, please show to me where it has ideas of permanent and universal interest, If you could also do that with the song I quoted later on, I would be very grateful.

Dirk said...

"Your desire to moderate the format of other people's discussion without contributiong to its content is very surprising. I'm sorry but I will be the one to decide what does or doesn't need to be on my blog."

Thank you for predictably criticizing what you see as a lack of contribution. The goal of my comment had not been to add to debate but to note the factors hindering any chance at one.

There is no debate here, just your diatribe and subsequent comments "debunking" those from anyone disagreeing with you, however slightly.

Honestly, do you wish to generate discussion? If so, how do YOUR comments contribute?

Consider your own evident desire to moderate the format of "other people's discussion" -- I use that phrase lightly. If you really want to be in total control of "what does or doesn't need to be on my blog," disable comments.

Clarissa said...

Dear Dirk, if you have anything to contribute to the subject under discussion here, please do so. Your suggestions as to the format are duly noted. I am very happy with the current format of the discussions on this blog and do not plan to change it. The beauty of the Internet, however, is that nothing prevents you from starting your own blog and maintaining any type of discussions there. Good luck!

Natalee said...

I wonder why in the course of this discussion all ads on this blog have turned into ads of bulletproof vests and Kevlars. :)))Has Google AdSense found a way to measure the emotional state of discussions on blogs where it advertises?

Clarissa said...

Sweet Jesus! You are right! I never even noticed. How weird is that? The mechanisms of assigning ads make no sense to me.

Soon they will make an ad: "Want to participate in discussions on Clarissa's Blog? A Kevlar vest and a bazooka is what you need! :-) :-)

BAYMAN said...

I am a writer and I completely agree with the blog. I am so tired of shoddy, trite, banal, jejune, hackneyed, and intellectually barren work being passed off as poetry and literature. Or if it's painted, as art. It's not. It's not and no braying of insults or demands make it so.

It could be appropriate, as Clarissa said repeatedly, to study U2 as a cultural or musical phenonmenon. That it's impossible to study U2 as literature might be why nobody responded to Clarissa's request that the U2 lyrics she posted be looked at as literature, even briefly.

And now let me just quietly pack my howitzer and retire.

Clarissa said...

I'm very happy to see that there are still some reasonable people who see a difference between literature and entertainment.

Anybody who is seriously engaged with literature, either as a literary critic or a writer, can fail to see this difference.

I wonder why people see this statement as an insult to rock music. It's different from literature. That's a fact. It's neither bad nor good.

Clarissa said...

I mean, the fact it isn't literature is neither bad nor good. The music is definitely great.

BAYMAN said...

Children are no longer taught to think critically and evidence for this is now everywhere. Even when responding to a post on facebook, it's sometimes necessary to untangle thoughts and language. Feelings are represented as ideas, for example. Or, in these posts, that it's not been noticed that you're not being critical of music is another.

I don't necessarily represent myself as reasonable, by the way, but I do lay claim to being informed.

BAYMAN said...

Though I think your remark was off-hand, I still want to say, I don't think rock and roll great. Fun, yes, interesting, frequently, moving, make me laugh jump up and down happy, sure. Great, no. Handel is great, Wagner, Shostakovich, Mozart, Beethoven are great. Rock and roll is inventive and exciting, but it's not great. It's the paucity of ideas that inform and structure it that disallow weight or gravity.

Clarissa said...

I have to confess that rock is really not my music. I more of an opera person. And for fun, I listen to Eminem. It's a great outlet for agression. I wouldn't have been able to survive grad school without it. :-)

But, of course, Eminem is neither music nor literature. It's a psychological crutch. :-)

Anonymous said...

I Googled "Roses" and this blog appeared. I was then sucked in to this discussion that hasn't been commented on in several months. Interesting stuff, though. I wish I had teachers that cared about my intelligence and education as much as all of you seem to.

Clarissa said...

Thank you, Anonymous! I'm glad you've enjoyed the discusssion.