We have so many texts in play this week! Here’s the list from the calendar to help us keep them all in mind:
- Audre Lorde, “Poetry is Not a Luxury”
- Anne Boyer, “What is Not Writing,” “The Revolt of the Peasant Girls”
- Pierre Bourdieu, “The Market for Symbolic Goods”
- Herman Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street”
- Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal”
How are they varied, and how do they speak to each other across those variations?
Some of the variations are sort of obvious: “A Modest Proposal” was published in England in 1729; “Bartleby the Scrivener” is American, from 1853; “Poetry is Not a Luxury” and the Boyer poems are American, too, from 1973, 2015, and 2014.
There are differences that are easily traceable to these texts’ historical moment and their national origins.
“The Market for Symbolic Goods” is the only theoretical text in the list.
Some of the other texts are poems, and some are essays. One is a short story, and one is a satire.
We might ask:
- What do these forms afford each writer?
- Which texts seem to have points of intersection between or among them?
- What interpretive problems or questions do these texts raise, individually and together– and in what ways are those problems/questions most interesting to you?
You might use your blog post this week to practice putting texts in conversation with each other, noting the passages where they remind you of each other– maybe because they use keyterms that are the same or similar, or because they have a shared set of concerns. Write to explore the ways you can think of the texts together, thinking about the ways you might understand them better by thinking of them in this relation.
In proposing this experiment– and you don’t have to post this way; you could take a different approach to the texts– I’m thinking ahead to your thesis. In that project, you’ll bring together a set of literary and theoretical texts to answer the interpretive question you ask. And we’ll talk in the weeks and months to come about the tools literary critics have at our disposal for that kind of thing, but I bet you have some of those tools already. The blog is a great place to practice using them.
I am also interested to know which texts you like best.