Week 9F (!$>#*!)


When we meet, we will:

  • Revisit the exam list if necessary;
  • Share thesis presentations;
  • Draw up calendars for your theses;
  • Discuss the (very short!) readings for this week in order to…
  • Remind ourselves of the big questions of the semester, while we…
  • Look ahead to the spring.

It’s a lot!

So. On the blog for this week, I have posted a second page for the exam list, and you might want to post there to weigh in. (Once again, you have two options for posting this week, so you could get blog post credit x 2 for this week, or you could choose to post in only one of the places.)

I want to use this page reflecting on the last three items in the bullet list, above.

We’ve talked about the “good of literature” in so many ways this semester. Which was are most interesting to you at this point, and which readings come to mind for you as you think about them? Which variations on the good of literature do you want to keep thinking about in the spring, and what do you want to try to figure out as you write your thesis?

And do a little prefatory thinking about the third item on the bullet list, too. For you, personally, what goals do you think you’ll have over the break? You might want to share that below, or you might just want to reflect on it for yourself. One way or another, know that we will spend some time thinking about this next week, so take a look at your calendar so you can plan accordingly, for yourself.

You’ve worked really hard this semester, and I feel proud of you guys. I’m excited to see what you do next semester, and I’m starting to think about the structure and the goals for that now. I think it’s going to be fun.


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13 Responses to Week 9F (!$>#*!)

  1. When I think of “good literature” the text that resonated with me was Orhan Pamuk’s “The Museum of Innocence.” It is not only the primary text I will use in my thesis paper, but it caused me to think that “good literature” allows us to explore texts that are controversial in other countries. I found it refreshing to read a text that is not set in the United States, and Turkey is a country I was unfamiliar with until I started to do more research into Pamuk’s text. Looking ahead, in the spring I need to figure out what texts I will be using in my thesis paper. I, even, need to explore what pieces of evidence answer the question I posed in my paper. In the spring semester, I want to have more than 10 pages done for my thesis paper by early February. At the moment, I only know I will be using Pamuk’s text and Caroline Levine’s “The Affordances of Form.” I know this will change by next semester.

    That being said, it was interesting to read Zadie Smith’s “Now More Than Ever” a second time. When I first read this text, I didn’t think much of Shelley Winters. Now, after reading it for a second time at the end of the semester I started to see that Shelley is an important figure in this text. Smith states, “To cut a long story short, he falls in love with two girls…One is sweet, ordinary, sincere, lower-class: Shelley Winters” (4). Smith notes that Shelley is “lower class,” and how she is only one of the women George Eastman has fell in love with. A woman’s social class was a topic that came up quite frequently in the text we read, such as in Pamuk’s “The Museum of Innocence” and Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway.” When I reflect back on this class and the topic of “good literature” what I will remember the most is the amount of connections that could’ve been made between the texts we have read. It’s something I didn’t think twice about until I began to start my proposal for my thesis paper.

  2. What is “Good literature”? That is the question we’ve all been examining throughout this semester, but it is also a debate commonly fought within New York City Public schools as well. I’m quite familiar with this argument, and although it’s only been a few years since I’ve graduated High school myself, I’ve noticed a shift where schools are taking literature taught in English classes and switching the curriculum to put focus more on reading informational (scientific/historical) texts. Although my goal is not to debunk the value of such readings, I wonder like the Nicholas Dames article, what happens to the novel?

    Former President Barack Obama states himself, “the most important lessons I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels” (Dames 2). What does it say if at one point one of the most powerful men in the world (who was also Harvard educated, a lawyer, and professor) thought his most valuable lessons originated from novels. That doesn’t take away the importance of other forms of writing, but it does astonish me how the public tends to overlook reading/writing and their benefits. If the former president had spent his childhood analyzing non-fiction and historical documents I do think they would have helped him develop analytically, but what does this say about what it doesn’t provide? “A specialist in empathy” (2) is what former President Obama called novelist/interviewer Marilynne Robinson. If a writer has that much influence over people, imagine how good it does to the public that reads their work? Being able to transform people’s mindsets and invoke emotions is a powerful ability and one not meant to be overlooked.

    Perhaps, that is what makes “Good Literature”? That is what we’ve all been trying to reflect with our exam list, isn’t it? I believe the definition of Good literature varies from person. But working off of Obama’s comment and Shelley’s quote from last week, “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” it is vital to remember literature, no matter in what form will always affect the world. Through writing, it is important to remember that words have actions and writing has power. If President Obama had writing (specifically novels) affect his life, imagine all future generations that will learn and grow for the better. Good literature finds a way to change us all; it’s just a matter of how.

    I write this knowing that this is last blog post of the semester and to wish everyone good luck with their theses. Go write, defend, question, and share your thoughts with the world! 🙂

  3. Venessa says:

    I really thought Galtung’s piece on structural violence was super important on the politics of practically any book. Books reflect their time, and politics is always part of any historical moment. The Sellout comes to mind, because that story just stood out in so many ways, and truly captured the effects, and drew attention to that type of violence. I also like Mrs. Dalloway and how Woolf manifested a new invention to writing. Writing a full novel using the stream of consciousness is not a simple task to undertake. The way she her writing seems effortless in how she does that is impressive. I also really liked what Obama said in the article “the New Fiction of Solitude.” He says, “The most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. It has to do with empathy” (1). For Obama, empathy is an important aspect of being a citizen. We are all affected as humans, through experiences, and having empathy for others is important. Literature is a way for us to connect in some way or the other. It will be interesting to talk more about the different perspectives people have on how literature does connect us. The fact that there is a stream of narcissistic culture means that we need novels to help us relate to each other.

    For me personally, over the break, I would like to get at least three-fourths of my paper done. I want to get my sources organized and structure my essay effectively. Also, I hope that by getting all my sources and structuring it, I will stick to my topic. I don’t know where I’m heading with it but I don’t want my topic to change completely. Therefore, the first thing I have to do is figure out where my thesis is headed. Making it a part of the essential question, “What good is literature,” is also what I want it to connect to. All our theses will generally be answering this question in some way or the other, so keeping that in mind is a good focus point for me.

  4. Emily Abrams says:

    Over the course of this semester I found the drawing upon the “good of literature” perspective as I read to be a good exercise in being introspective. A focus like such pushed me to consider the function of literature beyond my own personally-held beliefs about what qualified as “good,” and asked me to consider instead a range of possibilities literature offers to the person and society at large. To name a few, I found how literature can invite readers to consider the political self and soul in relation to the state, even tyrannical states, as Plato did in The Republic. As seen in Beatty’s work, literature can push boundaries, beckoning readers to consider the plausibility of reinstituting the socially reprehensible—owning a slave. Through vehicle of satire, The Sellout spoke to larger issues of identity, race politics, national values and cohesion, etc. In Orhan Pamuk’s writing a reader can learn about Turkey and its culture through its attention to detail. The same argument can made for Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as it commentates on British social culture. A reader may even find new lines of thinking, like how Martha Nussbaum argues that poets are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Or how Andrea Long Chu distinguishes between “good TV,” “woke TV,” and “bad TV,” arguing ultimately how these elements have permeated social consciousness and drastically influences how Americans respond to and grapple with scandals and movements, like #MeToo (side note: I hope we get to talk about the Bad TV article this week— I found it to be a fantastic read, seriously!)

    I think there is a great deal of truth in Obama’s argument that literature produces empathy in readers, serving as “catalysts of mutual concern,” as phrased by Nicholas Dames in his Atlantic article. It might generally be the end game of “good of literature,” but I’m hesitant to say it’s the entire mission. We spoke of Lolita last class, where the protagonist is deliberately constructed to be deplorable and wholly unrelatable, at least to the general consensus. Might we say here that empathy is strained here? Or maybe it’s a matter of readers redirecting empathy towards non-protagonists. Maybe we learn more ourselves and/or society when we cannot or choose not to empathize… is that the alternative “good of literature” then? Do we inadvertently become selfish readers (in a good way? bad way?) when we say that literature’s “good” is catalyzing empathy? Curious…

    Looking towards the winter break and next semester, I hope to gain a fuller grasp of the debates surrounding the reemergence of crime novels with femme fatale figures. I have some promising readings on femme fatale history and the “domestic noir” genre that could serve as guiding texts for my arguments. Ideally, by the new year I’d like to finalize my secondary sources and by the time we return for spring semester I’d like to have 7-10 pages completed. I think that’s certainly doable with focus and determination.

  5. I think the idea of “Good Literature” comes to mind with the question of also “What’s considered literature?” To explore across the medium’s of what we’ll take into consideration as validly being literature is a component I’m excited to explore in my thesis. It also makes me think of the idea of comparative literature and how our idea of what’s good within the scope of literature can be very narrow minded within Western Society. We often limit to form, culture, and stylization about what’s good and what’s acceptable even though that might not necessarily be true. At the end of the day good literature is probably personal taste at best. If anything, I think something we’ve read like Mrs. Dalloway says something about good literature because there’s so many different ways to read it. We’re not looking to, perhaps, have one definition of good. Imagine asking our class alone what their favorite movie or book is and asking to collectively agree what’s good and what’s not, or even just what’s the best. That could go on for hours, days, years, and it would only be the opinions of a small group of people.

    As for my thesis paper, I hope to get around half of it down between now and break. I have a couple of winter courses I’m taking so it’s a lot of work, but I think half sounds like a good amount. It may be more than though. I think outlining and following that, even if it’s loosely will help either way. Also for my thesis, I’ll definitely be thinking back to the question of “what good is literature” because of the timeline of my question and the comparisons that are going on within it. Even if that’s not the main point of the paper, it’s something that can color the subsequent questions at hand.

  6. Zara Diaby says:

    One quote by Pamuk that’s stuck with me is, “there is no such thing as an ideal reader, free of narrow-mindedness and unencumbered by social prohibitions or national myths, just as there is no such thing as an ideal novelist. But a novelist’s search for the ideal reader – be he national or international – begins with the novelist’s imagining him into being, and then by writing books with him in mind.” (Pamuk) I don’t know why, I think of this quote when I think of good literature. I believe that good literature is any literature that causes you to think and to feel. Now this is not to say that most books do not elicit some sort of response from their readers. I say this to say that any book that can burrow its way into your mind or your heart; even if you cannot remember what it is about years after you’ve read it is a good piece of literature.
    I’ve been taking the time to decide how I am going to spend my winter break. What will I do? Where will I go? Most likely I will spend most of my time in bed reading and working on my thesis while I count down the days ‘til graduation.
    Zadie Smith’s short story Now More Than Ever was an experience, I almost forgot we had read it in the beginning of the school year. The connection she makes between public persona and personal persona brought me back to the Tiger Woods scandal. At the time I was mystified by the way others reacted towards the news. Tiger Woods the philanderer! Frankly, I cared not one bit, so he likes porn stars and hookers, don’t most celebrity men am I missing something? I remember asking my step father about it and he responded that the public persona he portrayed did not match his private one, according to Scout his past didn’t match his present. There was no way to make that connection seamless…
    Smith’s story is supposed to give parallel world feel to our world or maybe it is another world, a world in which we publicly have our ratings displayed and we can live on the outskirts of society. Not so far removed from our current society, canceled culture is everywhere, you have to watch what you say, you have to be en vouge(present past is present) and remember to be politically correct! To have an opinion that goes against the majority is death but to be too in line with the majority is pandering, remember to be yourself, unless of course it offends me.
    She is good literature.

  7. When I think about the good of literature, I think of literature that leaves some sort of impact on you as you read the novel, it may lead you to question ideas, or make you feel a certain way, or it may even challenge the mindset that you have about certain things. But with the good of literature, it is always working towards something by bringing up important discussions and making progress in some sort of way. One reading that comes to mind when thinking about “the good of literature” is Galtung’s “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research.” Why? It reminds me of the good of literature because it challenges the idea of violence and how we understand what violence is. It also questions what we know, and challenges that idea of violence which we’re familiar with, causing us to realize that there’s much more to violence than we realize. It also brings up an important discussion of what violence is defined as and how it occurs without us realizing it, and how that really impacts us and others around us. But this idea that Galtung really presents contributes to the good of literature because it’s able to be applied to so many things.

    Another great example that represents the good of literature, is our recent reading of Mrs.Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, because she challenges the form of how the text is written and presented to the audience, which challenges the way we read and understand the text, but also the way in which time has progressed since then. One of the main ideas that we see represented in that text is the idea of social class. The fact that that idea is focused on in the book, gives the audience a chance to question why that is one of the focuses, as well as how that idea has lead to progress. And another thing is, that many people believed that women were very limited at that time. But with Woolf we see that Clarissa does have a sense of freedom. She has this by the decision she makes on who to marry, her relationship with Sally, she very much does have a say in the life that she chooses to live.

    In the spring, it’d be interesting to learn more about the good of literature. What would be interesting to explore would be literature that has truly made an impact. And of course all literature has made some sort of impact. However, it’d be interesting to focus on literature that has questioned the way we live? Or our social norms? Or made an impact on the world, maybe novels that have become worldwide phenomenons, why have they become so significant? And what’s the impact they’ve made? So it’d be interesting to break done those texts, that are so popular, to see why and how they contribute to the good of literature.

    As I write my thesis, I’d like to figure out how my topic works with the good of literature, or how it contributes to the good of literature itself. It’d be interesting to see how the ideas that are presented in my topic would help work towards an idea that is still in progress in becoming part of literature and it’s long lasting effect of understanding why literature is so “good.” For the paper, during break I’d like to really pinpoint the sources that I’d like to use for the paper itself. I’d also like to begin writing the paper, and really understanding my topic, because right now I know what I want to write, but I don’t think it’s being stated correctly, so that could lead to confusion. So I’d like to clear that up, and really focus in on the ideas that my topic explores.

  8. Deepika Khan says:

    Of all the ways we have talked about the “good of literature” this semester, I found the conversation about what constitutes “good literature” to be particularly engaging. We each had our own ideas about what works of literature would be considered “good.” I remember having a strong in-class response to the kinds of works I had to read throughout my life as a student. From William Shakespeare to Emily Dickinson, many of my teachers deemed dead white writers as “more important” or “classical” than other types of writers, such as people of color or LGBTQ. I also found the idea of literature, specifically poetry, as a political platform for writers to be especially fascinating. “Poets as Judges: Judicial Rhetoric and the Literary Imagination” by Martha Nussbaum and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry” both highlight the usefulness of poetry for writers and their audiences. I think establishing what makes “good literature” and how literature can be used is important in understanding the purpose of this class. Although, each of us may very well have different beliefs about what makes a piece of literature “good” and “not good.” For example, while I may consider “The Hunger Games” trilogy as “good literature,” another classmate may disagree and propose “Harry Potter” as “good.”

    The variations on the “good of literature” I want to keep thinking about in the spring, other than what’s stated above, would be Johan Galtung’s research article, “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research.” I never thought about how violence exists in nearly every corner of this world, regardless of where or who you are. As I write my thesis, I want to try to figure out how “violence” functions in literature, particularly Paul Beatty’s novel, “The Sellout.” There are various scenes in “The Sellout” that are directly influenced by “personal” and “structural” violence, especially by the book’s namesake. For me, personally, one goal I will have over the break will be to get as close as possible to finishing a draft of my paper. I think once I have a solid outline for the draft, writing the twenty-page paper will seem less daunting. Fortunately for me, I really like the literary and theoretical texts that will be used as a part of writing the paper. Having the opportunity to reread parts of “The Sellout” through the lens of “structural/personal” violence is actually really exciting. I can’t wait to see how different Beatty’s characters and story will be once I apply Galtung’s research.

  9. Jude Binda says:

    I have had to remind myself a few times throughout the semester that our overarching question is about the “good of literature” because it seems so obvious, but in retrospect, it is not as easy to explain as I originally thought. For this reason, a text that stands out to me is Galtung’s “Peace, Research, and Peace Research” because it offers a way for us to understand the role literature plays in our lives. His discussion of structural violence is one that has resonated with all of us because it tackles the machine that is society. Ideas shape everything and Galtung exposes the way institutions dictate our behavior and perceptions. I think everyone could benefit from reading Galtung and applying his theory to their own areas of interest. The same can be said about Levine’s thoughts on form. Form is valuable in the conversation about the good of literature because the way literature is delivered plays a part in the way we think about it and the society that produced it. Also, I think another text that stood out to everyone was The Sellout. The way The Sellout captures contemporary issues and unsettles the reader by presenting them in unorthodox ways.

    As for my plans for the break, I hope to have a full-length thesis already done by the end of January. I think with a project as demanding and daunting as this, the best thing to do would be to come into the next semester with a draft. If I can manage this, I will consider it a break spend well because editing and polishing will significantly lower the pressure, which I hope will foster a much more interesting. Of course, this is much easier said than done. Writing my whole thesis might be wishful thinking, but I’ll be writing as long as my mental stability holds out!

  10. Kaitlin Margaret McDermott says:

    Maybe it’s a function of growing up in the early-2000s, but I did not find the reading from the Atlantic for this week entirely revolutionary. Exploring the purpose– or, the evolving purpose, as it were– of fiction, the piece traces some key examples of post-modern fiction that show the function of fiction as a way to retreat into selfhood, rather than a way to bring different people and diverse perspectives together. Dames writes: “Two kinds of solitude…produce a vocation: to share that which cannot be shared. Knausgaard’s fiction is exactly that, a communication from a voice that distrusts, or disbelieves in, the possibility of communication; an exhibition of a perspective that is true by virtue of not being knowable by anyone else.” In this, the notion of “solitude” is one that speaks to me personally. As a writer, I find it extremely difficult to write in the company of other people. Whether it be in a library, a cafe, or at home, I find myself needing the mental space that only physical solitude can provide. Though this personal quirk is more of a literalization of the process of fiction writing and reading described by Dumas, it makes sense, I think. “A perspective… true by virtue of not being knowable by anybody else” is the essential grounding on which all literature rests. In some sense, this is to do with empathy: a perspective is unknowable to me, and therefore I must make strides closer to knowing it. Differently though, there is some selfishness in the pure indulgence of selfhood within fiction’s (at least, the modern works that Dames cites) bounds. A perspective is true because it is a truth of the self, which none other can deny. I wonder how reading through this lens changes the meaning one can gather from a work…

    As far as my plans for the winter break, I personally am aiming to write 10-15 pages of my thesis. Quite honestly, I’m a bit worried about time-management since I will be working full time and have other projects that need my attention, but I am hoping that once I narrow my scope and produce a solid outline, I can make good headway on my project. A question I have for the class, or for my classmates who, like me can become discouraged when they feel their writing is without solid aim: how do you move forward with a project that you lack some confidence in? The motivation factor is a big thing that I am thinking about, and is a worry of mine in the upcoming month.

  11. While ruminating over the notion of “good” in literature this semester – that is, how we ascribe value to literature and quantify that value – I’ve started to think about literary history in another way. It seems to me that this “good” isn’t a static value, but rather that a work’s value shifts as it moves through time. Take Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” Today, its value is in its beauty and the influences it has had on works that have come after it. At the time of its publication, however, that value was totally different. In fact, many critics contemporary to its publication argued that it did more harm than good. These arguments are due to the epic’s entanglement with the major theological issues of the day and its critique of the church’s power. Therein lies the value “Paradise Lost” had in its contemporary moment – political (which, at the time, meant theological, too) engagement. Once a text’s socio-political moment passes, its value by necessity shifts into its aesthetics and influences on literature subsequent to it. This still weighs on my mind. Which of these values is more, well, valuable? Do texts gain or lose value as they age? Is one type of “literary good” inherently better than the other. I’m not sure. Furthermore, I would be suspicious of anyone who tried to give a sure answer to these questions.

    Over the break I plan on writing as much of my thesis as possible. Realistically, I know my best draft will be rough without feedback, but I want my argument to be as complete as possible before the seminar resumes. I know the rate I work at, and this means that I need to start writing in earnest by the beginning of January’s third week. Significant research, annotation, and outlining will need to precede that, so I’ll spend the first two weeks of January on that. I refuse to work before January second. Christmas is on the twenty-fifth, my twenty-eighth birthday is on the twenty-seventh, and then New Year’s Eve is – well, you get the gist. I don’t plan on being coherent.

  12. Khurram says:

    This is a personal post.

    This has been a semester of conflicting feelings, which made it a great time to meet our course’s guiding question.

    At one point this semester, it became suddenly clear that this was fun, but it was time to move on. At another, I was jarringly aware of the small amount of time left doing this. That second “this,” it turns out, wasn’t school. School? It was fun, but it’s time to wrap this up. Writing?

    At some point this semester, this final year of school started to feel like my last run with writing. I described my desire to take a writing workshop to complete one of the layers of graduation requirements (is it for my degree or residency? Who knows but DegreeWorks these days) as “my last stand.” That phrase was wrong after I said it. I thought so, anyway. As the semester winds down, it seems appropriate.

    What good is literature? Somewhere along the way, that became “what good is literature to me?” Everyone else’s reasons are their own; what am I doing here? Like Nicholas Dames suggested in “The New Fiction of Solitude,” while I read about the polis, about oppression, colonialism, aesthetics, about inactivity and activity, and about that nebulous, meaningful, and because of its sheer size, sometimes irrelevant concept of identity, I thought about what all this literature meant to me and my writing. That was a style question. Then, it became a representation question: on day one, my thesis dealt with Muslim-American identity. By day now, it changed to something much vaguer. A wide net that could mean something to everyone, and so mean nothing at all. Primarily because it is my thesis. It is my writing.

    That this semester and the spring semester are collectively my last stand with writing is appropriate because I love writing, and I may be done with it soon. The next few months are my last chance to stave off an end, even though I know the end is inevitable. Not from writing as an activity—I think that will continue professionally and personally in the sense that emails and text messages, birthday cards and wedding speeches and company blog posts are technically writing. But for writing as an identity. As what I do. What good is literature? I’ve only found out, so far, what good it is to me, and for how much longer. In the spring, I’ll make a case for why it’s good elsewhere. Truth is, I don’t know. Trying to answer that is just an involuntary action that comes with the end. My thesis is my rattle.

    Part of my own personal difficulty with the exam reading list comes from a place of, well, place. The good of literature for me is an avenue to continue writing. I’ll read for the rest of my life. You’ll understand why I want to write right now.

    What Dames writes about the novel and fiction is affirming, then troubling, then provocative, possibly a bit true, and open to skepticism. Former President Obama’s belief that the value of the novel and fiction is to spread empathy, the kind which preserves a “democratic culture” is both ideal and almost too on the nose, given where we are today; the question of whether the novel has the same role today is distressing; the exploration of fiction as a personal confession, not a communal rallying point, is intriguing, and immediately made me read Zadie Smith differently. It makes sense, and it also doesn’t. I could admit that the thing I set out to achieve is precisely what will keep me from doing the thing I wish I accomplished—a degree for a different life—and someone could read that and find it relatable, but it is still, as I write it, my confession for me. If it matters beyond me is fine, though. It could be both things.

    Andrea Long Chu’s “Bad TV” offers an alternative to the empathy role of literature and adds a vicarious role to television that in turn helps Dames’ piece and its hypothesis gain some traction. The role Dames describes for the novel of a different time belongs to TV now. And while Chu points out that that kind of representational value derived from TV is fleeting and open to a tolerance of subpar content, fiction, and the novel form is, too. Not everything is gorgeous. Perhaps with literature, our tolerance changed because the appeal shrunk to smaller groups, and down to individuals, while TV became the representational medium for the masses. A collection of individuals will be smaller and more selective, and even when they find each other, they will barely be a bloc. Those that look for a mouthpiece or culture in television are, at this point in the medium’s life, more susceptible to forfeiting their individualism. Where literature for Dames is about the one, and who identifies with it is a byproduct, TV for Chu is confirmation that you belong to a bigger class, and that class has visible expression built into the industry around it. When we see something on TV that represents us, we accept that it, too, can speak for us. For Dames, literature left that place behind already.

    But why, then, would someone like me write a personal post for a public forum? Why does the modern author write their confession, their own story, and then seek out its distribution? Has the novel adopted the autobiography, as Dames details with the rise of autofiction? Is there an appeal to getting ahead of our shortcomings, fears, and mistakes before someone tells that story for us? Is fiction the perfect cover to explain that you don’t think how you think people hope you think, and tucking it into a novel lets you come clean while scrutiny is hidden behind an empathizing audience? Do modern writers exploit empathy, rather than distrust it?

    What good is literature? Does any satisfactory answer die once we personalize it? Maybe. Maybe, in that case, a personal post could only be public. If the good of literature is the good it brings me, maybe attaching its lifespan in my lifetime to exposure is a form of penance: if someone accidentally finds personal worth in something not written for them, it feels less selfish without actually being so. It feels more valuable. The sharing feels more deliberate. The effect has a chance to feel more “good.”

  13. First, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed Dames’s article, “The New Fiction of Solitude.” Its discussion of empathy as a function of fiction, and the notion of solitude from a narrational perspective, are pleasing to me because I, myself, like to focus on how information is received and registered. So, the mention of the three-dimensional readerly point of view, and the idea of staying rooted in ourselves “while also registering the world through some other perspective” was very interesting to me.

    I want to continue thinking about how content discussed in literature is presented. While I appreciate the content of any given work, I typically enjoy examining how authors write about that content. That is, how form and psychology drive the reception a narrative.

    The question what good is literature can be analyzed by how narratives make readers feel: confused, reassured, liberated, or curious. I think that the good of literature is that it challenges and or reaffirms readers’ deepest passions and their biggest fears in life. In my opinion, good literature doesn’t just settle and dissipate, it continuously forces us to consider our existence and our conditions as humans.

    Otherwise, I am reminded of a discussion in class where we discussed the idea that every individual has their own literature. And that individual literature becomes influential because others relate to it, endorse it, and share it. This poses the question, what exactly is literature, and from what vehicles and platforms do we expect literature to originate? For example, the scope of a twitter account … and that what is expressed there is sort of its own literature with its own supporters and readership.

    The readings that come to mind regarding points in good literature are Pamuk’s “Museum of Innocence,” Federici’s “The Great Caliban,” and Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway.” Pamuk brought readers—both indigenous and distant—into the text, Federici provides a framework to examine the costs of asserting distinction, and Woolf provides a beautifully interwoven consciousness. The good of literature here is that these narratives were able to thoroughly highlight our interconnectedness.

    The good of literature rests in both its attempt to capture reality, or perceived reality, and its ability to transform internal and external thoughts, ideologies, and places, into words. Literature strives to inform and warn readers about life and of all it involves. In my opinion, literature is never an escape, but the exact opposite. It is the immersion of oneself into multiple other selves in order to guide us towards learning a balancing act—how and when we need to reinforce or dismantle that self.


    During the break, I hope to read as much as possible in preparation for the honors exam. I’ll be focusing on adhering to the schedule I set for myself, in order to write a good amount towards my thesis. I am very excited about my texts and my discussions on metafiction and autofiction.

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