Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Since typing the last post has given me carpal tunnel, I will make this short as there were no readings and Yale didn't include the handout mentioned in the video.

I am feeling rather guilty about not taking notes on Paul Fry's lecture, but the transcript seems to preclude the necessity, as I am not writing any papers and am reflecting here. Like the theory course I took in Spring 2009 (at the same time as this course was recorded, funnily enough) Fry begins with the idea of Literature as undefinable, though he is significantly broader in his introduction than my less experienced professor. Names, ideas and quotes from the lecture are familiar but I was also gratified that he began mentioning hermeneutics, which I have not studied but I have become increasingly in.

When I changed my major to English, I was always uncertain about what I should know and what I didn't know about Literature. I was painfully concerned with what was "out there" and what had been said already. I didn't know whether my analysis was acceptable or legitimate, and I became uneasy as I began to be successful in English courses still not knowing. The theory course I took was very insightful and I started to recognize the way my professors were teaching Literature and the reasons why the sum of my education made me produce the sort of papers that I did.

The more I understand theories, though I feel rather hopeless when I encounter a person with as in-depth an understanding as Fry, the more I question why some are more legitimate than others and I wonder at how they both enhance and remove the reader from the text-- and whether this is true at all. Hermeneutics seems to address my poorly expressed concerns. To quote directly from the transcript of Lecture One: "how do we form the conclusion that we are interpreting something adequately, that we have a basis for the kind of reading that we're doing?". This is what I would like to explore.

On a less focused note, my poor state-schooled self is just a little awed by the oratory abilities of Paul Fry. Not that I have never had a good professor (I have had two or three) but I have had a professor with a lilting radio-esque voice that pronounces "rather" ever so slightly "rawther", or one that had his lecture down pat enough to coordinate excellently polished gestures. Or, really, one with white hair who was not slobbering at the mouth (I will not name names). My professors have been young, mostly, and just learning the best way to present a course. Fry says in this lecture that he has been teaching the course since the late seventies. I guess this is what you get from an Ivy institution. Oh, and Harold Bloom.

I enjoy that Prof. Fry defends the idea of a survey because theory seems to me to be one of those holes that you can never reach the bottom of and can never understand until you do. A course like the one he describes on de Man assumes a knowledge of other theories, though it wouldn't like you to have a survey to teach them to you. Where is one supposed to get this knowledge? From my need for a teacher, I have evidently failed at naturally building a foundation for myself.

When I think about writing a statement of purpose for applications, I have formed ideas of what I don't want-- there are theories that I am not very interested in exploring (psychoanalytical ones, for example)-- but what exactly I want is always just out of reach. I need to be able to communicate exactly how I read Literature, how it poses significant questions to me and how I can answer them.

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