happiness secret

image from here

“In the story The Little Prince, the fox was wiser than he knew when he said, “Now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, trans. Katherine Woods [1943], 70). The odyssey to happiness lies in the dimension of the heart. Such a journey is made on stepping-stones of selflessness, wisdom, contentment, and faith. The enemies of progress and fulfillment are such things as self-doubt, a poor self-image, self-pity, bitterness, and despair. By substituting simple faith and humility for these enemies, we can move rapidly in our search for happiness.”

~James E. Faust, “Our Search for Happiness”

read here

Tuesday Tunes: Sondheim’s “Being Alive” from Company

image from here

image from here


Singer: NPH

Song: Stephen Sondheim, “Being Alive”

From the musical Company

  • This song has been stuck in my head. The first time I heard it song, the flawless Sutton Foster was belting it out on stage. This version with Neil Patrick Harris is pretty amazing, too. The lyrics just make me want to cry. So many feelings. Does this song make you think of anyone? Share in the comments below.

xoxo,

the bbb blogger


lyrics:

Someone to hold you too close,
Someone to hurt you too deep,
Someone to sit in your chair,
To ruin your sleep.

Someone to need you too much,
Someone to know you too well,
Someone to pull you up short
And put you through hell.

Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare,
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share
A little, a lot.

Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care,
Someone to make you come through,
Who’ll always be there,
As frightened as you
Of being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive.

Somebody, hold me too close,
Somebody, hurt me too deep,
Somebody, sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive,
Being alive.

Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive,
Make me alive,
Make me confused,
Mock me with praise,
Let me be used,
Vary my days.
But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, let me come through,
I’ll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

How to Have Peace

In the constant, daily struggles of everyday life, it can be difficult to feel peace. Whether it’s an upcoming exam or worries about the future (family, career, etc.), feeling peace can seem impossible.

In Doctrine and Covenants 19:23, it tells us how we can individually have peace:

Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.

So how can we have peace?

  1. A person must learn of Christ.
  2. A person must listen to the words of Christ.
  3. A person must be meek.

This world is full of confusion and turmoil. There are wars; there are rumors of wars. There are murders and fighting, divorce and hatred, unkindness and theft. But the Gospel truly does offer peace to those willing to accept its teachings.

1. A person must learn of Christ.

Learning of Christ seems pretty straightforward. Sometimes actually learning of Christ is hard when we get busy with life. Studying the scriptures, the Word of God, will help all of us learn of Christ. Going to the temple brings us closer to him.

2. A person must listen to the words of Christ.

In Doctrine and Covenants 1:38, the Lord declares the following:

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

This scripture seems to prove that General Conference is extremely important. When apostles and prophets speak, it is what the Lord would have declared because they are his servants.

Last Sunday in sacrament meeting, my bishop talked about General Conference, which will be happening this weekend. He said that across the church, it is the least attended meeting by the members. I was shocked! General Conference is probably my favorite spiritual weekend every April and October.

Bishop Jackson told the members of my ward eight concepts that we would learn if we would listen to General Conference.

8 Concepts We Can Learn if We Listen to to General Conference

  1. The importance of remembering our covenants
  2. Our need to seek for eternal truth
  3. How we can avoid confusion/being misled
  4. Why we should resist evil
  5. The need to sustain one another
  6. The importance of attending church meetings
  7. The importance of guarding our virtue
  8. Why we should develop good qualities

President Monson

3. A person must be meek.

I know that as we listen to the words of the prophets, we must be meek. If we are meek, we will be more likely to accept what they have to say as truth. And if we accept the words of the prophets and apostles, then we will be more likely to implement their teachings into our lives. Being meek is not being weak—being meek will make us humble and stronger.

Originally posted: http://stanceforthefamily.byu.edu/how-to-have-peace/

Written Wednesday: Alizabeth Leake

Alizabeth Leake—talented poet, wonderful tutor, caring friend. Her gifted writing skills are shown below in some of the poems she has allowed me to post here on this blog. Enjoy!  ❤

Love Story of a Dirt Road

I pulled at my mother’s sleeve

when I couldn’t match my feet to hers,

feeling pricks of scab at her elbows

that she always had

from clawing her goose bumps,

 

and asked if I could take a picture

of a shoreline of mud on an overturned rock,

a single soggy sock on the road.

 

The love story of a country road

is not a song

an essay

an attempt to say

the thin-wind thirst of the long, sun worn days

 

it does not speak through

the weeds

fence posts

layers of rock, or even

a single, dry feather.

 

It is as silent as the highest winter-limbs of the cedar.

 

We stayed until evening because to leave meant

to be alone again, as is a part of love,

 

and with the setting red sun all sank into

a prayer that hangs by the root tangles,

heavier than the tired eyelids

of the newborn.


To the Stairs from My Room in the Basement

At day, I’ll smell your climate of small

bodies shadow-legged and webbed and pay

my morning salutation so each vertebrae

in your bent back cracks under heel’s fall,

take the slanted staff that stems the wall—

forget the bed of my spent head you play

this night, my ribs and hips and face that lay

hard swollen in your crib, forget all.

Against your diagonal wilderness

this night I compass my angular soul,

though the weather of loneliness and soft yawn.

You are the chamber in which I undress

and arrange rigid limbs. Hold me whole,

old heart-closet, keep, bridge me to dawn.


To My OCD

Age 5. You looked for the chain of paper clips hooked

beneath the top drawer, felt for coins in the slots

of my cassette case and between picture book pages,

for beads dug through the seams of stuffed animals

and looked again because only if they weren’t there

would you remember checking for the things I’d stolen.

 

Age 7. You hid in a cupboard set between black marble floor

and black marble countertop when you skipped little league

cheer practice because you weren’t supposed to be home.

I stared at the pins of light that came through the hinges.

 

Age 13. In the after-vacation invasion, my brother found

a jar of pickles, the lid’s pressure button belly-up.

Everyone else had egg salad for lunch and lost it

for dinner. I declined, and for that I thank you.

 

Age 18.  My EMT workbook open on my desk: two wings

limp with fatigue. Check-offs in the margins like beaker marks,

a purple-capped phial of separated blood in my pencil mug.

I almost finished at the top of the class but you convinced me

not to take the exam so I would never risk mixing winged

with shielded IV catheters or counting CPR beats too quickly.

 

One day, you’ll shuffle over tile in padded orthopedics

so I wake in the morning and wonder what I heard,

knee jerk my way downstairs to check the furnace and jump

at an empty popcorn bag. Maybe, I’ll wonder just long enough

to forget whether or not I should latch the chimney at night.


Wooden Ducks

A pair of them, Korean, one of three decorations that I wasn’t willing to leave at home when I went to college. One of the beaks is painted green and the other red with the wood visible beneath. Each cups the length of my palm, a little skinnier, a little taller, the weight of an egg. After eleventh grade when my friend went back home to Seul after a year, she gave them to me in a silk sack. “Remember, this is wedding gift, for happy marriage.”

I keep one in each boot.


At Closing

Behind the refrigerator doors

hall of mirrors,

behind the metal racks under the light bulbs’

spread, there fallen

 

on dark cement: a gallon of skim milk,

handle split like an opened bean,

milk pours staccato out of the seam

the widening tundra-gray tide.

 

A grocer boy with hands in pockets

counts empty slots down the dairy aisle,

across the spill’s edge,

the milk prickling on rough cement.


In Motion

1. A smooth surface reflects light in a single, brilliant beam. It is on the harsh and fractured ground that light disperses, touching our dark corners.

2. Friction. 1) Static: The resistance to starting movement. 2) Kinetic: The resistance to continuing movement. Remember holding hands for the first time?

3. The principle of latent heat demonstrates that the temperature we feel is the transfer of heat or energy between two objects. We measure all things by measuring the change in ourselves.


Microwave

brown rice spills

out of a blue tupperware

like yesterday’s minutes.


On Prayer

When you first learn a song, play with one hand at a time.

When you know the right and left, play with both hands together.

When you know a song in your heart, forget how to play the one hand without the other.

 

“What’s Missing in Miss America’s Response”

The Miss America 2014 Top 15 Semi-Finalists (Picture Originally from http://www.pageantprofessors.com)

A Tale of Two Debates

Last week, social media exploded after the Miss America Pageant. Users complained either how terrible feminists were or how terrible Miss America’s answer was. But what was actually said?

Miss Nevada was asked the following question:

Recently Time Magazine said 19% of U.S. undergraduate women are victims of sexual assault in college. Why has such a horrific epidemic been swept under the rug for so long, and what can colleges do to combat this? [1]

Miss Nevada Nia Sanche replied with this statement:

I believe some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation, and that would be a reason that it could be swept under the rug because they don’t want it to come out into the public, but I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself as a fourth degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and being able to defend yourself, and I think that’s something we should start to implement for a lot of women. [2]

Miss Nevada Nia Sanche (Picture originally from http://www.dailymail.co.uk.)


6 Things to Consider

There were various, emotional responses to what Miss Nevada Nia Sanche said. Some people supported and defended her, while others were outraged. Social media exploded with countless posts and comments based on Sanche’s two sentences. Here are six things to consider:

1. Under Pressure

During question time of the Miss America Pageant, perhaps the contestants feel pressured or put on the spot. They get nervous, they say stupid things, or they don’t think their argument all the way through.

Additionally, these women are probably not members of the debate team; they don’t have the time to go into the depth needed for these issues. Would you ever hear “I defend this position because of Reasons A, B, and C. Oh, and here are Counterarguments 1, 2, and 3 and all the reasons why those ideas are indubitably incorrect”? Probably not.

2. Money, Money, Money—Isn’t Funny

Self-defense is a good thing. Martial arts would be great for all women to take. But it’s expensive. Who is going to pay for self-defense classes?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “About half of all rape victims are in the lowest third of income distribution; half are in the upper two-thirds.[3] Working class women, including single mothers and women with lower income, would need child care, compensation for the hours missed from work, or both. However, even if free classes were provided on a weekend or later in the evenings, who would pay for those classes? And how would attendance be enforced?

Providing self-defense classes on college campuses are a complex issue. Even if a class is offered, some students may not be able to afford the additional costs to take the class. The costs for student loans, textbooks, food, car insurance, gas, and ever-increasing tuition take a huge chunk out of a student’s pocket. Also, the student may not have the time to take the credits, especially if the student is trying to graduate early.

Could universities and colleges all provide free self-defense classes? Sanche stated she had a fourth degree black belt—something that takes great skill but also a lot of time. How effective would one self-defense class be? Would there need to be a series of free classes?

Just stating that women need self-defense leads to more questions and issues that would need to be resolved. It is not a simple solution.

And change can happen. Unfortunately, rape occurs. But all of us can work on decreasing those numbers. Educating men and women can affect change.

3. Women Are Human, Too

The “that raped woman is someone’s mother, sister, daughter” technique isn’t working.

Obama is reported to have said, “We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic violence.”[4] Because of this statement, Obama was criticized for using the “Father-Knows-Best,” outdated rhetoric. Many people, including our president, have used this language. That needs to change.

Some women are sisters. Some women are mothers. Some women are daughters. But all women are human. Because we are human, both men and women should be treated respectfully.

Bernini, “Il Ratto di Proserpina” (“The Rape of Proserpina”)

4. Change: An Education

Many Twitter users were furious with Sanche’s response, claiming that she encouraged rape culture or was telling men that it was okay to rape. Others responded that rape has occurred since the beginning of time and will continue to occur, following the “boys will be boys” mentality.

But can’t we still push for men not to rape? People are often confused about what counts as rape or when it is okay. In America, we are obsessed with sex, but never really want to talk about it. Parents need to be better at communicating with children, both male and female, about sex and rape. There ought to be more open discussion in schools and colleges about rape.

5. Understanding What Counts as Rape

When does rape occur? Rape occurs if a male physically holds down a woman and forces her to have sex with him or if a man forces any type of non-consensual sexual relations. It still counts as rape even if any of the following occurs:

  • He spent a lot of money on her.
  • He is so turned on he thinks he can’t stop.
  • She previously had sexual intercourse with other men.
  • She is stoned or drunk.
  • She has any mental disabilities.
  • She lets him touch her above the waist.
  • She is going to and changes her mind.
  • She has supposedly led him on.
  • The man is sexually stimulated.
  • They have dated for a long time.
  • They are engaged.
  • They are married. [5]

Mad Men, “The Mountain King” (Season 2 / Episode 12) After repeatedly saying no, Joan is raped by her fiancé.

6. The Facts

Rape is not an issue about whether it’s good or it’s bad. But many people don’t realize that rape is not just physical assaults. Rape involves additional issues, such as the mentality about, objectification of, and violence against women. Rape is about power and control, not love and understanding.

But rape doesn’t always occur when a woman is attacked on her way home from work. There’s date rape, and if a woman is unconscious, knowing martial arts isn’t going to help her.

Often, the survivor of rape culture knows the rapist, whether it is a boyfriend, husband, lover, coworker, family member, etc. For example, “Of female rape or sexual assault victims in 2010, 25 percent were assaulted by a stranger, 48 percent by friends or acquaintances, and 17 percent were intimate partners.”[6] Approximately two-thirds of rape survivors know their rapist. Survivors are often manipulated and must deal with scarring emotional trauma.

The age of raped survivors varies. Of course, rape on campus is a huge problem. But rape survivors include underage women: “5% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12; 29% are age 12-17; 44% are under age 18; 80% are under age 30; ages 12-34 are the highest risk years.” [7]

Rape isn’t always reported: “The FBI estimates that only 46% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police. U.S. Justice Department statistics are even lower, with only 26% of all rapes or attempted rapes being reported to law enforcement officials.”[8]These hard facts are horrible but true.


 So What’s Missing?

What’s missing from Miss America’s response—and the responses of many social media users—is that we need more education, more encouragement for survivors, more prevention, more access for recovery, more understanding, more open communication, and more opportunities to fight this terrible injustice. Being sensitive of the struggles that these women suffer is vital for communication to happen.

People often trivialize rape culture. They don’t understand it—they don’t even try. Pause before a statement is blurred by frustration or ignorance. Some of us may not be able to empathize entirely with what’s it’s like to be a rape survivor. But we can and must try to understand.

Let’s talk together, listening and opening our hearts without judgment and hate. Make survivors feel like they are heard by recognizing rape culture as a complex, emotional experience that real humans suffer.

Let’s talk to survivors, not tell them what to do.

Let’s talk.


For More Information:

Listed originally on http://www.feminist.com, the following websites list valid statistics about abused women:

 

Footnotes:

[1](See http://www.ijreview.com/2014/06/145792-feminists-spew-scorn-miss-usa-pageant-winner-self-defense-stance/)

[2](See http://www.ijreview.com/2014/06/145792-feminists-spew-scorn-miss-usa-pageant-winner-self-defense-stance/)

[3](See more facts and statistics athttp://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html.)

[4](See http://www.salon.com/2013/02/13/stop_calling_us_wives_and_moms/.)

[5](See http://www.fearus.org.)

[6](See more facts and statistics athttp://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html.)

[7](See more facts and statistics athttp://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html.)

[8](See more facts and statistics athttp://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html.)

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/instant-celebrity/

Text as a Social Force: Cultural Criticism

Thomas Hart Benton, “Hollywood”

Introduction

Text has been a part of human creation for hundreds of years. People have used art and literature to express themselves and the human condition. But the text is also a social force. Cultural criticism has changed the way readers view literature and art. Art is not merely used for entertainment or artistic expression.

Early critics include Hegel, Arnold, and Marx, while later social critics include Marx, Williams, Horkheimer, Adorno, Benjamin, and Foucault. From Hegel to Foucault, art and texts reflect, reify, or alter social structures.

Hegel

Hegel focuses on how an idea finds meaning in relationship to others. Hegel believed “an individuals entity’s meaning rests not in itself but in the relationship of that thing to other things within an all-encompassing, ever changing whole” (Leitch 536). Hegel uses the idea of the dialectic, “which entails the confrontation of any thesis with its opposite (antithesis), and the resultant synthesis of the two through a process of ‘overcoming’” (Leitch 537).

There are two conflicts then a compromise; then there are two more conflicts and another compromise. This process continues onward. His theory stresses movement and change rather than equilibrium and motionlessness. Hegel provides the example of the Master and the Slave, a relationship full of constant tension.

Through the relationship of the lord and the bondsman, there exists two opposite modes of consciousness: “one is the independent consciousness whose essential nature is to be for itself, the other is the dependent consciousness whose essential nature is simply to live or to be for another” (Hegel 544).

Hegel shows that “the reciprocity of dependence” is seen in “characterizing human relationships: ‘They recognize themselves as mutually recognizing one another’” (Leitch 538). In “Lectures on Fine Art,” Hegel believes that “a work of art is a product of human activity,” a process of “conscious production” that can “be known and expounded, and learnt and pursued by others” (Hegel 547).

Yet “the work of art stands higher than any natural product which has not made this journey through the spirit” (Hegel 549). Being a historicist critic, Hegel considers art occurring in different stages: symbolic, classical, and romantic.

How literature changes consequently changes how we think about things, considering phenomenology or our experience with the world. Art becomes key to understanding wisdom, whether that be scientific, religious, or philosophical wisdom, not in a subservient way but in a way that art shapes culture, and culture shapes those structures.

This concept influences the text. Readers can look at a text and consider how the author resolves conflicts in his characters. It is key to understand that art bypasses how things appear, looking straight at the form of actual things. This process shapes how we perceive the form or do not adhere to actual form. Readers can see this process influence how we consider social structures.

What is government is a complex question; but readers can get various answers of the function or purpose of government through art and literature, which also shapes our interpretation of how our own government is functioning.

Because “[m]eaning and truth are never fixed because they are always in process” (Leitch 537), readers who search for answers in literature and the world around them will never find a fixed truth or specific meaning. Thus new interpretations or readings are considered permissible.

Arnold

On one hand, Arnold emphasizes that we see the object as in itself as it really is; on the other hand, literature, for Arnold, is the highest aspiration of a culture and society. These conflicting points are Hegelian in nature. For Arnold, literature is used to create a moral society.

When he asks for a criticism of life, look for cultural criticism—not just disinterested examination but a cultural criticism that enters in to a critique and evaluates when it is necessary to condemn the inadequate values of a culture. Arnold ends up engaging in political intervention of a literary sort. In fact, literature does present ideals and moral principles for us to consider.

Arnold states in Culture and Anarchy, “[M]any amongst us rely upon our religious organisations to save us. I have called religion a yet more important manifestation of human nature than poetry, because it has worked on a broader scale for perfection, and with greater masses of men. But the idea of beauty and of a human nature perfect on all its sides, which is the dominant idea of poetry, is a true and invaluable idea” (Arnold 720).

Since religion fails, poetry becomes the new religion, shaping social structures. Because poetry becomes the new religion, more focus is placed on thought than on adherence or obedience to rules. In religion, preachers tell you what to think and how to act; in contrast, literature becomes much more interpretive. Yet, at the same time, Arnold really emphasizes the importance of a critic. The critical becomes ultimately higher than the creative.

For example, Arnold writes in The Function of Criticism at the Present Time, “But criticism, real criticism, is essentially the exercise of this very quality. It obeys an instinct prompting it to try to know the best that is known and thought in the world, irrespectively of practice, politics, and everything of the kind; and to value knowledge and thought as they approach this best, without intrusion of any other considerations whatever” (Arnold 702).

So the critic is still important, in Arnold’s perspective. Morality becomes based on this stew of ideas rather than a clear right or wrong. The critic turns to ideas, where the poet emerges from, thus going back to poetry as a new religion to turn to new ideas. Therefore, the poet needs an intellectual and spiritual atmosphere.

Marx

Marx is a social critic, providing ways to perceive the social sphere in which we all live. Marx’s theories are does not provide direct literary interpretation but is used by later critics. Marx introduces concepts such as base and superstructure. Marx becomes Hegel’s most famous disciple, since Marx “adopts both the vision of struggle and the dream of an end to strife” (Leitch 537).

For Hegel, thoughts lead to how you live; however, for Marx, how you live your life leads to your thoughts within society. In A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx continues the Hegelian dialectic, highlighting “the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production” (Marx 663).

But what distinguishes Marxism from Hegelian philosophy is “that it is not only a political, economic, and social theory but also a form of practice in all these domains” (Habib 36). For example, in “The German Ideology,” Marx writes in contrast to Hegelian philosophy “which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven” (Marx 656). Because, unlike Hegelian beliefs, “we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, though of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh,” Marx sets out “from real active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process” (Marx 656).

Marx tried to find causes and solutions in the structure of society.

  1. His first “objection to capitalism was that one particular class owned the means of economic production” (Habib 36).
  2. His second objection is concerned with this unjust relationship, “the oppression and exploitation of the working classes” (Habib 36).
  3. His third objection is concerned with “the imperialistic nature of the bourgeois enterprise: in order to perpetuate itself, capitalism must spread” (Habib 36).
  4. Finally, Marx is concerned with the idea that “capitalism reduces all human relationships to . . . self-interest, and egotistical calculation” (Habib 36).

Marx set out the explanation of the base and the superstructure. The base (r the forces of productions such as the relations of property and the division of labor) and superstructure, (artistic, religious, and political thinking and culture) is very important.

These two concepts greatly influence later critics. But what importance does Marx have to do with literature? Leitch highlights how a literary reader would ask questions not answered specifically in the text:

What roles do writers, critics, and intellectuals play? Do they illuminate for workers the nature of capitalist exploitation, or do they act at the service of those who already and best understand their true circumstances? Should writers be free to state the social and political facts as they see them, or must the goal of working-class revolution always shape their work—an if so, who sets the limits? (Leitch 649)

To these questions, Marx could reply with the following: “the answers will come only when the contradictions within capitalism produce them” (Leitch 640). Marx truly has changed how we see the world as well as how we interpret art and literature as seen in Marxism.

Benjamin

Benjamin is considered a Marxist critic because of his analysis of the principle of mediation and consciousness. There is a distinction of Marxism versus Marx, the man. Marx is a dialectical materialist, meaning he focuses on history.

The dialectical method occurs when two sides come into confrontation and wrestle with each other, which leads to a new thesis. When a new thesis emerges, another antithesis emerges, too. But Marxists saw the antithesis as consumer culture, and Benjamin believed, “Modern works are reproduced for mass consumption” (Habib 34). In other words, the principle of mediation “establishes relationships between the two levels of Marxist dialectic, between the base and the superstructure, between the relations of production and the work of art” (Richter 1202).

This means the base, or means of production, conditions the superstructure, or art; consequently, art is changing in the current production mode. For Benjamin, there is the possibility of “art for the masses,” the aura, or “spiritual quality, a relic of human attachment to ritual and magic . . . is simultaneously beginning to disappear” (1202–3).

While tradition and aura are smashed under mechanical reproduction, reproducibility is valued instead through exhibition for mass experience. This current production mode changes consciousness or perception of the masses, which result in producing new concepts.

The first concept is the “brush[ing] aside of outmoded concepts, such as creativity and genius” (1233), which leads to processing data in the Fascist sense. Benjamin views the aestheticization of politics that serves the Fascists negatively.

His second concept focuses on the politicization of art that serves the communists, which marries the capacity of art for analysis and the capacity to meet the broad public in order for the masses to think and do critical analysis of conditions in which they live.

This idea does not fall under a Marxist mode—rather than people rallying together and raising their rakes, people would be expressing themselves. Yet for Benjamin, “Mechanical reproduction of art changes the reaction of the masses toward art” (1244). Additionally, Benjamin considers distraction versus concentration, which reflects on the consciousness of the masses.

Because “the masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator,” someone “who concentrates before a work is absorbed by it,” while “the distracted mass absorbs the work of art” (1247). Benjamin claims, “The public is an examiner, but an absent-minded one” (1248). Therefore, Benjamin believes consciousness changes because the medium or delivery mechanism changes. This is a Marxist claim: understanding the world is determined by consciousness, which changes through materialism or history.

For example, one consequence of the alienation of labor is the human separation from body; the human then becomes a slave to labor. This reduces man to animal functions, or as Marx explains, “the human becomes the animal” (403). What previously separated the human from the animal was consciousness.

Ultimately, Marx argues, “Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life” (409). Consequently, “the proletarianization of art progressively dehumanizes both participants and spectators” (1203).

Benjamin’s influential ideas shape our view of art—what it means for the masses and what it can mean for us today. We, the viewers of artwork or the readers of a particular text, can determine to be a conscious examiner, not an absent-minded viewer.

Williams

Considering Benjamin’s interpretation of art and the influence of the base and superstructure is helpful in considering Williams’s argument. Williams uses the Marxist theory to see a literary sphere.

Williams sees that culture, like civilization, has a dual sense of achieving and developing. Culture besom a process, or something in flux. Language becomes a tool of productive practices. For Marx, the methods of production focus on gears and factories. But what if language was as productive for as metal or iron or steel? What if language makes things happen?

Language would not work by itself any more than factories work by themselves. Language becomes as much of a tool as a machine is because language does not just mirror reality but becomes a tool for human agency. Williams consider the base, or the means of production and class relationships, as well as the superstructure, or the ideological, including politics, religion, education, and family.

Williams dos not believe that the base and superstructure are homogenous. He sees the mediation between the base and superstructure. The relationship of the base and superstructure is a dynamic one: “We have to revalue ‘superstructure’ towards a related range of cultural practices, and away from a reflected, reproduced or specifically dependent content” as well as “we have to revalue ‘the base’ away from the notion of a fixed economic or technological abstraction, and towards the specific activities of men in real social and economic relationships, contain fundamental contradictions and variations and therefore always in a state of dynamic process” (Williams 1426).

The relationship is more than simple reproduction. This is not just a depersonalized system because we want to include people in this—intension is crucial. How are human decisions influencing the totality. It is not a trapped, soulless system, but rather it is made up of humans.

For Williams, it is as much about the reader as it is about the writer. Conversations written about literature in addition to political interventions are both meant to change the world. The political institution means that you are doing your work to change the world. There is a flux in this influence.

Rules that are so accepted become natural and dominant, even if it is not necessarily how society actually is; this idea introduces hegemony. With hegemony, rules so complete seem inevitable but invisible. Thus, hegemony becomes total. But where is the opposition?

Hegemony is a bunch of ideas. When we think about ideas, we realize that ideas are never wholly dominant, since ideas, like languages, are processes of growth. Throughout various periods, from the Renaissance to the Romantic period, ideas are contested and contrasted.

Thus, we see residual and emergent conflicts emerge. People are included in this process of what is fading and what is emerging, thus intention is crucial to how our human decisions influence the totality that is not trapped to a soulless system.

For instance, Williams writes, “Intention, the notion of intention, restores the key question, or rather the key emphasis” because although “it is true than any society is a complex whole of such practices, it is also true that any society has a specific organization, a specific structure, and that the principles of this organization and structure can be seen as directly related to certain social intentions, intentions by which we define the society” (Williams 1427).

This system is made up of people and human choices. Literature includes the notations of people scribbling upon the margins of dominant cultural context. We continue to see this today not just about ideas but also about media and new forms of art.

For example, film is probably still emergent and now dominant while perhaps reading could be considered residual. People are not writing epic poems but create epic films.

Horkheimer and Adorno

Horkheimer and Adorno suggest that society produces literature often upon consumer demand. Critics, including Adorno, Horkheimer, and Benjamin considered Hegel and Marx “in attempting to revive the ‘negative dialectics’ or negative, revolutionary potential of Hegelian Marxist thought” by opposing “the bourgeois positivism which had risen to predominance in reaction against Hegel’s philosophy, and insisted, following Hegel, that consciousness in all of its cultural modes is active in creating the world” (Habib 34).

Literature becomes dictated by the publishing house and editors rather than literature becoming an instrument to express what the muses have inspired the author to transcribe down for others to read. Literature is a way to reveal realities of a society, through the base and superstructures of a society, as seen in the analysis by Williams.

While Hegel suggests conflict and the form of things helps us learn to understand better, Arnold desires literature to raise society. Horkheimer and Adorno would argue hat literature is a product of society, suggesting the proof of societal existence and influence. Humans become consumers rather than readers of literature.

Horkheimer and Adorno argue,

Pleasure hardens into boredom because, if it is to remain pleasure, it must not demand any effort and therefore moves rigorously in the worn grooves of association. No independent thinking must be expected from the audience: the product prescribes every reaction: not by its natural structure . . ., but by signals. Any logical connection calling for mental effort is painstakingly avoided (Horkheimer and Adorno 1116).

Literature—both high and low literature—is produced and used to pacify the masses. For example, Horkheimer and Adorno write, “[I]f a movement from a Beethoven symphony is crudely adapted for a film sound track in the same way as a Tolstoy is garbled in a film script: then the claim that this is done to satisfy the spontaneous wishes of the public is no more than hot air” (Horkheimer and Adorno 1112).

Instead of realizing the terribleness of their situation, they will be too busy reading or watching or being entertained with whatever consumer product is considered the next big thing.

Foucault

Adorno addresses not multiple but manifest reason. He addresses Modern work that is calculating, spreading technological control toe very aspect of our lives. Similarly, Foucault does the same thing by considering the subtle power influence over everything. Reason does not just control but puts the productivity in power.

Foucault suggests the quest for truth is neither completely disinterested nor an isolated discovery. Truth becomes part of a network, suggesting the encouragement of questions to be asked. The Panopticon, or the all-seeing tower, becomes an important metaphor about discipline and punishment of the invisibility of power to its all-seeing power.

This example of the Panopticon “is the disciplinary form at its most extreme, the model in which are concentrated all the coercive technologies of behavior” (Foucault 1490). When speaking of the establishment of power relations, Foucault writes, “The modeling of the body procedures a knowledge of the individual, the apprenticeship of the techniques incudes modes of behavior and the acquisition of skills in extricable linked with the establishment of power relations” (Foucault 1491).

There is a shift in the basis of power from Marx to Foucault. For Marxists, economics is the foundation that is determinant of everything else in culture. For Foucault, economics has no priority; there is no single discourse exists among human. Therefore, we go from a base and superstructure model to discourse as a basis of everything.

Foucault thought about prisons, sexual activity, schools, religion (including the confessional), medicine, and politics, expanding what could be included in discourse. Literature could become another discourse. Literature does not necessarily become a separate aesthetic realm, for Foucault.

For example, in Nancy Armstrong’s lecture here at Brigham Young University about the bio-politics in Jane Eyre, she provided a Focaultian reading by examining ways the forces teach women to be women, such as through church sermons, but discourses (such as literature) assert certain subjectivity to train gender.

Another example could be seen in Wuthering Heights. In this novel, the reader learns about Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s untamed passions in a straight-laced, Victorian world. This strict society contrasts to a book about passions. Paradoxically, the book does not talk about the encouragement of such behavior but talks about of what we think about being repressed, sexually in this instance, in a particular society.

Therefore, with Foucault’s analysis of discourse, the subject of the novel can fit into the discussion of discourse. It is not just an intellectual field of power that shapes subjectivity. Readers see that literature shapes we are; therefore, we see literature not just as artistic expression or entertainment but also as a social or political work.

Conclusion

Cultural criticism is an exciting way to look at literature and art as a social force. Hegel’s concept of the dialectic has influenced criticism. Of course, Marx and Hegel differed: “Marx was a materialist in the sense that he believed, unlike Hegel, that what drives historical change are the material realities of the economic base of society. . . , rather than the ideological superstructure. . . of politics, law, philosophy, religion, and art that is built upon the economic base” (Richter 1199).

However, both Hegel and Marx believed in dialectical oppositions that occur in society. Marxism and Marx’s theory has been a dialectical relationship: “[Marxism] has always striven to modify, extend, and adapt [Marx’s canon] to changing circumstances rather than treating it as definitive and complete” (Habib 37). Therefore, Marxist critics continue this dialecticism.

Other critics, such as Arnold and Williams, could view evolutions that occur—the change of poetry as the new religion for Arnold and the interchanges that occur between the base and superstructure for Williams.

For Benjamin, Adorno, and Horkheimer, they “saw modern mass culture as regimented and reduced to a commercial dimension; and they saw art as embodying a unique, critical distance for this social and political world” (Habib 34). Foucault’s emphasis on the plurality of discourse could lead to the question: what new discourses could the future hold?

Richter argues, “Marxist theory and the application of Marxist theory out literature have taken a dizzying variety of forms, depending, among other things, on how the literary text is positioned relative to material reality and to ideology” (Richter 1199– 1200).

These cultural criticisms and theories have changed the way readers see the world and consider their lives within the societal structures they are born into. One can wonder what new insights and theories will continue to be influenced by these early theorists.

 

~ Works Cited:

Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Arnold, Matthew. The Function of Criticism at the Present Time.The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Habib, M. A. R. Modern Literary Criticism and Theory: A History. Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. “Lectures on Fine Art.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. “Phenomenology of Spirit.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Horkheimer, Max and Theodor W. Adorno. “Dialectic of Enlightenment.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Marx, Karl. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Marx, Karl. “The German Ideology.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.

Williams, Raymond. “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

The Author

Expressive Theory

Expressive theory, which exploded from the 1700s into the 1800s, “stressed the relationship between the work of the art and the artist, particularly the special faculties of mind and soul that the artist brings to the act of creation” (Richter 2). Perhaps social change impacted the shift from rhetorical criticism to expressive criticism. The explosion of the printing press and the reading of the masses contributed to this shift to expressive theory. Less-educated people who now had access to literature unknown to this class before made the matter of taste of the upmost importance to theorists.

As a result, theorists considered the importance of taste; while theorists “examined the inner experience of readers, [theorists] found that the faculties behind good taste, the capacities that made ideal readers—delicate imagination, good sense, wide experience—were the same as those that made the best poets” (Richter 7). The creative faculties, therefore, of the poet could be studied, understood, and theorized about in expressive theories. Kant, Coleridge, and Shelley all fall under the label of poet-centered theory, while both modern theorists, Bloom and Foucault, put the author in question. Yet all these theorists consider, whether implicitly or explicitly, the importance of the author, thus defining the author in various ways and changing our idea of literature in the process.

Kant, Coleridge, and Shelley all focus on the cult of the artist. There was a big shift from the “out there” (the world) to the “in here” (the mind). When talking about poetry, there was less worry about how accurately art represents the world and more focus on how a particular poem reveals the way the mind perceives beauty and the way that imagination inspires genius. Kant emphasizes the work itself—that beauty is a unique kind of judgment, which does not necessarily serve the ends of truth or goodness. Beauty, for Kant, is a value, and work has value, whether or not for a moral purpose or a truthful purpose. Beauty itself is good enough. Kant focuses on what goes on in the mind of the writer. Kant takes an epistemic turn by moving into the mind to understand literature; for example, Kant argues, “Genius is the inborn predisposition of the mind . . . through which nature gives the rule to art” (Leitch 445).

Kant

Kant believes the poet is important because the poet creates beauty.For Kant, “the genius (the creative artist) highlights freedom above all else,” and “[t]he genius has a natural gift, a talent, which enables the production of exemplary and original beautiful works in the absence of any preexisting formula or rule for that production” (Leitch 410). Kant focuses on a theory of knowledge by trying to understand the sources and limits of human knowledge. Kant is not content that knowledge is completely subjective, believing that we humans are wired for thinking (i.e., cause and effect, similarities and differences, etc.).

In the Critique of Judgment, Kant analyzes three categories (truth, goodness, and beauty), but Kant does not focus on the nature of truth, goodness, and beauty but rather our mind’s way of apprehending truth, how the mind perceives morals, and how the mind perceives beauty. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant believes that aesthetics, judgment, and poetry turn out to be really the keystone of our knowledge. Judgment, which includes our imagination and aesthetic sense, is the mediator between pure reason and practical reason, that is it mediates between knowledge and action by being both reason and sensory.

Aesthetics bring the will and truth together—but in a practical way. Kant’s point is that poetry fills in the gap or mediates between truth and goodness. Kant goes beyond art and literature into bigger questions, arguing that all things being equal, acting is the law for everyone

If we believe in absolute truth, then we are Kantians. But what is absolute truth? An absolute truth is true whether or not we agree, and it is true independent of anything we do, think, or say. Kant raises the questions of beauty. Are there universal judgments or relative judgments of beauty? Something beautiful may feel like a subjective universal. Beauty is complicated because it is partly in the mind and partly in the things themselves. The judgment of taste or beauty is not logical but aesthetic.

The judgment of beauty occurs in the mind, yet it feels universal. Beauty serves a purposive purposelessness—something seems like it has a purpose but does not think that it serves no purpose at all other than to be beautiful. Kant’s thoughts lead to the aesthetics movement or the art for art’s sake era of writers like Oscar Wilde. Kant’s thoughts also lead to the idea that art is its own reward, or you do not need to pay for art; this leads to artists, the creative geniuses, who starve in attics—alienated, unappreciated, and alone. While Kant believes “[t]he experience of beauty tells us that the mind and world fit,” yet Kant also argues that “[t]he sublime, in contrast, shows us a misfit between mind and world” (Letich 409).

When we sense the sublime, our imagination strives to progress, and our imagination tries to grasp infinity, but our reason tries to embrace and enclose in a system that we can control. The sublime is infinity versus totality. Yet we cannot comprehend the vastness of its space. Despite this inadequacy within us, we still have the concept of infinity even if there is no experience with infinity. The sublime happens in our head—mind, soul, spirit. The sublime is an effect of our thinking and perception, not an attribute of the world out there. Even the ability to think proves that the mind has a power surpassing any standard sense. As Kant says, “Thus sublimity is not contained in anything in nature, but only in our mind” (Leitch 440). As a result, the sublime is the clearest evidence that Kant is moving into the mind (of the author as genius).

Perhaps Kant’s real purpose of art or literature is for pleasure. Language and form contribute to the reader’s pleasure of something. Maybe when reading a play, the reader will stop to consider a particular passage that seems to freeze in its tracks; this passage may not forward the plot, but the reader doesn’t care because of the beauty that pleases. It may be out of context but the reader pays attention and listens. These passages can be so great but have nothing to do with the play; therefore, the passages of beauty have no purpose (nothing political, dogmatic, plot-wise, etc.) other than to be pleasing. Some people argue that a poet is just trying to make money, but passages like these, full of beauty, suggest that writing is a good thing that brings about goodness, truth, and beauty.

Coleridge

Coleridge focuses on the creation of something beautiful out there, emphasizing the active mind of the artist, like Kant. Coleridge believes in primary imagination, secondary imagination, and fancy. While primary imagination is the mind’s ability to perceive, secondary imagination coexists with the will or what we draw on to create memories from our reality (the creative/artistic). In other words, the poet’s own mind is primary imagination, while the poetic genius is the secondary imagination.

Therefore, we go into the mind not just the form on the page. Imagination effects literature. Past literature, following strict rules like iambic pentameter and heroic couplets, could be following primary imagination, while the Romantic poets followed perhaps more of a secondary imagination, following what his or her mind tells him or her to do (or following the will of what the poet’s genius or the poet’s mind tells him or her to do).

On the other hand, fancy is basically a combination of preexisting things fused together; you do not animate them or bring them to life but reorganize them in space and time. Consequently, fancy is not as creative as imagination: “Coleridge’s theory of the primary and secondary imagination honors the creative capacity of persons while remaining steadfast to the primacy of God; even more, Coleridge implies that each re-creative act that a poet performs is an act of worship” (Leitch 582).

How we perceive the world makes realities, even if it is plural realities. As we become aware of multiple perceptions and possibilities, we choose the life we live in. We choose a world of eternal possibilities, and other realities can always impinge the integrated whole, big picture. Someone can change his or her view, switching to remake reality. Imagination also becomes a choice. And the author has a super imagination connected with genius. When defining the author, Coleridge asks, “What is poetry? is so nearly the same question with, what is a poet? that the answer to the one is involved in the solution of the other” (Leitch 590).

The author has a super imagination, and when connected with literature, the author’s imagination enhances the literature, making it more pleasurable for the reader. Coleridge questions the coherence or unity of the text; therefore, the organic whole becomes the basis of good literature for Coleridge. A reader can analyze a play if it is anachronistic. The play may seem like a mess, but the reader can look for underlying unity. Through incongruity, the text makes itself aware and becomes an organic work of art. The reader has to work to pull the context of the play together through analysis and synthesis, intellectually separating the distinguishable parts but then restoring the parts to unity.

The first purpose of poetry is the beauty and pleasure we get from it and then connect it with the whole and its parts. As the reader reconciles apparent opposites or paradoxes, there becomes an active cooperation between the text and the reader, suggesting that the text is something organic and alive.

Shelley

Shelley, like Coleridge, also emphasizes the nature of art, or the imagination, while looking at the principles of the mind. While Kant focuses on the mind and how poetry is the go-between of goodness and pleasure, and Coleridge discusses how poetry is in the mind of the author in regards to imagination, Shelley believes that the poet is the unacknowledged legislator to the world (of morals and of mankind) (Leitch 613).

Because the poet is inspired, poetry has the power to inspire others and improve the world. The poet can become like a poet-prophet. Shelley is outraged that poets starve in attics unappreciated. For Shelley, “[p]oetry acts in another diviner manner” through the mind’s “a thousand unapprehend combinations of thought. Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar” (596). Language is not just cognitive; language communicates entire ranges of what it means to be human, including emotions and our highest ideas, our morality, and our spirituality.

Poetry gives delight and is an instrument of moral improvement; thus, poetry becomes more efficacious than moral philosophy. Poetry is the driving force of culture and the history of human experience and thought. Through the creation of poetry, “a poet participates in the divine nature” (600), since “[p]oetry is indeed something divine” (609). Poetry has divine sources with divine effects, but the poets are inspired: it is not just poetry, but it is the poets themselves who are inspired and then translate benefits for all. For Shelley, “[p]oetry is the record of the best and happiest moment of the happiest and best minds” (610) of the poet, since “[a] Poet, as he is the author to others of the highest wisdom, pleasure, virtue, and glory, so he ought personally to be the happiest, the best, the wisest, and the most illustrious of men” (611).

Poets enhance beauty, reconcile contradictions, and recreate the world. By shifting to the poet, Shelley emphasized the ultimate conditions of poetry that exist in the mind and in the imagination, which is more than just the ability to clone images of realities and is more than reason (imagination is cognitive and emotional, moral and religious, and richer, therefore, than mere reason alone). This all comes down to the poet. Kant shifted into the mind, Coleridge shifted into the mind through analyzing imagination, and Shelley shifted into the mind through analyzing morals.

Foucault & Bloom

Foucault and Bloom are both interested in the history of the poet. Bloom believes the poet struggles with his or her precursors, thus experiencing an anxiety of influence, yet Bloom even admits that his precursors are Nietzsche and Freud. As Bloom explains, “[p]oetic history . . . is held to be indistinguishable from poetic influence, since strong poets make that history by misreading one another, so as to clear imaginative spaces for themselves” (Leitch 1651).

This perspective of the author is useful for the way we read literature—that is to read every text as a response to all the previous literature or to see how many traces of earlier literature that are there so that you can see a struggle between the text and a previous text for precedence. The reader can then work out the strategy of the battle, explaining how this text changed from the earlier text.

In contrast, Foucault focuses on how discourse changes and evolves while defining the author-function. For Barthes, the birth of the reader comes from the death of the author, making it possible for different readers and a multiplicity of readings; yet, for Foucault, the author-function provides an array of possibilities constrained by the author, reduced down to singularity, suggesting an ideological construct, not a natural construct. Foucault summarizes the functions of the author as the following:

[T]he author-function is [first] tied to the legal and institutional systems that circumscribe, determine, and articulate the realm of discourses; [second,] it does not operate in a uniform manner in all discourses, at all times, and in any given culture; [third,] it is not defined by the spontaneous attribution of a text to its creator, but through a series of precise and complex procedures; [finally,] it does not refer . . . to an actual individual insofar as it simultaneously gives rise to a variety of egos and to a series of subjective positions that individuals of any class may come to occupy. (Leitch 1485)

This author-function occurs within the discursive system, thus revealing mechanics of discourse in the absence of the author. It is not an individual over a text or group of texts but rather a function that the author serves to established systems: “The concept author . . . is an organizing device, permitting us to group certain texts together” (Leitch 1470).

Foucault “questions and examines the concept of authorship and, in insights that were taken up by the New Historicism, argued that analysis of literary texts could not be restricted to these texts themselves or to their author’s psychology and background; rather, the larger contexts and cultural conventions in which texts were produced needed to be considered” (Habib 151). This influences how we look at literature. When we read, we look for boundaries or how power of reading reflects what this discourse controls or tries to transgress.

The reader is not interested in the author or who he or she is. Rather, the reader is interested in how things articulate within the discursive system (i.e., is the text resisting the system, or is the text following established norms?). As a result, reading becomes more practical by how you group texts; it is no longer the genius of the author. The author has multiple functions, thus expanding the reader experience through various discourses into something more accessible, global, or multicultural.

The reader analyzes the text in different ways by seeing literature in a network, being influenced in a thousand different directions. Literature is immersed, not transcendent. As a result, the idea of the author is diminished if the reader reduces the author to a series of cultural influences.

Wrapping It Up

In conclusion, for Bloom and Foucault, there is less emphasis on the enlightened, genius poet, which contrasts greatly to Kant, Coleridge, and Shelly. There is less emphasis on genius and more emphasis on influence for Bloom and Foucault; poetry, therefore, could be seen as more accessible and more able to influence culture, in some ways, than what the Romantics suggested of an exceedingly brilliant poet speaking down to mere mortals.

Our understanding of what the author is changes what literature should do. Early theorists perhaps would argue that the author-genius is inspired and consequently bestows morals (like with Shelley) and absolute truth (like with Kant) through poetry and literature.

For the modern theorists, by struggling with wanting to be different or how the author is influenced, this makes literature become less influenced and less on a pedestal, and success of literature is not based then on whether the poet can change the world. The early theorists all talked about how the poet influences through the poet’s genius, while the later theorists focused on how the poet is influenced. Although the earlier theorists emphasized that the reader should be inspired (maybe through the sublime or beauty) as well as brought up higher (Shelley), the later theorists would focus more on the individualistic nature of the modern experience.

Works Cited

  • Bloom, Harold. “The Anxiety of Influence.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
  • Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Biographia Literaria. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
  • Kant, Immanuel. Critique of the Power of Judgment. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
  • Habib, M. A. R. Modern Literary Criticism and Theory: A History. Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print.
  • Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.
  • Shelley, Percy Bysshe. A Defence of Poetry, or Remarks Suggested by an Essay Entitled “The Four Ages of Poetry”. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

To Instruct and Delight the Reader or To Expand Radically the Reader’s Role

To Instruct and Delight the Reader or To Expand Radically the Reader’s Role

The nature of rhetorical criticism, as Sonja K. Foss explains, occurs in our day-to-day lives. Because “[h]ow we perceive, what we know, what we experience, and how we act are the results of the symbols we create and the symbols we encounter in the world,” consequently, “we engage in a process of thinking about symbols, discovering how they work, and trying to figure out why they affect us” (Foss 3). As a result, “[w]e choose to communicate particular ways based on what we have discovered” (3). In addition to observing symbols in daily life, we, as readers, also decide how literature influences us or how we interpret literature. Rhetorical criticism studies how the audience is impacted by literature, whether the purpose of literature is to instruct, delight, inform, persuade, and so on.

The reader’s role is redefined from Horace to Iser in two major categories. First, classical or traditional theorists suggest that literature’s goal is to entertain or instruct the reader. Second, modern theorists suggest a more radical and active role of the reader in addition to expanding upon traditional theories in conjunction with other modern theories. Consequently, when the role of the reader changes across time for various theorists, the function of literature is redefined, which will be shown throughout this essay in response to various theorists. Literature evolves in several steps progressing from deciding what is to be “good” literature and what is thought to be morally uplifting to expanding the possibilities of reading.

HORACE & LONGINUS

Horace and Longinus emphasized the importance of instructing and delighting the reader. Horace claimed that “[p]oets aim either to do good or to give pleasure” (Leitch 130), and poets who are able to do this are “knowledgeable in the craft of poetry and observant of the principles of decorum,” which is “the discernment and use of appropriateness, propriety, proportion, and unity in the arts” (120). However, the reader does pass judgment if they boo the performances off stage. Horace knows the importance of whether or not a “work [is] approved by the fried-peas-and-nuts public” (128). Therefore, “[t]he pleasure of poetry for readers and theater audiences should be joined to practical and moral instructions embodied in the work, though Horace seems more preoccupied with delight and careful craft than with moral uplift” (121).

Longinus also focuses on how “sublimity uplifts the spirit of the reader, . . . arousing noble thoughts, and suggesting more than words can convey” (133). Longinus differs from Horace, who “coolly stresses rhetorical strategies rather than the erratic genius of authors” (134). Yet Longinus follows the tradition of Aristotle because although “Longinus considers the emotional psychology of the author as well as that of the audience” (135), both Longinus and Aristotle “take note of the formal techniques and psychological effects of literature” (134). Longinus places emphasis on the reader by dissecting how sublimity affects the audience. This is seen in Book 7, or the tests of the sublime, because Longinus suggests these tests on the craft of the text to determine whether or not it is able affect the audience.

SIDNEY & JOHNSON

Both Sidney and Johnson find instructing and delighting the reader important but focus on the instruction of morals. Sidney argues that poesy has “this end: to teach and delight” (Leitch 258), almost mimicking Horace word for word. Sidney copies Horace when he says that art should educate and entertain, but Sidney emphasizes that art should teach morality. The power of poetry rests in the fact that it is appealing to readers; the more entertaining the reading, the more likely readers are likely to listen to the morals. As Sidney explains, “Only the poet, disdaining to be tied to any such subjection, lifted up with the vigour of his own invention, doth grow in effect into another nature, in making things either better than nature bringeth forth or, quite anew, forms such as never were in nature” (257).

Poetry can make people better because the work of the poet “seem to have some divine force in it” (256), and the poet “showeth so much as in poetry, when, with the force of a divine breath, he bringeth things forth surpassing her doings” (258). Sidney makes the poet almost quasi-divine, since the poet becomes a creator with a god-like imagination. Poetry also has great political import. Sidney’s audience is courtly, focusing on the humanist potential of educating potential rulers for leadership.

Approximately two hundred years later, Dr. Samual Johnson, who “was an intense, discerning reader” (363), would argue about the importance of poetry conveying intense morality. Johnson considered “[p]oetry . . . the highest learning” (371) and thought poetry should “teach us what we may hope, and what we can perform” and emphasized the necessity of showing vice to “always disgust” (370). Johnson believed in absolute virtue or vice; because “the power of example is so great, as to take possession of the memory by a kind of violence, and produce effects almost without the intervention of the will, care ought to be taken that, when the choice is unrestrained, the best examples only should be exhibited” (369).

A poet’s job became essentially to select truths most beneficial to society: “The chief advantage which these fictions have over real life is, that heir authors are at liberty . . . to select objects, and to cull the mass of mankind” (369). While Sidney’s audience was courtly, Johnson’s audience was the youth (“That the highest degree of reverence should be paid to the youth, and that nothing indecent should be suffered to approach their eyes or ears” [368]). The printing press enabled the mass production of literature. Johnson believed in educating the masses through literature or poetry, while Sidney’s audience was that of a tiny percentile of educated males in court. Therefore, Sidney aimed at moralizing the (already) elite.

BARTHES

In “Death of the Author,” modern critic Barthes displaces the notion of the author and emphasizes the birth of the reader; this perspective, in turn, contributes to critiquing liberal humanism and impacts literary studies by challenging universal truth and what it means to be human. Barthes embodies “a transition from structuralism to poststructuralist perspective” through offering a “more relativistic assessments of texts and their role in culture” (Habib 72). By focusing on language, meaning of the text is established by the reader through looking at relations because meaning belongs only in the realm of the reader. But meaning is constantly evaporating because a person cannot fix meaning.

As Barthes explains, “To give a text an author is to impose a limit on that text” (Richter 877). Yet the death of the author is also the death of the critic, which implicates literary criticism. A critic deciphers the text, its words and meanings, but “[i]n the multiplicity of writing, everything is to be disentangled” (Richter 877) because the reader is disentangling the culture and language. The difference is that the critic is decrypting to find meaning, while Barthes’s reader experiences the joy of multiplicity by creating meaning as opposed to decrypting authorial meaning.

There are implications for Barthes’s reader, since there is no fixed subject, because if you as a reader arrive at meaning, then you have misunderstood the text. Barthes explains, “[A] text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (Richter 876). There is no there there because there is no fixed meaning in the text.

As a result, Barthes’s post-structuralist critique has impacted literary studies of reading literature. Readers are entitled to have their opinions. Because there are a greater variety of opinions, there are two possible results. First, readers could be more tolerant or accepting of different interpretations. However, the second result comes from human nature interacting in society. As people develop more opinions, these opinions will become more separate, and greater diversity will occur. Factions will result, and readers will become more defensive of their interpretations. The risk will be more fighting instead of greater tolerance of different interpretations.

Another post-structuralist influence on literary studies could fall under reading the Bible as literature in university settings. Because there will be a million different readings, there will be a million different meanings, which will then open up the reader to believing whatever. When readers read the Bible as literature, people are more likely to believe in no absolute eternal truth. Readers will read the Bible and then reinterpret its teachings. Both of these examples counter against the liberal humanist tradition of universal truth. The death of the author also impacts the anthology because it blows up the studies of literature. No female, gay, African American, or Asian literatures were included in the anthology, but now they are included. These new inclusions of diverse writings challenge liberal humanism by showing that there is not only one way to be human.

ISER & HUSSERL

Iser offers a distinct way of understanding readers and their relationships to a work of art by drawing on a phenomenological engagement with the text; Iser operates within a Husserlian framework when considering dynamic relations, while also moving beyond that framework in the search for truth. Although it is difficult to define, phenomenology is the process of analysis that makes dynamic relations of an object of study. Husserl, who reacted against Neo-Kantians, maps out the relationship of world, body, and mind.

Iser’s reader response theory does follow “the phenomenological approaches to literature, which focuses on literature as it is experienced by the thinking subject, the ‘I’ in the center of our conscious world” (Richter 972). Iser’s duality, however, centers in a text between two poles: “the artistic refers to the text created by the author, and the esthetic to the realization accompanied by the reader” (1002). It is through the “convergence of text and reader” that “brings the literary work into existence … not to be identified either with the reality of the text or with the individual disposition of the reader” (1002).

Both Husserl and Iser view the process of relation as dynamic. For Husserl, pure consciousness is looking at the actual set of relations of phenomena between the consciousness of the subject and the object. As a result, pure phenomenology becomes a dynamic relation, which is the object of analysis. Phenomenological reduction involves stripping down all cultural baggage—the body—and material reality—the world. The mind then becomes limitless by getting away from the tyranny of the particular, which enables pure consciousness to occur and humans to control the construction of the world subjectively. Iser believes that reading is dynamic (Habib 155). Iser quotes Husserl’s idea of “pretentions, which construct and collect the seed of what is to come, as such, and bring it to fruition” because “the literary text needs the reader’s imagination,” and in a text, “individual sentences work together” and “form an expectation” (Richter 1004) for the reader.

However, for Husserl, refuting the Kantian particular categories and following the processes of pure reflection will reveal the universal, or in other words, truth—but only within the individual’s mind. In contrast, Iser moves beyond the Husserlian framework because he argues that truth will actually change because we, the readers, are constantly changing. Readers find “‘interpretation[s]’ threatened . . . by the presence of other possibilities of ‘interpretation’” because readers “become more directly aware of them” through “shifting of perspective that makes [readers] feel that a novel is much more ‘true-to-life’” (Richter 1010). Therefore, Iser argues that readers will find different truths depending on the associations of where the reader converges with the text. As a result, the function of literature changes from being dogmatically moral (think Johnson) to being more open in its various purposes for informing the readers on the variety of truths that can be gleaned from its pages.

ISER & FISH

Iser and Fish also contrast each other when speaking of the reader. Iser claims that through the reader’s imagination, each time a reader approaches a text, there is the possibility to discover new things with new perspectives from each reader. Iser insists readers want to know the consciousness of what to discuss. The relationship between the reader and the text is a dynamic process because “[a]s the reader passes through the various perspectives offered by the text, and relates the different views and patterns to one another, he sets the work in motion, and so sets himself in motion, too” (Leitch 1524).

As readers change their perspective, they connect the texts and fill in the gaps because “the situations and convention regulate the manner in which the gaps are filled, but the gaps in turn arise out of the inexperience ability, and consequently, function as a basic inducement to communication” (Leitch 1526). Some critics, such as Fish, find Iser’s work vague and believe that there would be an infinite amount of interpretations of the text; however, this is not true, and “[m]eaning is constantly revised in a process that Iser compares to the feedback loop” (1522) or the hermeneutic circle. For Iser, the work of art is not just art; the work of art is also something that we, the readers, will experience and tell each other about.

In contrast, Fish claims that the text, which really does not matter, disappears in the larger cultural context in relation to the community experience. For example, Fish says, “An author hazards his projection, not because of something ‘in’ the marks, but because of something he assumes to be in his reader” (Leitch 1992). Consequently, “The very existence of the ‘marks is a function of an interpretive community, for they will be recognized . . . only by its members,” while people not in that particular interpretive community will use different strategies “and will therefore be making different marks” (1992). The work disappears (“I have made the text disappear, but unfortunately the problems do not disappear with it” [1992]) in the context of community. Objective and subjective become meaningless. As a result, reader experience is all that remains, suggesting the text disappears in the context of experience.

Both Iser and Fish have made significant contributions to theory and to the study of literature because perhaps “prominent modes of criticism in the past could ignore the role of the reader since they tacitly assumed that there was one kind of reader (i.e., white, male, and the recipient of a privileged education” (1523). Iser’s and Fish’s work has undoubtedly influenced the ability to allow a variety of reading perspectives from readers, female and minority groups, that have not had a voice before.

CONCLUSION

Rhetorical criticism occurs in the area between the audience and the text. In the “Introduction” of David H. Richter’s The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, Richter shows that while “[a] mimetic critic . . . might enjoin an aspiring poet to observe human nature well, the more accurately to imitate human actions in his poetry,” “[a] rhetorical critic might advise the poet in the very same words, but in order to prompt the poet to discover what pleases the various classes and age groups that comprise his audience” (3). Ultimately, rhetorical criticism, which was prominent from the classic era of Rome, Medieval times, the Enlightenment era, and modern times, aims at looking at the ways a text instructs, delights, and moves an audience. Unmistakably, rhetorical criticism is a timeless issue that is revisited over and over again.

Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.

Fish, Stanley E. “Interpreting the Variorum.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Foss, Sonja K. Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration & Practice. Waveland & Press, Inc.: Long Grove, 2009. Amazon.com. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

Habib, M. A. R. Modern Literary Criticism and Theory: A History. Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print.

Horace. “Ars Poetica.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Iser, Wolfgang. “Interaction between Text and Reader.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.
Print.

Iser, Wolfgang. “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.

Johnson, Samuel. The Rambler, No. 4. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Johnson, Samuel. The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Longinus. On Sublimity. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.

Sidney, Sir Philip. Defense of Poetry. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

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