Posts Tagged ‘debate’

This is a summary of the entertaining discussion which was presented to Preliminary Extension classes earlier this week. My personal favourite part was when a teacher (who shall remain nameless), postulated that every text is overtly political and a student (also nameless) replied: “that’s why I’m happier than you”. Many thanks to Rob and Will for sharing their thoughts and manifestos with us. Please feel free to respond.

1.‘The ‘Text, Culture, Values’ course is ‘simply a way for the Board of Studies, or indeed our beloved English Department, to instruct us about what meaning there is in the text, without either studying the text closely or accurately, or allowing us our own interpretations… In high school the meaning of a text is dictated by the institutions that determine the curriculum… [T]he downside is that, because you spend your essays arguing a position that the marker is already quite familiar with -because he was the one who dictated it to you – there is very little room for originality or need for precision in your argument.’

2.‘I believe that all works of art have an inherent value and meaning in and of themselves. This meaning is an absolute, invariable quality that does not alter according to context and audience. It is an eternal quality. Thus, a text has an integral value and significance in and of itself, fully realized and separated from any concerns of reader, as the author intended it.’

3.Every individual has the right to read or study the text and to form their own conclusions as to what the meaning of the text is – and, of course, everyone has the right to express their opinion on this issue. However, some of these opinions will be wrong. This is an area which is often subject to confusion; people think that everyone having the right to express their opinion is the same thing as all opinions being equal. All opinions are not equal; some opinions are wrong, some interpretations are wrong.

4.I believe that the purpose of art is to entertain. Not to deliver a message, not to express a point of view, not to provoke discussion, not to give voice to our society’s concerns. … The only valid purpose of a work literature, or indeed any art form, is to entertain its reader.

Will Haines

1.Literature is a way of thinking in and with language, mainly, though not always, about the human experience. It is not merely a code of communication, helping an artist to communicate his own feelings, but actually to create experience and give it to an audience, because in the very conception of experience within words its inherent quality is improved/given form/given meaning.

2.It is stupid, I am afraid, to claim that literature’s overwhelming purpose is to entertain, or to give a message, or to explain, or to make a comment. … Establishing the value/meaning/purpose of literature as being something outside itself is redundant and undermines the thing itself – it functions as a form of knowledge in its own right and on its own terms. Speaking about it in terms of its ‘use’… askes us to operate in a way that degrades it. Literature doesn’t (or shouldn’t) serve a utilitarian purpose – it is not itself motivated. Rather, it motivates those who create and respond to it by enabling them to think in a certain way.

3.The kind of meaning literature supplies transcends all immediate or ‘relevant’ ideologies, systems, methods, trends or issues. Such concerns eg racism, sexism, etc can be the subject without being the object. It is essentially epistemological in nature, meaning it deals with how we know things. It is interested in observing something we feel we know, and then explaining exactly what that thing is, and why we know it. Before you can know anything, you need first to identify and understand the faculties and cognitive abilities of the knower; these literature shows in operation. It is thus less about what there is in the world than it is about how we, as humans, understand what there is in the world.

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