So a Classicist and a Literary Critic Walk into a
“I am reading some Lawrence for the first
time. What kind of reading should I give it?” inquired Professor
Soused. “Freudian to be sure would be most obvious, however I would
not be so clichéd if it is at all avoidable.” He sipped his Marnier
appreciatively from a fine crystal snifter; a solitary quizzical
eyebrow arched Gothically. His eyes blazed with antagonism.
Professor Vitriole sat lumpishly at his swivel bar stool with his
face contorted in a manner that belied his un-aggressive,
audaciously unassuming posture and body configuration. Professor
Soused grinned, his wiry form suddenly tensed in anticipation of a
hermeneutical polemic. Here was something that thrilled and
engorged his anemic blood.
“Dammit Soused! I have expressed my
distaste for analyzing texts by methods that insist on fashioning
tidy boxes which preclude the possibility of the reader from taking
anything with them after a read. I suggest approaching
Lawrence as an independent thinker, rather than as a tool. Once you
make presumptions about what you shall find in a text then it is
certain you will not find what is actually there. Your school of
thought is a remedium periculum to having a poor imagination
and substandard critical skills,” replied Professor Vitriole.
Although seemingly annoyed, Professor Vitriole relished making
Soused’s depravity as an intellectual very conspicuous. He
perceived himself as the obviously more intelligent man.
Professor Soused thought silently for a
moment while he sipped. It is not a simple thing to get a person
trained in translation, a discipline in which the text itself must
be made precisely understood, to consider a text in a more
contextual, theoretical manner. He sipped his Marnier and turned to
his Colleague. “It’s like this. Literature is constructed by
people that existed in specific time periods where prevailing
attitudes and ideology were certain to affect them positively or
negatively. To do deny that simple, self-evident fact would be
puerile logic, agreed?” He sipped.
“Continue,” permitted Professor Vitriole.
“From here it can be deduced that these
ideologies affected what authors thought about either consciously or
sub-consciously,” said Professor Soused. Professor Vitriole nodded
perfunctorily. “And what authors think about is directly related
to what a writer writes since writing is not some autonomous
function of the nervous system. Then would it not be correct to say
that because of these aspects, an ideology or attitude contemporary
with a particular author could manifest itself within a body of
work? I think so. What say you?”
“So how would one studying a piece of
literature go about finding these conscious and sub-conscious
elements of a work, which have been externally influenced, without
actually knowing what those elements could possibly be? How could I
identify racial tendencies of an author if I did not know what
racism was? Do you see what I am saying Vitriole?” said Professor
Soused as he slapped Professor Vitriole’s back with a triumphant
chortle. “You have to bring particular…filters to a text in order
to discover what is hidden in them.”
“I see. So what an author intends to communicate is
tertiary to his or her unconscious biases and historical context?”
asked Professor Vitriole.
“Precisely,” responded Professor Soused.
“Huh. So what’s your motivation to be
something more than just a literary critic?” asked Professor Vitriole.
“Nothing.” Professor Soused swallowed the last bit of
his Marnier and swiveled from the stool to the doorway while he
pondered sobering thoughts.
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