Thursday, April 16, 2009

They Took Are Jobs!

My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad semester, several thousand pages of Victorian novels, 20th Century literary theory, and Modern American poetry later, is finally coming to a close. I have a final exam on several novels (email me to get me to gripe in full glory about this) a week from today, and a 20 page paper comparing the narrators of George Eliot's Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda due for the same class the same day, but other than that am done. (The paper that I had really hoped to write, at the beginning of the semester "George Eliot: Not a Dude" is, unfortunately, unacceptable.) Of course, that's a pretty gigantic "other than that" but still, somehow, I feel like noting it today. Probably because I've already written a 17 page paper (plus 9 pages of interpolated poems and anecdotes) which attempts to extrapolate a "poetics of failure" from several poems by George Oppen (email me if you want to read it), based on a (mis)application of Derrida's poetics of Paul Celan.

Or, really, my sense of progress comes from the fact that I've now turned in the first of many forms that gets the ball rolling towards my presenting and defending my thesis a year from now. So that's super cool. I'm officially, now, working on my book. And until I actually get a job for the summer, I have nothing but time to work on it. So you may all now start recommending titles to me. It's the same game as coming up with good band names. The working title is currently Final Holiday, but I'm sure it'll change. The dream title is Lessons in Hatred but I don't think I'd be able to pull that one off.

And even if I do get a job (I mean, I'm gonna have to, just to keep from abjectly hemorrhaging money all summer), I should still have plenty of time to work on my "book" for the next year, since this semester also finished off the bulk of my course work for my degree--I only have a fiction workshop and one more poetry literature class to take.

After this semester I can say definitively, in terms of my tastes, the following things:

Victorian novels: Great! They take an obscene number of hours to read, but have turned out to be great great books. I hadn't read much before (which was the reason I took the class, I suppose), but I may actually end up reading more novels from this era "just for fun."

E.E. Cummings: Terrible.

Hart Crane: Amazing.

"Eco-critical" poetry: Fucking terrible.

Literary Theory: Stupid and annoying, but often somewhat entertaining.

Of course, I came into the semester with a pretty well-established attitude towards literary theory already, and didn't find it much changed. It seems useful, in terms of talking about literature (that is, it's helpful to read Heidegger and Gadamer to understand various poets (Hoelderlin, Celan, mostly), but not useful in terms of "life" ("Being" as it were)). It's pretty amazing to me the kind of attitude towards "science" that was actually set up as a straw man in the class by the professor, a weird kind of Science=God positivist model that seems based on Heidegger's misappraisal of science 75 years ago and completely inapplicable to post Einsteinian "science." It's pretty frustrating in general, but, again, at least when focused on an unbroadened notion of "Literature" can be useful to think of various "theoretical" notions of writing.

I guess it makes sense, from a professional stand-point to make the gigantic claims that contemporary (generally "post-structuralist") theorists make (paraphrasable to "everything is Literature" or "everything is Rhetoric," generally). Seems to make their program more viable, since everyone knows, apparently, how essentially worthless books are. Though my problem with this, as someone who has been trying to be some kind of "artist" for most of my life, is that in trying to get at the ineluctable qualities of Being, rather than just focusing on art, literary theorists mostly devalue art and say useless, ridiculous things that are only good for filling academic positions and produce neither profound philosopher nor stunning art. Whereas, were they to accept their limitations, and note that "culture" is an important part of human culture, a quality critical apparatus could function.

Blah blah blah. I dunno. I'm gonna go write some poems.


Blogger Jack said...

Wow, tell me there's some kind of pop-cultural reference that explains that "Are" in the post title. I really shouldn't read this stuff right after work; the editing parts of my brain are all tender.

I'm surprised to hear that about Victorian novels -- haven't read a lot of them myself, haven't been attracted to them from a distance.

4/16/2009 6:02 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

"Are" being a homonym of "our" with "Are" as some kind of conjugation of "to be." Such that literary theorists, in producing jobs for themselves, jobs about Being, took "Are Jobs."

"They Took Our Jobs" is from South Park, where aliens take the jobs from South Park residents.

4/16/2009 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Dad said...


4/17/2009 7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am consistently annoyed by "everything is rhetoric" claims because they usually accompany the "nobody knows what rhetoric is" lament. That combination of Delusion of Grandeur and Low Self Esteem probably makes sense to a mental health professional, but I just find it confusing.

4/17/2009 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you tell anonymous was me?


4/17/2009 12:21 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

I could mostly tell it was you mom, especially since most other anonymous posts come with advertisements for commercial websites.

The other thing about the "everything is..." arguments is that it sort of depends on not knowing what rhetoric or literature is, which I suppose is lamentable, but if we knew what it was, that we would no that it isn't everything, so that's no good.

4/17/2009 3:28 PM  

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