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19 January 2009 @ 07:09 pm
While I drink my spiced chai tea latte  
A juggernaut, yeah, that's a great big machine
from Star Wars -- or maybe a truck
Avatars are who you are in a game
and karma, we all know, is luck.

Kali's a demon; Dan Simmons should know
He went to Calcutta one year
and Soma's a drug out of Huxley. It's so
very great how inventive they were!


Sparked by some of the conversation on the What is Cultural Appropriation thread. And oddly not entirely consistent with what I've said about it. Apparently my writing brain doesn't entirely agree with my analyst brain.

ETA: I'm very sorry to do this but I'm disabling comments for now. turning off email notification on this thread and won't be checking  back on it for several days.   I  meant to disable comments, but then realized that would hide the comments that were already made, which isn't my intent at all.

This is all me and my silly head -- I need to work on a paper and won't if I keep wondering if people have said anything here.  So I  need to forbid myself lj till the paper's done.
Current Mood: amusedamused
mac_stonemac_stone on January 20th, 2009 06:32 am (UTC)
by "critical reading" in sort of off-the-cuff terms, I mean looking at the specific words of a text, both line by line and also considered as a whole, reflected against each other throughout the text, before meaning is/can be extrapolated.

The tricky part is that the more automatic and intuitive meaning of "critical" doesn't mean that, or anything actually approaching that, alone. Nor does "reading." Taken together, used by a sort of tiny niche of readers, though, they mean something that's a bit, umm, synergistic? And not automatically obvious?

I'm not actually sure I did that definition very well at all.
zwol on January 20th, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
If I understand correctly, you're saying that if you read the first ten pages of a book and then gave up, it's okay to say "I read the first ten pages of this book and hated the protagonist and gave up", but not to give the impression that you read the entire book and here in great detail is why you shouldn't read it.

Sort of like the difference between when I say "I'm not going to go see movie X because, based on the trailer, it's dumb" and when a professional movie critic says "I watched this movie, and it does not deliver sparkling characterization or a clever plot".
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
Well yes except for the authority part. I'd draw the same distinction between a professional movie critic saying "You won't see a crit of movie X because based on the trailer I'd hate it with screaming wrath" and you saying "I watched this movie the whole way through, and I hated it with screaming wrath"

My point is that those are different responses. I'm not saying one's better, just that they give different insights and should not be mistaken for one another. Conversely, I wouldn't think someone who read a whole series should comment on book 1 as though they read it in isolation either.

It's all useful information, but I think providing context accurately is really important.
zwol on January 20th, 2009 07:01 am (UTC)
Totally agree.

I only put a professional critic in the example to motivate their having stuck with the movie all the way through despite not liking it.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 07:04 am (UTC)
And yet, when we're talking about privilege, things like that matter :)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 07:48 am (UTC)
I confused this thread for one I started.

Nothing I've said here has anything to do with critical reading or what Mac said. I just got all tangled up and thought I was answering something else entirely :)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 06:51 am (UTC)
So does critical reading try to be an objective look at the text? To what extent does it take reader-framings and context and genre history into account?

Er, I guess I'm asking whether it fits into some part of the modernist/postmodernist distinction, or is something else again.
mac_stonemac_stone on January 20th, 2009 07:35 am (UTC)
So does critical reading try to be an objective look at the text? To what extent does it take reader-framings and context and genre history into account?

Heh. And I know you know this as well or better than I do. But that's the crux of a LOT of debate in litcrit geek-wanking circles, really.

We can only be as objective as we are. Ideally, of course, "objectivity" for one critic, means looking at those specific words in the text within the frame of culture, society, and historical framework. For another critic, "objectively" means within the context of political climate, and/or literary-ancestral context. Then for yet another critic, it means looking at those words within the framework of the author's biography, and a sort of magic-eight-ball guess towards the author's intent.

Is there objectivity in this stuff? In my own MA thesis, I argued there was no such thing - that litcrit is Heisenbergian, and the act of observing changes the behavior/nature of that which is observed.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 07:47 am (UTC)
I really don't know -- this is an aspect of the area that's outside my ken. I sort of have a toe in the litcrit pool and that's it.

I was wondering whether objectivity was even a goal or generally accepted as impossible, and it sounds like a lot of people are trying to find it, rather than focusing on responses to texts.

My own position is that objectivism and relativism are both more or less wrongheaded, 'cus I'm a cognitivist. Which ends up meaning that objectivists think I'm a relativist and vice versa.

Wandering back in the vague direction of initial topic, though, I wonder why that's any more privileged than saying you can only understand medicine if you've studied it?
It might just be that the words have a common-language interpretation as well as the technical one, and if you don't know there's a technical term then "You can't do critical reading" sounds awfully snooty.
mac_stonemac_stone on January 20th, 2009 07:56 am (UTC)
Well, without belaboring this and boring everyone playing along at home to death -- the answer is yes:
Objectivity is a goal
Objectivity is generally regarded as impossible.

And also, in some fields of litcrit, objectivity is not a goal at all, and is regarded as both impossible and undesirable - that the reader's personal interaction with the text (all of the text) trumps author's intent, historical context, political agenda, etc.

ETA: I really should have said there "author's text" because "author's intent" is an ENTIRELY different can of words; this is in and of itself an source of heated debate - does it matter what the author meant to say? If I can read Huck Finn as an allegory for America's struggle for independence from Britain, does it matter if Twain meant any such thing?

Edited at 2009-01-20 06:00 pm (UTC)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 21st, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
Wow, this academic culture is alien to me :)

Trying to wrap my head around all this.