Trees

“…branches of a morphological tree capture with such intuitive force. ‘A tree can be viewed as a simplified description of a matrix of distances’…And if language evolves by diverging why not literature too?” (Moretti 70). We can relate this to Moretti’s past chapters on Graphs and Maps and how genres have grown and changed throughout the years. I wouldn’t use the word matured, every generation has a preference, mainly because of the social happenings going on during that time period.

So what information can trees present to the reader? Genres within literature begin to divide even further from their original classification when using a tree diagram. Showing how different written texts can become separated and easily broken down for a clear view. When grouping together similarities are shown between genres that we wouldn’t normally assume belong together. Options have opened and our interpretations have the power to expand.

Shannen Coleman

Graphs

“Distant reading…where distance is however not an obstacle but a specific form of knowledge” (Moretti 1). I’ve never actually head anyone use distant reading in any english course I have taken. This one passage really caught my eye, and I assumed Moretti meant speed reading and looking at the text as a whole. Just to confirm my assumptions I looked up distant reading and realized my idea was incorrect. The New York Times actually published an article based on “What is Distant Reading?”. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/books/review/the-mechanic-muse-what-is-distant-reading.html

Is Moretti saying we need to stop reading books in order to learn more? That sounds a bit contradictory to what we have been taught in a classroom for the past two decades. Books may hold knowledge, but we need to expand our minds and push through our limitations. Using  graphs as a device can help us find the distinctions throughout genres and not trust only our knowledge of what the writing could be classified as. Just because I want to identity a novel as a gothic piece of literature, the graph could open the possibilities of many more genres I had not even thought of.

Moretti crosses the line in using scientific method in literary terms. “Here he abandons the quantitative method and turns to morphology, concluding that ‘the cycle is the hidden thread of literary history” (Moretti 26). I always viewed science and literature as two completely different entities. Here, Moretti is saying they are morphed into one another.

Shannen Coleman

Text & Work

I’ve always used the words “text” and “work” interchangeably when speaking of a book or piece of literature. I never thought there would be a distinction between the two. After reading Roland Barthe’s From Work to Text I’ve come to understand that “the work can be held in the hand, [and] the text is held in language.” The work is stationary. It’s what holds the language together, meanwhile the text lies within the work. I would agree that the text is the essence of the work. Maybe in the past, auctors would disagree and say that the work is what holds all the importance and that there is no distinction between the work and what is written inside. The work was whole and important to its spiritual connotations.

In The Death of an Author, Barthe’s also mentions that “the author is a modern figure.” Text is a newly created term and is linked to how the importance of literature has evolved over time. A book isn’t just read and taken word by word to mean what it is. We analyze it and create new ideas and meanings, “text cannot stop (for example on a library shelf); its constitutive movement is that of cutting across (in particular, it can cut across the work, several works).” This is seen in the way we now target one particular work from different areas of studies to have a greater understanding of it.

Although we interpret works through interdisciplinary methods, I think we can agree that in the end we still don’t know all there is to know about a work. I can compare a work to a lock and the key would be the text. The way we examine the language in the text allows us to obtain a deeper understanding and unlock the mysteries that lay within the work. The both need each other but without understanding how the key and lock work, we cannot unlock and make use of its function.

As reader’s we can study the text and become authors of our own interpretation of a work. The author of the work doesn’t play a role in our interpretation and therefore we become creators of an idea that was born from a text, which can become our form of a work. So can a text become a work?

Challenging the idea of “Author”

The idea of author according to Donald E. Pease is a term that is always changing; it changes its meaning depending on the development of society. What it means to be an author today is not, is not the same as fifty years ago a good example of that is the difference between North American writers in the late 60’s, writing about changing the world, pushing the boundaries for freedom of expression, social equality, efforts that ultimately failed, and Russian writers during the regime of the soviet union before and after Stalin passing among themselves and members of their inner circles Samizdat pamphlets, in the underground scene at risk of being jailed by the secret service. Donald E. Pease article creates questions about what it means to be author, concepts that at some point seem confusing, as I was reading it understood that historically the understanding of authorship was pretty much absurd as the early concept of originality is. The world as a whole just keep reinventing itself, for example Smart phones are not a original concept, one could argue that in fact North America was slow to catch up with mobile technology and countries such as Japan were already ahead of us ten miles.

I think that literary theorists could argue, that texts should be looked as what they are, and we should benefit from what they bring to us, as in Roland Barthes essay “The Dead of the Author” that is mentioned in the article by Donald E. Pease, the author is declared dead and the only authority is the reader. By separating the author and the text, we can come up with more objective reasoning as to why reading certain texts are important, and evaluated them not only on their contribution to culture or society but as how they help move forward their genre, how they push current boundaries for literariness and how relevant are they.  I think is good that we are capable to think without being absolutist trying to make out of an author a godly like figure or attribute to them the invention of ideas. Nonetheless I don’t think that Foucault’s ideas are invalid, and I agree that we need authors and that critics do need to be challenged as well.  The real version of Frankenstein whether is that of Mary or Percy Shelley, seems irrelevant when what I see as valuable is the characters, the plot, and all the ideas related to different points of view inside the novel and complexity of characters. The questions of who wrote this, who and why changed it are incredibly important, but those are questions that are not hard to come up, they might be hard to answer, but to explore the book as its own rises questions from our own reasoning that are more uncommon.

I think is interesting to read a book without knowing anything about who the author is, and regardless if you like or not, and then learn about the author read it again and notice or start thinking in a whole different way. We can say that in the instance that once we learn about the author and read the text again, the new observations are corrupted some are invalid associations and speculations that cannot be verified unless the author does so.  Is it that important?

 

Authorship

In Donald Pease’s article on the nature of what exactly constitutes an author, an evolution of the term is described.  This probe into authorship goes all the way back to the middle age word, auctore, or a writer who’s words commanded a certain level of respect or otherwise set the standards for their respective fields.  Aristotle is the example given in the text for this.  The idea of an author then evolved further into the 15th century genius, indicating a rise in social standing and respect.  Ultimately Pease eventually arrives at the idea that the definition of an author is so fractured that any true development would be quite difficult and therefore paradoxically requires a unification of meaning.  This however proves somewhat problematic when everyone from the person who writes a novel, a review, an article, or even a facebook post can in a way be considered an article.

It is easy to say abstractly that since say a novel is intrinsically no more than letters printed upon a page that it does not really matter who in truth put those words down on paper.  Subjectivity is unavoidable and therefore meaning can never truly be extrapolated, even if it is explained by the author, as no one hears or reads the same thing.  Following this logic then the printing press is as much complicit in the act of authorship as the person who was trying to convey meaning.  This relates to Frankenstein when it is considered that, we as the reader, are reading the letters of a fictional man to his fictional sister about a fictional lunatic in a fictionalized version of the arctic.  This entire framing device seems tangential but we do not discredit it as it serves to convey shelley’s meaning; the story of Frankenstein and his creature.  With this in mind it is prudent to consider that perhaps the author is not a singular person but rather a composite of historical circumstance, subjectivity, the meaning denoted in the text as well as the connoted meanings, and that the knee jerk idea of an author of being whoever it is that is leading the reader on a journey through a clever construction of words could be called something else entirely.

An author in the sense that I think, and that I think others may also, is a person in whom a modicum of trust is placed in the reader to facilitate the suspension of disbelief in the case of a novel, and to in the case of non fiction accurately relay information or narratives.  A good example of this would be the case of James Frey.  James Frey is a man who wrote a book called A Million Little Pieces.   This book was sold, and rose to be a national best seller, as a memoir.  The people, including one Oprah Winfrey, who bought and read this book were crestfallen to eventually find that large portions of the book were entirely fabricated.   (The interviews are online and are fairly interesting when viewed in this light, i would paste a link but i couldnt figure that out at the time of this writing.)  Another sterling example of such outrage is an astounding portion of the bibliography of the disgraced journalist Stephen Glass while working at the New Republic.  He, like Frey, fabricated entirely many stories. (A handful of fascinating interviews are online as well, but Glass has an entire movie devoted to his story called “Shattered Glass”.  Frey did not have a movie, but a very off color southpark episode parodying him titled “A million little fibers”)  In both these cases it became an issue of credibility, so i would like to assert that perhaps the true meaning of authorship lies somewhere in questions of credibility.

 

Literature and identity

In Frankenstein, although the story is told by Robert we are being presented Victor’s view of the story. Therefore the novel becomes a story within a story. Frankenstein focalize events shortly after they happen. We can see this in the way Robert tells his sister that he will be in touch and he will continue writing to her as he learns more information. This gives us a sense of immediacy. We are told details as soon as he learns them from the source. We as readers are given a very limited perspective through Robert, “a story told from the limited point of view of a single protagonist may highlight the utter unpredictability of what happens.”(Culler, 91) This limited perspective can reflect to how little we know about ourselves and life and how this plays a role in the formation of our identity.

The story goes on slowly and is filled with details about what is happening up to that point time, a telescope view. The dates on the letters give us an idea of the speed. These letters are being mailed and take days or weeks to arrive. I feel that Shelly chooses this method of focalization to help us see how Robert changes as the story is formed and to emphasize that his identity is also being constructed through time. The story itself reflects how identity can be shaped. The more we learn of the world and the more encounters we have with different experiences, helps us learn more about ourselves and of things that we may otherwise have not known unless we underwent that particular experience.

We as reader’s step into Robert’s shoes. We are given the knowledge he has and as the story goes on the more details he shares with us, the more we understand. We know just as much as Robert. We are also given a unique insight to his feelings and emotions as he writes. Since we are told the story through his perspective, we may tend to sympathize with him more since he’s the character that we know most about. At the same time because we know so much about him and because we see how he changes and learn of his inconsistencies we may feel that he isn’t as reliable of a narrator as we think. This brings us to form our own identity as a reader because it puts us in a position where “we become who we are by identifying ourselves with figures we read about.” (Culler, 114)