You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Way with Words II: Approaches to Literature

Way with Words II: Approaches to Literature is another Modern Scholar course by Professor Michael Drout, the creator of courses on the history of the English language and Chaucer. Professor Drout starts by covering the elements of literature and how the work together: language, author, text, and reader. He points out that since language is constantly evolving, the interpretation of texts are always changing. He discusses author theory and the question of whether a text is better because we know it's by a particular author. There's also the question of how the knowledge we have of an author affects our interpretation.

Drout talks about the forms of poetry and how to break down a poem into its elements: feet, lines, stanzas. Then he talks about literature and the mind before transitioning into postmodernism. Even though he talks about several different elements of postmodernism, I'm not sure I came away with any more understanding than I started with.

After talking about cultural, political, and gender approaches to understanding literature, Drout launches a great analysis of the literary canon and and the meaning of literature. He does a good balancing act between the greats of literature and the lesser known works that may have been overlooked but are still worthy of out attention. Just because a text was not as popular in the past doesn't mean that we should ignore it now. There is however a strong argument for reading well-known works, since they influenced authors of their time and later in literature. In the last lecture Drout does a great job tying everything together, showing how literature builds our character and ties us to the rest of humanity. Drout also discusses his theory of how memes of culture blend and evolve over time. I found this theory interesting if not as revolutionary as he indicated.

I really enjoyed this course. Professor Drout covers many facets of reading literature and how it works to create impressions in our mind. Poetry, fiction and drama create entire worlds full of characters. That these characters sometimes seem more real to us that people we know is a testament to how much literature means to us. B+


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