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Colonel Sanders: Lover of Poetry

February 14, 2012

A little while back I made a post whining about the way most people learn to be critical of literature.  I skipped over a lot of the traditional academic leg work that normally goes into a paper like that;  it’s boring for everyone and does little for the discussion.

Not long after, a certain “T. Caffall” posted a (joking) response.  He responded with a mostly off topic inquiry about the late 1800’s poet/critic Mathew Arnold (delivered in what I can only assume was his best Colonel Sanders voice).  I responded because, well, I could.  It’s not often one gets the chance to showboat their knowledge of mediocre late nineteenth century poets turned critic.  When the chance does present itself, you do not let it go.

He captured a response that happens a lot when people start talking like this.  Instead of refuting the ideas, people just attack the person delivering the ideas.  Unfortunately, there is a reason why this tactic is so often employed:  a lot of the time it works, because the person really doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  A lot of people who ‘think outside the box’ never bothered to learn what was in the box.  Explain this how you like (I’ll go with anti-intellectualism), but it’s a problem.

If you want to tell the established tradition its wrong, you need to know as much about that tradition as you can.  The harder you attack a school of thought, the better you need to know it, because as soon as you show a crack – a little hint that you don’t really get it – you’re done.  Whatever the reality is, people will think you are arguing against a view simply because you don’t understand it.

In my efforts at keeping this all accessible, I never really proved that I’m not one of those lost-outside-the-box types.  I can argue against this and that, but that’s not very difficult.  If I was a visitor on this site, I would be curious, but skeptical.  I would want to see proof that the writer was someone who knew what they were talking about beyond the matters at hand.  So, this week you get a proper academic piece.

It’s about Walter Benjamin, and one aspect of his take on language.  There are three parts, but I’ll keep them all in the same (rather large) post:

  1. The essay.
  2. A pseudo-propositional account of Benjamin’s essay.  If you don’t get this part don’t worry, it doesn’t say anything the original article doesn’t.  It’s there because for every ten people who read it, one will think it makes more sense than the essay.  The other nine will think it’s gibberish.
  3. Sources Cited.
Questions or critiques in the comments are more than welcome.

Best of luck and… enjoy?

The Life and Purpose of Text

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2012 6:10 am

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  1. Double Threats: Actresses Who Sing and Singers Who Act! | Beverly D Angelo Entourage Barbara Miller

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