For starters, was it just me or were the circle pictures with arrows not as helpful as they were intended to be? Probably just me.  Also, I will do whatever it takes to help semiology become a real science, because I think it’s a travesty that it’s not.  One more thing, on page 967 language is compared to a piece of paper.  I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of anything being compared to a piece of paper.  But seriously…

I was a little worried after I finished reading this piece. I got done, and I thought about it, and some of the things I had read were still with me and were making sense.  A feeling I’m sure which won’t continue in this class.

It’s interesting to see someone who just comes out and says that language is arbitrary, “the bond between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary” (964)  In a sense I agree with this.  Our labeling process is somewhat arbitrary, a tree is a tree because we say it’s a tree.  If we had decided that a tree should be a monkey, then it would be a monkey.  This goes along with what he writes on 967 “There are no pre-existing ideas, and nothing is distinct before the appearance of language.”  Before anyone learns language they don’t know what anything is supposed to be, and it is only through being brought up with a language and a set identifiers that a person learns anything and is able to identify it.

On page 969 he writes “language is a system of interdependent terms in which the value of each term results solely from the simultaneous presence of the others” (then it goes into one of those circle pictures)  Which again I suppose makes sense.  Our words wouldn’t make sense if there wern’t any other words.  So I guess languages with only 1 word wouldn’t be very good.

So I managed to make it through it a reading without feeling completely confused and overwhelmed. Here’s hoping we can keep this streak going


With what appears to be a recurring theme, there were some parts of this that I understood along with a great many more parts that I didn’t.  And what is a little more depressing is while I’m reading some of these things, I feel like parts of it are actually making some sense.  But then I come to the blog and find I have no way of putting together a cogent thought on what I’ve just read. Oh well

In Williams’ piece, I appreciated the mini history lesson on literature, facts like “the concept of ‘literature’ did not emerge earlier than the eighteenth century and was not fully developed until the nineteenth century” (1569)  It was also interesting to see how being literate was once a symbol of class and social standing.  Where as today, every kid upon entering kindergarten is expected to be able to read at some level.

On page 1570 Williams writes “Literature was still primarily reading ability and reading experience, and this included philosophy, history, and essays as well as poems.  Were the new eighteenth-century novels ‘literature'”?  This goes back to what we read from Bakhtin, and where exactly the novel stood in terms of literature.  Early on, literature had included everything, “the category which had appeared objective as ‘all printed books'”(page 1572)  But as it grew, deciding what counted and what didn’t became a more and more difficult task.  Now ‘all printed books’ wern’t going to count, and “not all ‘literature’ was ‘Literature'” (page 1572)  It is in this early time that we have the beginning of a literary canon.  With all this new literature, what is good enough to be included in the tradition?  And where literature started out as a matter of class and became more open, this newly formed style of criticism and judging literature again put an aspect of upper class and standing into the mix. 

Then there was Introduction: Rhizome.  I’m not even going to pretend like I understood any part of this piece.  “A book has neither object nor subject”, “body without organs”, “one becomes two”, “n-1”, any and all talk about roots and rhizomes, these are all the things that made no sense to me.  So if any of this made sense to anyone else, please let me know what you got out of this.

Being that I am taking a class this semester called Studies in the Novel, when I saw the topic of this essay I thought it would help me understand that class a little more and maybe give me something really smart sounding to say in the next class.  And it very well could have, had I understood this essay.  But I will do my best to make sense of some of it.

 I thought it was interesting how throughout the essay Bakhtin sort of charts the progression of the novel and where it stood in the literary world.  On page 1190 he writes that “for a long time treatment of the novel was limited to little more than abstract ideological examination and publicistic commentary” and again on page 1196 when references Shpet who felt that the novel was “an extra-artistic rhetorical genre” and considered the novel a “form of moral propaganda.”  The novel, which is so popular today was once looked upon as trash and something that did not deserve to be treated as real literature.

There is a part on page 1195 which I think can be related in some way to our conversation on Eliot.  Bakhtin writes, “Thus stylistics and the philosophy of discourse indeed confront a dilemma: either to acknowledge the novel (and consequently all artistic prose tending in that direction) an unartistic or quasi-artistic genre, or to radically reconsider that conception of poetic discourse in which traditional stylistics is grounded and which determines all its categories.”  In our discussion on Eliot we mentioned a strong tie to traditions and standards of the past.  And this is where the novel fits in, how does the literary world deal with this new form?  The choices, according to Bakhtin, were to either find some way for it to fit into the present standards, or to change the standards entirely.

So that is what I took from Bakhtin and Discourse in the Novel.  Hopefully some of that made sense.

First Post

January 21, 2007

I will begin with a short story.  I have already taken literary criticism and theory as a freshman.  It was a few days before the start of the second semester my freshman year and I received a call from the college telling me that one of the classes I was scheduled for was cancelled.  So I frantically looked for another class to put myself in and literary criticism and theory was the first class I could get.  At the time I had no idea what the class involved and that I had absolutely no business being in the class as a freshman. I discovered that the first day when I didn’t understand anything the professor said, a trend which continued for the duration of the class.  Needless to say, I did not do so well in the class.  So here’s hoping I do a little better the second time around.

I had decided that I wanted to become a teacher fairly early in my senior year of high school.  The next step was to pick which subject I would focus on.  Math and science were immediately out, as was Spanish, leaving English and history.  I had always enjoyed my English classes and did well in them, and plus I couldn’t see myself memorizing a bunch of names, places, and dates.  So English it was.  My high school English experience was probably similar to everybody else’s.  Readings included Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, The Scarlet Letter, Lord of the Flies, with a heavy dose of Shakespeare mixed in as well.  In college, I’ve noticed that those works and their authors aren’t as emphasized and classes include the works of many different authors. 

I admit that I may not have the best critical mind.  When reading a work I pretty much take the story for what it is without much consideration as to why it was written that way.  Hopefully this class will help me in analyzing literature a little more deeply which in turn will give me a deeper understanding of literature.

Hello world!

January 17, 2007

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!