Marxism and Literature & Introduction: Rhizome

January 28, 2007

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.

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5 Responses to “Marxism and Literature & Introduction: Rhizome”

  1. bastianm said

    Ryan,

    The first blog that I read after writing my response was yours. It was pretty funny reading the beginning of your entry. I feel the same way. I hope that the end of this semester brings with it some clarity so that we may find more creative ways to introduce each post. I think you have to be a biology major to understand the second reading. I’m not a biology major, therefore I am in the fog with you. If it weren’t for the redefining of the word ‘literature’ we may have been studying Paris Hilton’s book in class this week rather than these guys. That kind of literature is kept for the john.

    More than just the literature lesson we got from Williams, did you feel that he was slightly contradicting himself? I think he states that the creation of literature and what actually counts as literature has to do with class struggle. Without class struggle there is no good literature. Socialists want a classless society. What happens then? He disagrees with literature’s emphasis coming from the upperclass, right?

  2. joei5 said

    Ryan,

    I couldn’t agree with you more where you said that you weren’t even going to pretend that you understood the Deleuze and Guattari reading. I just found it so weird that they would relate most of their theory to biology. I don’t think biology and literature are similar at all, and because I really don’t care a lot for biology, it kind of bothers me to be honest.

    As far as Williams’ piece goes, I was able to understand that a little better. I agree with you when you said “Literate was once a symbol of class and social standing.” It really was, if you were poor, you really didn’t have to know how to read because people looked down upon you due to your social class anyway. Today, people are looked down upon if you can’t read or write no matter what social class you fall under. So all in all, it may be a little contradictory as well.

  3. joei5 said

    Ryan,

    I couldn’t agree with you more where you said that you weren’t even going to pretend that you understood the Deleuze and Guattari reading. I just found it so weird that they would relate most of their theory to biology. I don’t think biology and literature are similar at all, and because I really don’t care a lot for biology, it kind of bothers me to be honest.

    As far as Williams’ piece goes, I was able to understand that a little better. I agree with you when you said “Literature was once a symbol of class and social standing.” It really was, if you were poor, you really didn’t have to know how to read because people looked down upon you due to your social class anyway. Today, people are looked down upon if you can’t read or write no matter what social class you fall under. So all in all, it may be a little contradictory as well.

  4. brett glasser said

    Well Ryan again we agree on the complexity of these readings and their drawn out explanations that lead to nowhere. A body without organs didnt make much sense so i simplified it by looking at the “stuff” in literature to being the organs and The book being the body. the organs rely on each other and come in all different sizes. I dont know. It worked for me. Anyway your insight into what Williams was getting was very helpfula nd you actually pointed out some things I was not fully grasping. Thanks for the help.

  5. ju1522 said

    I agree that these two essays didn’t help ease my frusteration with the essays we’ve been reading and trying to understand. These both seemed like they dragged on longer then they needed to and I’ve been having the same problem trying to figure out something good to write about in my blog. I feel that I get more from the class discussions then I do from actually reading the essays themselves.

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