Saturday, January 24th, 2004
So the new semester begins. Literature, writing, and more writing. Why all this writing? Is this some sort of joke? Do modern people fear the blank page so much that we need to scribble it gray? This year Im going to be trying something new, having students put all their ideas down in ketchup or using mustard as the medium for settling on things. Or just ink.
In composition were going to write laterally, up and down, not in the common method of across and across. How does the way we write; how do the tools we use effect the process of coming to conclusions? This seems to be a human geography question; the page is all around us, now the screen. We could ask how much does the ink on the printed page weigh, the twisted light on laptop screen, the uttered word, then read Tim OBrien.
Or we could just write across and across.
But to the subject: Literature. And an essay, a trying out. Just some thoughts. Why do we read and study literature? I dont think we should. Im against this. Its a political thing. Reading and hearing good stories and poems (and writing them) is an experience first, an experience that cant be paraphrased. If we attempt to paraphrase the story, to talk about the movie, were moving away from the story and the film, into reaction or description or analysis. We like to do this. We experience The Milagro Beanfield War and want to tell people about it. I saw this really cool movie. It was beautiful. Then come other criteria. The music was great. The acting splendid, the visuals sensuous. Then come the examples of all of these. None of this is, of course, the movie. Bits and pieces of a comic in analysis are merely examples that support an essays overall point, page or screen or space dependent.
We have an urge. We want to write it. That urge may come in the form of an image, a bit of dialogue (You have this way with a wine glass. The way you turn the wine reminds me of the passing of time.), a shoe on the floor (how did it get there?), a memory (why that one?), a turn of phrase, such as, I saw the sunset and it reminded me of grilled cheese. Or an argument, creative essay. The process that moves to the completed product is complicated, if even a final product is the result.
The good story or the good poem is a particular kind of discovery. These may be repeated or unique attempts. Odysseus or Spiderman. A good ghost story (see Silent Hill II) can open understand to why something is scary or disturbing. What is the connection between what scares and what shapes our everyday our experience? The discoveries arent overt, because theyre embedded in the narrative. Thus understanding the narrative is key to unlocking understanding, which, hopefully, will lead to confusion or more questions. Is this true, possible? Theres something in Fitzgerald. What? Once you act you put something into motion. Actions are. Scary.
How do they ripple out?