Author Archives: sfbull5

Literature vs. film

I was just thinking about our class discussion today and one big question popped into my mind. We discussed some of the differences between reading a book and viewing a film (perception of reality vs. creation of a new world, the way in which facts and details are hidden or revealed throughout the course of a book/film, etc.). But in addition to all of those, how do you guys feel the two genres differ in terms of the amount of crap (for lack of a better word) that exists in each. For every excellent, artistically created, thoughtful film that gets created (and distributed to the masses, also, now that we’re in the age of mechanical reproduction), many crappy, Hollywood-ified, brainless movies also get made. I think literature is different – although that certainly depends on one’s definition of literature, what qualifies and what doesn’t qualify. It seems like there’s an audience of people who are interested in spending two hours viewing a mindless movie that won’t make you think about anything important — people probably see it as a relief, a break from the constant need to think and find significance in every day life. But (it seems to me) that there would be less of an audience for that kind of book. Maybe it’s because watching a movie requires much less work and time than reading a book. Maybe mindless books wouldn’t get published. But I also think that some books that deserve to be read get turned into movies that do not merit watching, so barring the theory that it’s impossible to accurately turn a book into a film, maybe there is some intrinsic difference between the two genres. I can’t really put a finger on exactly why this difference exists, nor can I aptly describe the way it plays out, but it seemed significant to me. Any thoughts?

Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

I read this text earlier in the semester for another class, so it was interesting for me to go back and read it a second time having read a lot of literary criticism in between.  I found Benjamin’s text to be much more philosophical than most of the other pieces we’ve read this semester. He talks a lot about the “essence” of an original piece of art (including a piece of literature) and how that unique aura is not  reproducible, especially in the age of mechanical reproduction. Without the original, he seems to be arguing that some amount of tradition gets lost and the text’s actual essence is lost; the translation becomes nothing more than a superficial copy of the words on the page without a reproduction of the text’s core meaning. We’ve talked a lot about beginnings and endings in this class and how the beginning/ending of any given text is irrelevant (according to certain theories), and it seems like Benjamin’s arguments fall in a similar area. Once a text is “emancipated…from its parasitical dependence on ritual” (however negative that phrase sounds), it seems to me that Benjamin believes the translation loses some necessary element. Making art available for the masses (the clear purpose of mechanical reproduction), to him, destroys some of the originality that art could once potentially maintain but is now unobtainable.

Relevance of Anzaldua’s article?

I thought Anzaldua’s article on the Frontier and the new “Mestiza” was interesting and presented some new ideas, but I didn’t exactly see the relevance to this course or to the other texts we’ve read. It seemed appropriate for a Sociology class or something, but I didn’t find a lot about English or literary interpretation. I guess her ideas about changing “the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves, and the ways we behave” — in other words, the “new mestiza” that she proposes — are slightly related to interpretation of texts, and the notions of immigration do in some sense relate to the “otherness” and “orientalism” that we’ve been reading about recently, but do you guys see any other ways in which this article is relevant to this course/to other texts?

History, Potatoes, etc. (Unofficial post)

This isn’t the weekly post, but I was just curious if anyone had opinions:

Both Gallagher and B&R bring up Adam Smith and compare his theories, in one way or another, to literature and literary theory. Gallagher references Smith to make the (somewhat satirical) claim that “only in the context of the economy does homo appetitus  turn into homo economicus” and that in a potato economy, the market is irrelevant to the self-sufficient, self-reliant homo apetitus  species (131). Bennett and Royle quote Smith directly, saying “Before the invention of the art of printing [which obviously gave way to the ‘literature’ we have today], a scholar and a beggar seem to have been terms very nearly synonymous” (119). The economy is a major factor in people’s lives and undoubtedly plays a role in people’s writings. So, taking into consideration the different viewpoints of the role of the author, what would you say is the appropriate relationship between the economy and literature today?


Hey all, I meant to write this a few days ago and it must have slipped my mind. On Monday we talked about ideologies and threw out a number of theories and definitions for “ideology.” One that was brought up said that ideology is what causes humans to tell stories that give rational explanations to things (the stories themselves, however, aren’t as important as the desire to create these rational explanations). About a month ago, we briefly discussed the motivation to write versus the motivation to publish a text and make it public, especially in light of the theory that published texts no longer belong to the author. Does this definition of ideology help explain the desire to publish at all? What about fictional texts, which in some sense are less about “rationally explaining” certain elements of life and are more about the story itself?

Lévi-Strauss and Lakoff/Johnson

Both articles discuss the notion of the fundamental unit of language. Lévi-Strauss’ article argues that myths should not be analyzed as a series of sentences with a definite chronological order; the important part of a myth lies in its story, not its syntax. So long as the story is not lost, myths can be told in all kinds of different ways. To Lakoff and Johnson, the fundamental units of literature (or at least of metaphors) are words and sentences. They argue that words and sentences have meaning independent of their context or speaker(s) and believe that different people having different interpretations of a word/sentence does not  present a tremendous problem.


The Lakoff/Johnson piece was more interesting to me because it gave so many specific examples of metaphors and tried to interpret the logic behind them (i.e. physical space). What I wonder is how Cleanth Brooks’ article (“Metaphor, Paradox, and Stereotype”) ties into Lakoff and Johnson’s ideas. Brooks talked about how metaphors can become outdated and therefore no longer useful. We all understand the metaphors in Lakoff and Johnson’s article; we use those expressions routinely in everyday life. However, if our human thought processes are indeed “largely metaphorical” as Lakoff and Johnson argue, what will happen to our thought processes or the literature that gets created if the metaphors we take for granted in everyday life become outdated?