Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Abstract

I'm working on another paper right now.

What?

OK, you're right. I'm NOT writing a paper. I'm writing about writing a paper. And I'm thinking about writing the paper. It's progress, I tell you. I started this assignment with an attitude that was even worse (that scarcely seems possible) than I had for the last paper. Despite my worry, though, I did very well on that paper. I rewrote it one more time before I submitted it (at the very last minute), and it was much improved. So right now, I only dislike this class. Last week, I hated it with searing fiery heat.

On to a new school of critical theory. Now it's New Historicism, as applied to Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson. (I have to look at the book cover every time I type the word "pudd'nhead" to see where the apostrophe goes. And do you know why? Because it should have TWO apostrophes; one to replace the missing "I" and the other to replace the missing "G".) This is an interesting book. I've read it twice (it's short) and I've made any number of interpretations of what I think were Mark Twain's intentions. But this is a short paper. I need to narrow it down.

New Historicism, as the name implies, involves historical research about the time period in which the book was written, or the period in which it was set, or the author's life and political ideas. My research is focusing on the 1890s, as the book was published in 1893. And you know what? I love the Gilded Age. Standard Oil! Muckrakers! Robber Barons! Ida Tarbell! The wretched refuse of the world's teeming shores landing on the brand-new Ellis Island! I could read about this stuff all day. I still have only a rather murky idea of how I'll connect the novel with the events of the time, but a good time is being had by me. If I could get credit for vague, undirected research, and for writing ABOUT papers, my 4.0 would be completely safe.

24 comments:

Lisa said...

This is all very brainy stuff.

Stop that!

dguzman said...

I believe that kind of criticism, which was just about the only kind that my professors taught, was called simply "new criticism" back in the 1980s when I was in school. I always believed (and still believe now) it was the best way to look at any literature, and that all the other crap (from marxist to semiotics and even feminist) was just kinda BS. If you want to get at what an author was doing in a piece, it seems to me that you should look at what was going on in the author's life and times--not what later viewpoints and philosophies impose on the work. Ya know?

CDP said...

Lisa--I done stopped. 'Cuz I ain't holdin' with no book learnin' no more.

Dguzman--this would be a useful comment, except see above. Ain't no use tryin' ta learn me nothin', you hear?

Suze said...

You always impress me with your drive. Good for you. If you ever have any tests that you fill in the circles, I can help you with that. I almost never color outside the lines.

FranIAm said...

Oddly enough - I am here reading your blog as I completely avoid not only writing my paper, but I also avoid writing about writing my paper.

I so admire you for doing what I can't and with such aplomb!

Michaéle said...

I truly believe that writing about what I'm supposed to be doing and thinking about what I'm supposed to be doing is as good as doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

Steve said...

Didn't Data and the crew of the Enterprise meet Mark Twain on Next Gen?

That's where I would start my research.

(yeah you're probably better off ignoring that advice!)

CDP said...

Suze--thank you! And those are my favorite kind of test.

Fran--I'll go one better. I'M reading about you reading about me writing about writing my paper. This could go on forever, couldn't it?

Michaele--yes, it's all part of the process, isn't it?

Steve--that's some useful information. If I use it, I will be sure to cite you appropriately.

Embee said...

So glad lit crit is behind me. We did the entire semester on East of Eden, applying every kind of literary criticism to the one text. It was dreary and painful. We wrote mini-papers using each kind of criticism, then we had to choose our "favorite" form of criticism and write a long formal analysis of the book. Oh, the agony. And the teacher was a bitch. If you contradicted her she'd rip you a new one. I managed an A out of the class though by keeping my head down and writing a kick-ass paper (using feminist theory, btw)!

But I think I agree with dguzman, that you can really only get an idea of what the writer was thinking or trying to do by placing the novel and the writer in their appropriate environment and time period.

So....good luck!

pistols at dawn said...

And here we see why even book-lovin' Pistols couldn't bring himself to get a grad degree in English.

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