Literary Studies for Spring 2011

I know I should feel ashamed for never having heard of Edmund Spenser nor the epic Faerie Queene poem that he wrote, but I have to admit, before I became an English major, there were many authors of whom I’d never heard of. What strikes me about Spenser, aside from the curious line structure of the poem, is his taste for fiction writing, his zeal for acting on his imagination. If there is a line to be drawn between classical antiquity, that in which fiction is ancient myth, and the fiction that is clearly post-classical, that in which fiction makes an attempt to sound mythical, then Spenser lies on the latter half of the line. His ideas on peculiar romances and classic plot twists that involve characters with lavish and odd sounding names simply compliment the long standing, deeply rooted folklore of Ireland and England; they are not originations in themselves. For this reason, Spenser is a modern fiction writer, one of the greats, and even though his attitude for English imperialism at the time is something to frown upon, his ability to write lengthy poetic works with precision rhyming renders him a master of the art. In addition to studying Spenser for an entire ten weeks straight, that The Faerie Queene is rumored to be an allegory for Tudor Dynasty England will enhance the foundation for my lifelong study of the 16th-19th Centuries.

The class will include a book by Calvino, an author of which I have yet to explore, and a contemporary book that I have seen around but have never had the chance to read, probably because it doesn’t look nor sound very interesting to me:

Life of Pi, however, may interest me after all, simply for its plot twist that involves a protagonist keeping tiger at bay from eating him. The twist reminds me of the much greater scene from The Hobbit in which Bilbo, designated as the group’s thief, encounters a dragon when he discovers the gold. The two engage in a very curious dialogue that is intriguing to read, especially for those who know of things like the Crowley philosophy and the Faustus dilemma. In spite of my shameful closed-mindedness, my willingness to judge a book by its cover, I plan to enjoy Yann Martel’s story.

Reading Poetic Designs will increase my skills in understanding the nuts and bolts of writing poetry. When I began studying English, I had no idea I would become an expert on the mechanics of poetry, but this is what they do: they teach you all about poetry whether you like it or not. I don’t mind because I love poetry plain and simple; I’ve written poetry since I was young, but I always thought theory was a word used in connection with science and music, not English and poetry. How wrong I was, and oh my my, how much more poetry dissection lies ahead of me, which is strange because it makes me notice all the poetry written on the internet in a different light. However, the poetical theories I am to apply for this spring come upon a rather awkward task as the last of my required classes involves a study on love and sexuality in modern poetry:

Uhrm…this is going to be interesting. If I can just manage to find the right girl for me, then she will not be at a loss for love poetry!

Last but not least, and finally, after five years of studying for everyone else and all their blasted requirements, I am taking a fiction course all for my little lonesome and love-starved self. Jolly Dee!! I will be assigned writing tasks that involve…writing what I want to write! I can hardly believe this is happening; hopefully I will get the critique I need out of ten straight weeks of fiction writing to at least shed some of the nasty comments some people have to say about fiction writing. Sometimes I think it’s just the fact that one hasn’t been published that one receives harsh criticism. “Oh, you’ve never been published? Here, let me read one of your stories. Oh, yeah, no wonder you’ve never been published, you use too many adverbs, you sound like you suck on a thesaurus, and your plot’s cliché.” What’s funny about the thought of critiquing the unpublished, on the contrary, are stories like the one of the author of Life of Pi, that in which the manuscript was rejected by five London publishing houses before it went on to win many awards and become critically acclaimed; or the famous story in which someone recently submitted a section of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice just to see what would happen, only to have it rejected. Agents and publishers, what can a writer do?

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