Conversations: Creative & Inventive

What is Interpretation?


“Reading, explicating, making sense: these are three names given to the activity of ‘interpretation’” (Lentricchia & McLaughin 121).

“Interpretive theories are not foundational but rhetorical” (Lentricchia & McLaughin 133).


Interpretation is how one digests, views, translates, conveys, explains, makes sense of, analyzes. When I write a book review for authors and publishers, I’m providing my interpretation of whether I like the book and whether I recommend it to others. Readers are either trusting my judgment or not. Readers, authors, and publishers may ask how did I come to the conclusions I have and why? What basis am I using to arrive at my conclusion?

What is Culture?


Culture “has much to do with formal analysis of literary texts because (they) are not merely cultural by virtue of reference to the wold beyond themselves; they are cultural by virtue of social values and contexts that they have themselves successfully absorbed.” Texts “are virtually incomprehensible when removed from their immediate surroundings. To recover (them), we need to reconstruct the situation in which they were produced” (Lentricchia & McLaughlin 227).

“In a state of nature, humankind survives by directly struggling with the environment in time, the elements of that struggle—practices, habits, customs, beliefs, traditions—become institutions, the body of which is known as culture” (Haromn & Holman 138-139).


Because the American culture has traditionally been that people in love marry, many stories show a couple’s devotion to one another through marriage implying a happy ending. Because many Canadians traditionally have not seen marriage as the only indicator of a happy ending, not all their stories end with marriage.

The American culture is changing in their belief today.

What is Canon?


“In a figurative sense, a standard of judgement; a criticism/ The term is often extended to mean the accepted list of books of any author, such as Shakespeare” (Haron & Hugh).

“Kanon, meaning a reed or rod used as an instrument of measure. The sense of the word important to literary critics first appeared in the fourth century A.D., when ‘canon’ used to signify a list of texts or authors, specifically the books of the Bible and of the early theologians of Christianity. “Canon suggested some authors or texts were deemed worthier of preservation than others” (Lentricchian & McLaughlin 233).


Traditional publishers very often choose books to publish more today on who they are. Can this author make them a lot of money based on who the author is instead of whether their story is good?

* Times are changing due to the Internet leveling the playing field. Small publishers and self-published authors can and do rise in popularity based on their story, not on who they are.

What is Formalist/Formalism?


“A term applied to criticism that emphasizes the form of the artwork, with ‘form’ variously construed to mean generic form, type, verbal form, grammatical and syntactical form, rhetorical form, or verse form” (Harmon & Hugh 225).

Russian Formalism

“A lively and important multidisciplinary school that flourished around 1920. It emphasized form over content, ‘device’ over message, and strangeness over familiarity.”


Growing up in the time-period I did formed how I dissected and approached literature. My approach as a book-reviewer has been through this lens too, although not completely as I enjoy variation.

I’ve learned Formalism is also called New Criticism, or used to be. This approach to literature involves a close reading of the text because all information is viewed as essential to the interpretation. the work itself is what matters, nothing outside the work. Formalistic critics spend much time analyzing irony, paradox, imagery, and metaphor. They are also interested in the work’s setting, characters, symbols, and point of view and not things like the author’s life, history, politics, or society at the time. They don’t view the work through a feminist lens, nor do they view it through a psychology, mythology, or any other standpoint because they don’t care abut the affect on the reader either. 🙂

I have to look at other terms used to dissect text.

  • Historical analyzes a work based on the author’s intention. This is looking through the lens of the author. Historical wants to know what the author’s intention was. Its about the author.
  • Formalists analyzes a work based on itself, what devices are used (plot, setting, rhythm, rhyme, etc.) They formulate the underlying systems of convention which evaluate the dynamic relationship among the concepts. A formalist wants to know to what degree is Huckleberry Finn a flat character? Does the setting reinforce the theme? Its about the work.
  • Reader-response. We vies he text through the lens of the audience. Its about the audience.
  • Intertextual. We view the text through the lens of other literary works. Its about comparison to similar work.
  • Mimetic. Its about reality. We view the text through the lens of reality. Does the text imitate reality?

Thoughts on Profession’s Presidential Forum: Language, Literature, Learning



Presidential Forum: Language, Literature, Learning

The Modern Language Association of America (MLA) published a journal called Profession (2012). In it, they include written versions of five scholar’s presentations in the Presidential Forum. These scholars concentrated on the theme of Language, Literature, and Learning. Each one, like individuals in Humanities, contributes a different view of the current situation of the field. They make a statement that together we are strong because of our differences, that only through big changes will we make it through this complicated world. Our difficulties and nontraditional views are beautiful really. We must care about one another, teach for flexibility at a crucial time in history, and lastly, realize people read and write more because of the Internet, not less.

Imani Perry discusses the field of language, literature, and learning aids in students’ flexibility, ability to ask questions, interpret statements whether voiced or written, and debate in his essay, Of Degraded Talk, Digital Tongues, and a Commitment to Care. In addition, students of this field are more accepting on variations of people. I believe this is important because the world has grown smaller. We are closer than ever to different cultures and traditions. As we interact more than ever before not only does this flexibility strengthen us as a whole, but allows us to debate with one another too. We don’t have to all think alike to get along.

In B. Venkat Mani’s essay, Dreaming in Foreign Tongues, the questions seems to be wasn’t Humanities strong before the Internet and before those seeking only capital gain caused major collapses in our system? Maybe, yet in different ways. Certainly Humanities were more respected, even though most people overall didn’t quite understand why one would study topics such as literature. Humanities is important because they are what help us be flexible, insightful, and good problem solvers.

How do we “unlearn” and why do we need to is the topic of Jack Halberstam’s essay? Unlearning the way things have been done for a very long time takes some doing. We must unlearn because you can’t solve today’s problems using the same methods as before. The old way are what caused the problem we’re in today in the first place. We don’t want to go back to that. The new way involves a type of blindness to others’ shortcomings and instead focus’s on their strengths.

It is too bad we didn’t do this in the first place. I wonder if we were all too busy competing with and attempting to impress one another? It’s as if we’ve expected ourselves and each other to be more than human. Humans are not perfect. They make mistakes, misunderstand, and aren’t good at everything. We all have strengths and I am always at a loss as to why we focus on those rather than strengths.

In Unlearning, Jack Halberstam considers how at a time when we’re facing a crisis, one placed deeply on money, the economy, work, and business we need to band together (11). He believes that instead, we need to rethink how we may be prohibiting learning as opposed to promoting it. Is one of the ways stepping away from tradition? Certainly there are educational traditions worth continuing. Maybe this “unlearning” revision is like focusing on the strengths of one another, we must choose what is worth continuing and what is not.

Perry’s essay, A Commitment to Care discusses the beauty of difficulty, the time of grief. This pain and struggle brought us blues and jazz, “enduring ways of seeing” (Perry 21). There is another way of seeing art than through elitism. With the Internet comes the ability for all people to comment on art, and they do. They may not comment the way a critical faculty member of an elitist college does, but they do make wonderful points and in essence are beautiful themselves. I think Perry wants us to think about how critical faculty doesn’t have to be attached to elitism. In fact, the Humanities ties departments often stand up for change and those lower in hierarchy. They promote caring and see caring for one another and passionately encourage students to reach for excellence. As a teacher who has had the chance to be in numerous school and grades, I’ve seen how the degrading of students dampens their learning. I believe we must reaffirm humanity. We must also explain to students why they’re learning what they are. They must see the usefulness in it. If they understand how, where, and why they’re learning something, passion automatically comes. If we tell students how to think and belittle them when they think outside the box, world problems will never be solved and we have a lot of problems to solve.

In his essay, Dreaming in Foreign Tongues, Mani question if we see Humanities as “a luxury during an economic downturn” and adds “It is precisely in times of crisis” (Mani 31) that everything comes into focus. I strongly agree with his statement “Limit humanities education to private schools, and within two generations you will have a clear division of labor” (Mani 37). It will be about who can afford the luxury of Humanities? We have fought too long to go Back to only the privileged being able to receive certain education. Will we go backwards instead of foreword?

Thinking about Fitpatrick’s essay, ,Reading and Writing Online, makes me reflect not only on myself before and after the Internet, but on others. It seems most everyone goes online. They comment about books video games, about politics, and, well . . .everything. For those thinking less reading and writing is going on, I say, you’re stuck in confining lives and fooling yourself. The NEA (2009) backs this up. They report both reading and writing has just taken a different form. Reading and writing on the Internet is different in that doing so is more interactive. Education knows of these changes and realizes writing and reading is happening and has now begun to integrate them into learning. Blogs become a part of an assignment as well as Podcasts. Other students comment on these and the audience for students’ work becomes more than the teacher.

Delving further, writing and reading require multitasking and that means flexibility growth, something not possible when reading a novel. I believe however, that novels won’t go away. Instead, they will be another choice in reading. Too many people of all ages admit favorably to keeping Print books and novels. Their biggest reasons for Print seem to be the convenience of marking places, and because of sentimentality.

Overall, I see the thread of these five essays as saying we must join together, that Humanities helps that joining, and that we must change because uniting makes us strong. This is important because if we don’t, we’re on our way to a bad place that could take generations to climb out of and I agree. As the saying goes, divided we fall, united we stand.