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A Tale of Two Professors

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  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
    I had two profs in college worthy of a short mention. One was a frosh comp teacher who read sex into every story, whether it was really there or not (literary
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 1, 2004
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      I had two profs in college worthy of a short mention.

      One was a frosh comp teacher who read sex into every story, whether it was
      really there or not (literary hallucination #1). Every long object was . .
      . well, you can guess. I hated his class because I knew everything we'd
      read concerned his favorite subject. I still recall the day when a student
      lost her contact, and we spent half the class looking for it. Was never so
      grateful! I've found since that literary hallucinations are common in
      academia.

      The second (freshman) prof looked at one of my poems (I don't remember
      which poem I showed him).
      "How long did it take you to write this?" he asks.
      "About half an hour." (I said with a sinking feeling.)
      He allowed as how it's not really a poem if it comes too easily.

      My first mental reaction was "What does how long it takes to write
      something have to do with writing a good poem? I've heard of people
      writing a brilliant poem in ten minutes." My second was "Oh, God. It must
      be awful." The second interpretation being much more likely, I'm sure.

      I would have been much more appreciative if he'd sat me down and said
      "here's what's wrong with your poem," or even said "you need to go home and
      revise it." But that required too much time (or common sense), I suppose.
      ---djb



      Original Message:
      -----------------
      From: David Bratman dbratman@...
      Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 07:37:01 -0800
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [mythsoc] Re: The Two Stories



      At 07:38 PM 11/29/2004 -0800, Lisa Deutsch Harrigan wrote:

      >Astrid Anderson was in a college lit class,

      I can confirm hearing this story also. I recall, however, that she was in
      grade school at the time.

      On the other hand, Isaac Asimov recounted telling a professor that nothing
      of what the prof. had said about an Asimov story was in the author's mind
      at the time he wrote it. And the prof replied, "Just because you wrote the
      story, what makes you think you know anything about it?"

      To which the answer should be, that he knows what the author intended, and
      that ain't peanuts.

      There is more to any good story than what the author consciously put in,
      but that doesn't mean that anything that one finds in a story is
      necessarily "there" in any meaningful sense. One's thought about a fat
      novel could be, "This'll make a great doorstop," and it may even be true,
      but surely that doesn't say anything meaningful about the contents except
      "it's long" which you knew already.





      The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
      Yahoo! Groups Links








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    • David Bratman
      ... You might be amazed at the number of critics who believe, or believed, that literature is for the armchair only, and that to see a play staged is to dilute
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 1, 2004
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        At 09:55 AM 12/1/2004 -0500, dianejoy@... wrote:

        >Shakespeare must be *seen* to be appreciated fully.

        You might be amazed at the number of critics who believe, or believed, that
        literature is for the armchair only, and that to see a play staged is to
        dilute the literary experience. Tolkien had the answer to that in their
        own terms: he held that drama is not, in that sense, literature, but a
        different art.

        I agree with you and Tolkien: drama is best staged. If not, read it aloud.
        (Poetry should also usually be read aloud.) I have even seen plays that I
        believe should NOT, under any circumstances, be read on the page for any
        sort of appreciation. Shakespeare, at least, CAN work that way, but some
        excellent modern dramatists can't.


        >One was a frosh comp teacher who read sex into every story, whether it was
        >really there or not (literary hallucination #1). Every long object was . .
        >. well, you can guess.

        Piet Hein wrote:

        Everything is either
        Concave or -vex,
        So whatever you dream
        Will be something with sex.

        (Illustrated with a drawing of a shocked sleeper awakening from a dream of
        coffee and donuts)
      • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
        ... that ... I ll second that. I don t like Shakespeare very much at all, but it is far more tolerable to watch and hear than to read. I prefer older
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 1, 2004
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          > [Original Message]
          > From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
          >
          > At 09:55 AM 12/1/2004 -0500, dianejoy@... wrote:
          >
          > >Shakespeare must be *seen* to be appreciated fully.
          >
          > You might be amazed at the number of critics who believe, or believed,
          that
          > literature is for the armchair only, and that to see a play staged is to
          > dilute the literary experience. Tolkien had the answer to that in their
          > own terms: he held that drama is not, in that sense, literature, but a
          > different art.
          >

          I'll second that. I don't like Shakespeare very much at all, but it is far
          more tolerable to watch and hear than to read. I prefer older literature,
          or Cranmer. lol

          > I agree with you and Tolkien: drama is best staged. If not, read it
          aloud.
          > (Poetry should also usually be read aloud.) I have even seen plays that
          I
          > believe should NOT, under any circumstances, be read on the page for any
          > sort of appreciation. Shakespeare, at least, CAN work that way, but some
          > excellent modern dramatists can't.
          >
          I recently came across a funny site about poetry that took the opposite
          stance, that it should not be read aloud because that was "artificial" or
          some such argument. I could see their point, in a way, but I will remain
          with the school that allows oral practice. Even when read silently, I
          think we make it "sound" differently in our heads, if we are not rushing.
          Let me see if I can find the website. I have been kind of on a Vincent
          Millay kick, and I will spare you my own recent verse lol.

          http://slate.msn.com/?id=2059241

          (Hearing Aid
          Sometimes poetry should be seen but not heard.
          By Adam Kirsch
          Posted Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2001, at 12:31 PM PT )


          I am new to the practice of listening to things on the web, but I did
          manage to download and listen to Millay and Yeats and one other. It was a
          neat experience. Millay didn't sound how I expected her to at all. Ah,
          Berryman was the third, and I didn't like him at all really, although he
          reminded me of Tom Lehrer, whom I do find entertaining.

          >
          > >One was a frosh comp teacher who read sex into every story, whether it
          was
          > >really there or not (literary hallucination #1). Every long object was
          . .
          > >. well, you can guess.
          >
          A baguette?

          > Piet Hein wrote:
          >
          > Everything is either
          > Concave or -vex,
          > So whatever you dream
          > Will be something with sex.
          >
          > (Illustrated with a drawing of a shocked sleeper awakening from a dream of
          > coffee and donuts)
          >
          Well, there you have my psyche in a nutshell... "coffee and" and boys.
          Gee, I didn't realize I was so simple. Thanks, David.

          Lizzie

          Elizabeth Apgar Triano
          lizziewriter@...
          amor vincit omnia
          www.lizziewriter.com
          www.danburymineralogicalsociety.org

          >
          >
          > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
          > Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
        • Debra Murphy
          I think the Shakespeare-is-toO-profound-to-be-staged school of lit crit went out of favor there for a while, thank God, though it has been replaced in some
          Message 4 of 6 , Dec 1, 2004
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            I think the Shakespeare-is-toO-profound-to-be-staged school of lit crit went out of favor there for a while, thank God, though it has been replaced in some circles by far worse (Deconstruction, New Historicism); but it does have at least one famous contemporary exponent, and that is Harold Bloom, who has claimed he has never seen a LEAR that did anything but grieve him, or words to that defect, as Dogberry might say.

            Now I have a whole website devoted to Shax-on-film, so I guess that puts me squarely in the opposing camp, much as I otherwise appreciate the eccentric Dr. Bloom, who shows himself in this, as in so much else, to be something of a cranky Gnostic. Give me Shakespeare in performance any day, including even the "impossible to stage" LEAR. (James Earl Jones, Olivier...) Indeed, I fell in love with the Bard all over again as an adult after seeing Jacobi's HAMLET and Branagh's HENRY V.

            I daresay it's ultimately a matter of taste, but it strikes me that those who cannot bear Shakespeare-in-performance are probably the sorts of people who either don't care much for theatre anyway, or who live primarily inside their heads, as it were; who have so specific a construct in their minds for what the play's about that they cannot stand to see it done otherwise.

            Debra Murphy

            http://www.bardolatry.com
            http://www.debramurphy.com
            http://www.themysteryofthings.com

            ---------- Original Message ----------------------------------
            From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>

            >
            >At 09:55 AM 12/1/2004 -0500, dianejoy@... wrote:
            >
            >>Shakespeare must be *seen* to be appreciated fully.
            >
            >You might be amazed at the number of critics who believe, or believed, that
            >literature is for the armchair only, and that to see a play staged is to
            >dilute the literary experience. Tolkien had the answer to that in their
            >own terms: he held that drama is not, in that sense, literature, but a
            >different art.
            >
            >I agree with you and Tolkien: drama is best staged. If not, read it aloud.
            > (Poetry should also usually be read aloud.) I have even seen plays that I
            >believe should NOT, under any circumstances, be read on the page for any
            >sort of appreciation. Shakespeare, at least, CAN work that way, but some
            >excellent modern dramatists can't.



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          • David Bratman
            ... It seemed to me that the argument of the article you linked to was that _listening_ to a poet s reading of his own poetry should not be taken as the
            Message 5 of 6 , Dec 1, 2004
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              At 11:26 AM 12/1/2004 -0500, Lizzie wrote:

              >I recently came across a funny site about poetry that took the opposite
              >stance, that it should not be read aloud because that was "artificial" or
              >some such argument.

              It seemed to me that the argument of the article you linked to was that
              _listening_ to a poet's reading of his own poetry should not be taken as
              the definitive interpretation. That might not always be true, but it's a
              different point. I was in any case talking of reading poetry aloud, not
              listening to someone else read it aloud. If, as the article suggests, some
              can read silently as if they were reading aloud, they might get out of
              poetry what the rest of us are missing. But few have that talent.


              At 09:04 AM 12/1/2004 -0800, Debra Murphy wrote:

              >I daresay it's ultimately a matter of taste, but it strikes me that those
              >who cannot bear Shakespeare-in-performance are probably the sorts of people
              >who either don't care much for theatre anyway, or who live primarily inside
              >their heads, as it were; who have so specific a construct in their minds for
              >what the play's about that they cannot stand to see it done otherwise.

              I'm not sure if that's the problem - I believe in Shakespeare dramatized,
              but I'm one of the people allergic to the whole idea of dramatizing LOTR
              and specifically disappointed with the Jackson version. The difference, of
              course, is that Tolkien dramatized is no longer Tolkien, but Shakespeare
              dramatized is the essence of Shakespeare. Perhaps the anti-performers in
              Shakespeare studies are the people who haven't figured that out - who,
              again, in Tolkien's words haven't realized that drama is a separate art
              from pure literature.

              A similar problem comes up in music. Some persist in thinking of the score
              as the "real" music, but it is nothing of the kind. Ontologically, a score
              is not music at all: it's instructions for performing music. The music
              does not exist until it is performed. Something similar could be said of a
              playscript.

              David Bratman
            • Mike Foster
              Lizzie, Your site is funny as in queer not as in ha-ha. I m with David, and I so advise my students: read it aloud or hear it done so by recordings of the
              Message 6 of 6 , Dec 2, 2004
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                Lizzie,
                Your site is funny as in queer not as in ha-ha. I'm with David, and I
                so advise my students: read it aloud or hear it done so by recordings of
                the poet. Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot are examples of two whose work is
                better heard than read. I did not appreciate what a magnificent and
                under-rated poet Conrad Aiken was until I heard Cademon recordings he made.

                Cheers,
                Mike

                David Bratman wrote:

                >At 11:26 AM 12/1/2004 -0500, Lizzie wrote:
                >
                >
                >
                >>I recently came across a funny site about poetry that took the opposite
                >>stance, that it should not be read aloud because that was "artificial" or
                >>some such argument.
                >>
                >>
                >
                >It seemed to me that the argument of the article you linked to was that
                >_listening_ to a poet's reading of his own poetry should not be taken as
                >the definitive interpretation. That might not always be true, but it's a
                >different point. I was in any case talking of reading poetry aloud, not
                >listening to someone else read it aloud. If, as the article suggests, some
                >can read silently as if they were reading aloud, they might get out of
                >poetry what the rest of us are missing. But few have that talent.
                >
                >
                >At 09:04 AM 12/1/2004 -0800, Debra Murphy wrote:
                >
                >
                >
                >>I daresay it's ultimately a matter of taste, but it strikes me that those
                >>who cannot bear Shakespeare-in-performance are probably the sorts of people
                >>who either don't care much for theatre anyway, or who live primarily inside
                >>their heads, as it were; who have so specific a construct in their minds for
                >>what the play's about that they cannot stand to see it done otherwise.
                >>
                >>
                >
                >I'm not sure if that's the problem - I believe in Shakespeare dramatized,
                >but I'm one of the people allergic to the whole idea of dramatizing LOTR
                >and specifically disappointed with the Jackson version. The difference, of
                >course, is that Tolkien dramatized is no longer Tolkien, but Shakespeare
                >dramatized is the essence of Shakespeare. Perhaps the anti-performers in
                >Shakespeare studies are the people who haven't figured that out - who,
                >again, in Tolkien's words haven't realized that drama is a separate art
                >from pure literature.
                >
                >A similar problem comes up in music. Some persist in thinking of the score
                >as the "real" music, but it is nothing of the kind. Ontologically, a score
                >is not music at all: it's instructions for performing music. The music
                >does not exist until it is performed. Something similar could be said of a
                >playscript.
                >
                >David Bratman
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                >Yahoo! Groups Links
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >


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