Skip to main content Skip to navigation

SEMINAR 12 pm

WEEKLY QUESTIONS

Week Unit Thursday, 12-1 pm Thursday, 1-2 pm  
1 Introduction to the Term - -  
2 Unit 1 James Greenway/Caleb Mathes    
3 Unit 1 Hazzan Olalemi/Kayla Kiratu    
4 Unit 2 Lizzie Keen    
5 Unit 2 Fenn Pyne/Olivia Collins    
7 Unit 3 Eleanor Anscombe/Sophie Edmonds    
8 Unit 3 Angharad Wyatt/Livia Mendes    
9 Unit 4 Eve Davis    
10 Unit 4 Nabila/Lauren    

WEEK 10 (Lauren and Nabila)

Lauren

1. Pascale Casanova states that “Once we adopt this world perspective, we can immediately see that national boundaries, or linguistic ones, simply screen out the real effects of literary domination and inequality.” To what extent to do you agree? Do our current recognised standards of reading and judging literature actually minimise our understanding?

 

  1. Casanova writes that “Owing to the inherent precariousness of the principle of ‘modernity’, a work declared modern is doomed to become obsolete unless elevated to the category of ‘classic’.” Considering the temporality of modernity, is it now more difficult for a text to be considered a classic? What criteria is necessary for a text to become a classic and how is has this process been centred around western and colonial tastes?

 

  1. In Postcolonial Writers and the Global Literary Marketplace Sarah Brouillette describes the way in which a few conglomerates control the literary space through their domination of the publishing industry but also sets out how this control has perhaps prevented the “demise of reading”. Considering this, do you think the “Corporatization in the publishing industry” aided or hindered the world literary space?

Nabila (no submission)

WEEK 9 (Eve)

1. The conversation in ‘Are too many books written and published’ focuses on three main questions and ideas: “(1) are too many books written and published? (2) old books or new? (3) Is English literature in a bad way?”. What is your response to these questions, and to what extent do you agree with Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf’s responses?

2. Virginia Woolf suggests that “The present system, by which each of us has a certain number of books locked up doing nothing on his shelves is the most wasteful thing that could be invented.” And “What is wanted is some system by which private libraries could be thrown open to other people”. To what extent is the private and individual consumption of books “wasteful”? How does the publishing industry contribute to “waste”?

3. In The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception it is suggested that “Culture today is infecting everything with sameness. Film, radio, and magazines form a system. Each branch of culture is unanimous within itself, and all are unanimous together” do you agree? To what extent does this also apply to literature? Is “sameness” a negative or positive thing?

4. How does the view that “Films and radio no longer need to present themselves as art. The truth that they are nothing, but business is used as an ideology to legitimize the trash they intentionally produce. They call them-selves’ industries, and the published figures for their directors’ incomes quell any doubts about the social necessity of their finished products.” Relate to the publishing industry and the mass production or consumption of literature? Does literature still present as art? Would you consider literature and books a social necessity?

WEEK 8 (Livia and Angharad)

LIVIA

  1. Ankhi Mukherjee states: ‘Criticism is constituted by the “self-situating” of the critic, who assumes a “distance” from the collective (world).’ To what extent is this role of the critic possible? Is the critic ever a truly objective being or is the critic inherently bias due to cultural/social backgrounds? Consider the reception of the same work in different parts of the world.
  2. ‘A classic occurs when a civilisation and a language and literature are mature and there is a community of taste and a common style.’ This statement limits the creation of the classic to within certain cultures. Is there such a thing as a Universal classic?/ Could there ever be?

ANGHARAD

1. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak writes that “reading in the style of Cultural Studies, looking into the class- provenance of form and information, may not enhance pleasure.” To what extend do you agree? Does having to learn about the context and cultural significance of a novel affect the pleasure taken from it?

2. According to Ankhi Mukherjee, “literature from ‘subordinated regions’–nations with diverse populations and polyglot cultures, multilingual literary traditions, and the tangled cultural legacy of different forms of domination–are doomed therefore to be negatively determined as literature written against a putative Western centre in the reactive registers of assimilation, translation, rebellion, and revolutionary.” To what extend do you agree or disagree? In today’s society, can non-Western literature be read outside of a Western perspective?

WEEK 7 SOPHIE/ELEANOR

ELEANOR:

1. Think about Bourdieu's definitions of types of capital in relation to Literature. How far is Literature a form of cultural / social / economic capital? Which would be the best fitting definition? Think about how Literature can create economic capital, social groups and cultural knowledge and how these affect our understanding of Literature as a part of society. What impact does this have on the reading of / interaction with pieces of Literature? 

2. If we consider Literature as a form of cultural capital, is Literature more an embodied, objectified or institutionalised form of cultural capital? Is it the existence of books creating cultural capital (objectified), and therefore high culture, or is it the knowledge that comes from them (embodied)? 
3. In 'On High and Popular Culture', Williams explores the uneven distribution of culture: how does this affect our modern understanding of the Literary canon? Think about the imperial history of Literary study, as we saw in Week 5, and what role high culture plays in perpetuating outdated ideas in modern society. What role does Literature play in this? Is it right to have Literature separated from popular culture and available to only a minority, and are schools helping to minimise this through mass education? 

4. In terms of literature, is it true that high and popular culture cannot be compared, as Bourdieu states? What are the implications of distinguishing the Literary cannon as a form of high culture and other literature as a form of popular culture? Think about how these are becoming blurred - eg. pieces of literature being turned into films, mass education. What does this do to Bourdieu's definitions in a modern context? (He was writing in 1986). 

SOPHIE:

1. Williams comments on the view that popular culture in the modern age tends to exist under ‘democratic conditions’, in opposition to high culture, associated with elitism and the ruling class. To what extent do we agree with this view?

2. Williams notes the difference between cultures developed ‘by’ a people, and ‘for’ a people. Discuss the distinction between these concepts as well as their potential impact on how we define culture.

3. ‘Ability and talent [are] itself the product of an investment of time and cultural capital’. In regard to this, discuss how institutions like the University value such concepts as ‘talent’, and who, in reality, has access to the conditions that allow for such ‘self-development’.

4. Discuss the consequences of institutionalised cultural capital within a capitalist society. To what extent would we regard such things as a university degree as merely ‘performative’?

 

WEEK 5/OLIVIA AND FENN

FENN:

1. Is the canon an impressive force? "English literature disciplined the mind to think and reason from the force of evidence" - can the study of literature of reformed by the study of a range of texts from all countries or is it inherently a colonialist enterprise?

3. Is the study of oral traditions compatable with the structure of university teaching as it stands today?

4. To responsibly study english literature do we first need a through understanding of colonialism?

OLIVIA:

  1. Ngugi wa Thiongo writes "For any group it is better to study representative works which mirror their society rather than to study a few isolated 'classics', either of their own or of a foreign culture" (p.441). To what extent is this assumption true? Is there no value in studying 'classics', by any definition of that word? Does this mean that English universities should only study representative 'English' texts?
  2. Daljit Nagra opens his anthology with a quote from George Orwell: "The people have brown faces - besides, there are so many of them! Are they really the same flesh as yourself? Do they even have names? Or are they merely a kind of undifferentiated brown stuff...". Why do you think Nagra chose this quote from the celebrated, canonical George Orwell to open his anthology? How does this interact with Nagra's poems themselves?
  3. How does Nagra's 'Booking Khan Singh Kumar', and other relevant poems, explore the relationship between race/identity and literature? Nagra repeats the question of who 'created' him as a writer. What is he referring to? How does this relate to postcolonialsim?
  4. What impressions do Nagra's poetry anthology give as a whole? What is it's relationship with, and influence on/by British Literature? How can Gauri Viswanathan's writing help in understanding the contexts Nagra is writing from?

WEEK 4/LIZZIE

  1. Should Literature (in an educational sense) be more fluid? As in, is it appropriate (or even discriminatory) to study world literatures all in the same mode and manner?
  2. Are those in the field of Literature limiting themselves in their studying study of published critical essays, which are arguably written in widely inaccessible language: ‘I see the language it (Literary critical texts) creates as one which mystifies rather than clarifies our condition, making it possible for a few people who know that particular language to control the critical scene’. (Christian pg. 44). In this way, would verbal discussions prove more useful?
  3. Would texts be more enriching if reading were more commonly and widely considered an outward group activity, rather than an inward solitary one?
  4. How central is a reader’s identity to readership? Does the reader identity entirely overhaul the meaning of a text, or only to a certain degree? Do other factors come into play? Are meanings more heavily influenced as a result of authorship, or a combination?

WEEK 3/KAYLA AND HAZZAN

1. To what extent do you believe our identity, in which the world views us, shapes our response to literature, and our ability to enter the worlds in which writers create for us when we read?

2. Morrison calls to extend the study of American literature into a wider landscape. Discuss what makes literature worth studying. Is there a criteria that deems a piece of literature worthy of academic focus? What are the limitations of this criteria? Should there even be a criteria that marks some literature as worthy and some as not?

3. Do you think we will ever see traditionally excluded populations, such as African Americans, regarded as part of the normal standard, like we regard whiteness, in canonical American literature? Is their seamless and whole integration into the canon possible?

4. Discuss whether the exclusion of black presence in national literature affects the system oppression that exists outside of literature? Does it work to reproduce similar ideas of exclusion elsewhere? What are the effects of this exclusion outside of literature?

HAZZAN

  1. Explore what obstacles (that Morrison refers to as the "full implications") writers would have to overcome when telling stories that don't "belong" in canonical literature (quote on p4)
  2. How does the intended audience influence the ways in which race is explored in literature, if at all? (quote on p15)

WEEK 2/JAMES AND CALEB

1. Explore the role of gender in ‘The Library of Babel’. The narrator frequently refers to men, ‘Like all the men of the Library, in my younger days I traveled’ yet there seems to be a lack of mention of women within the text. Would this mean women have completely different roles in the library?

2. In what ways is ‘The Library of Babel’ another version of the myth of creation? Many men have searched for the Book-Man for years believing he is ‘analogous to a god’. Is this concept of a omniscient librarian all just to find the Library’s ‘justification’? OR The speaker states ‘It is not illogical to think that the world is infinite’. Would this be a metaphor for a real-life reader’s never-ending search for purpose and satisfaction through literature?

3. Why do you read? Is our approach to literature similar to those of Borges’ librarians, who believe in the library there is “no personal problem, no world problem, whose eloquent solution did not exist”? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach? Can this help us understand why we read?

4.To what extent is reading literature a selfish act? Consider too, how reading is most often understood as an individual act of consumption and how systems of literary consumption (bookshops, libraries) support this understanding. Are there limitations to this understanding?