English 300 - Fall 2004

This is my class journal for Professor Sexson's Critical Theory class.


Journal #2

What one book would you bring to a desert island and why?

The book I would probably bring would have to be Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. It is my favourite book and reads beautifully even in translation. I find it very entertaining as well.
Besides that, the message of this book (and the manner in which it is conveyed) is incredible, and rather multi-faceted. Multiple readings of the text would continually unveil new things. And if I got REALLY bored, I could map out a life-sized rendition in the sand of Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov's surroundings, since Dostoevsky seemed to have a knack for mentioning pace counts and directions of Raskolnikov's nervous wanderings.

Ok, but seriously, the way that Dostoevsky drags and squeezes the reader through several hundred pages of mental anguish only to conclude that mental and spiritual torment are the most powerful against man--then brings in the spiritual salvation through the former-slut Sonia--what a powerful message. The fact that earlier mere seconds were drawn-out eons of torture, and that after a spiritual cleansing, waiting 7 years ("only seven years!" as Dostoevsky writes it) before he can be with Sonia is such a short time.
I guess I could have simplified by saying I love the manner in which Dostoevsky paints the struggles within and between the mind and spirit. Also I am in love with Rodya.
...Um, enough of that.


How does the poem (The Idea of Order at Key West) have every element of literature?

Ok, if that's not a huge question...EVERY element? Is EVERY element of literature even known? But I'll do what I can.

I'll start with the four "elements" we've discussed in class. The first being the Text/Work. Okay, well we've got a poem. It doesn't appear to be in any specific format like iambic pentameter, etc. It's a poem, written in standard (pertaining to conventions, I mean. Wallace Stevens is not ee cummings.) English. That's about it, isn't it?

The Artist. Ok, well besides Wallace Stevens writing this, we've got this anonymous woman who is singing, whether she is creating the song on her own or interpreting the song of the sea, she is a creator, an artist. Is this an allusion to a higher creator goddess, orally bringing something into creation (read: God speaks the universe into being with the words "Let there be light.")? Who knows, maybe so.
Like literature itself, the woman's song is both beautiful in itself and has a deeper meaning ("...it was more than that, / More even than her voice...")

The Audience. As an audience, we have the narrator and Ramon Fernandez, whoever that is. I think the author just needed someone to address in his enthusiastic outburst, and Ramon Fernandez has a kind of ring to it. Who knows.
Anyway, as this audience watches and listens in awe to this strange song, they realise that she is creating her song and creating her own world in which she walks. Her world is her song, and she creates this world at the same time she experiences it. I don't really know how to explain it, or if I even totally get it, but it's something like that.
The narrator, then, wonders aloud why he and his companion leave the beautiful intrinsic world of the woman's song (when she stops singing) and enter into the chaotic order of the city: lights and boundaries everywhere.
The narrator/audience is struggling to interpret the meaning of this, the woman's song, her creation, the universe in general! And maybe he doesn't really figure it out completely. But that's the way it goes sometime, in literature as well! As it is the creator's and hers alone, the audience can never fully experience the art in the way the author does.
Meaning is subjective.

Finally we have the World. We have a world being created by an artist whilst an audience observes. This world is a song, and the song is this woman's entire world. This world is superior even to the song of the sea, and, though the entire poem describes it, is rather indescribable and abstract. The sea and the real world become insignificant next to this woman and her creation, which is probably the case for most authors/artists/etc. The created world is one of beauty incomparable to that of reality. And this world is both mysterious and enlightening.

I don't really know what else I should say. I remember Professor Sexson told us we could write 200 pages on this topic and still not address everything. Oh, and to spare everyone the pleasure of actually having to read a journal entry that long. So I guess that's it for now. Bye!


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