Permalink for this paragraph 1 After taking another look at Graff’s article, I realize that there were some main arguments I missed, or either dismissed as accepted knowledge. I would put them, roughly, as these two points: 1. In order to get a deeper level of meaning out of a text as a reader, the reader must personally engage with literature by finding textual applications to their own life…and 2. A text, from a readerly standpoint, does not necessarily in itself have meaning, because a reader brings themselves to the text and interprets literature based on their knowledge.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Concerning the first point, Graff talks of his initial distance from literature, and how “literature and history had no apparent application to [his] experience” (37). For me, Graff implies that because literature was not obviously relatable to his life, he disliked it, and found it confusing–perhaps it is too much of a stretch to say he found it unimportant, but he certainly did not find any practical use for literature in his life. Moreover, as his narrative develops, Graff acknowledges that once he realized that he could use his knowledge and the theories he learned to discuss literature, it took on greater importance because he became involved: literature applied to him and he could apply literature to his life. As he says, “Perhaps even mere literary-critical talk could give you a certain power in the real world. As the possibility dawned on me that reading and intellectual discussion might actually have something to do with my real life, I became less embarassed about using intellectual formulas” (39). The point being, by engaging with a text and recognizing that literature can have practical uses (it deals with real life!), Graff found new meaning in literature. It became important to him. (albeit, he stresses that literary-critical talk, and the awareness of these theories was the vehicle to this realization)
Permalink for this paragraph 1 Ok. Second point. I can see how readers would defend a novel and say “it teaches itself,” whether by the powerful message it provides, or the relatability, etc. However, a novel is like (idk) food. Sure, an apple has a distinct taste, or flavor, but a person must bite into it to taste that flavor. Similarly, a novel can have an innate meaning, but the reader must recognize it for that message to come to life. In this way, the text’s meaning depends on the reader. The point Graff is making, in relation, is that providing a student with critical theories and approaches to a text does not corrupt/change/diminish a text’s meaning(s) but, metaphorically, provides them with more flavors to taste–more potential meanings to discover.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Granted, if one theory is taught as the only theory instead of as the most plausible or realistic theory, then the text’s meaning is most definitely corrupted because that is all the reader will see. As Graff summarizes, “As readers we are necessarily concerned with both the questions posed by the text and the questions we bring to it from our own differing interests and cultural backgrounds” (42). In Graff’s vision, meaning comes through the harmony of the text and reader: the only key difference, is that we have the critical theories in our arsenal. Not to dictate what we see, but to guide us. The critical theories become part of our readerly knowledge we bring to a text, and not theories the text is spouting at us for us to see.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 And, hopefully, we will learn many of these theories for our arsenal, in this class.