What have we learned from English 203?

          As the fall semester comes to a close, it is important to ask ourselves what we have learned in English 203 . The purpose of Reader and Text has been for students to understand the practice of literary criticism and the questions that practice engenders. I believe this goal has been met and that we have learned lessons that went beyond the description on the syllabus.
          Through our countless class meetings, Professor Schacht has stressed the importance of redefining the texts we read. By studying movies, songs, poems, and books, we have learned that texts can be written in endless forms . When readers understand that texts can include more than long novels, they have the power to view the world comprehensively. In relation to this lesson, our class has also learned to redefine the texts we have read. When our class took the time to deeply understand what authors wrote in literary pieces, we were able to develop a deeper comprehension of the evident themes and lessons they presented.

          Another skill that was instilled in us throughout the semester was the value of discussion. When our class conferred, I felt as though my understanding of the texts was broadened and reshaped. By developing ideas in our discussions, we were able to become aware of new information that strengthened our views. A majority of texts we looked at seem to have interpretations that are assumed to be correct. This class has stressed the importance of questioning these ideas and forming personal viewpoints that can be supported. Taking what others say and stating your personal thoughts was a topic that was discussed in relation to our assigned critical essays. While reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I developed the belief that what some readers consider madness within Wonderland is actually the characters presenting reasonable ideas to Alice through their own approaches. Ultimately, the advice and ideas the characters presented to Alice may be questioned, but they help her to navigate her way through Wonderland. By having the freedom to develop my own views about the book through the critical essay, I was able to gain a richer understanding of what the characters were truly saying. This class has taught me to develop and share my own opinions in relation to texts, similarly to how literary critics do. By thinking differently and viewing texts in unusual ways, new ideas have the power to develop and influence people’s perceptions. When this is done, readers are able to redefine texts and challenge the conventional ways of reading them.
          Throughout this semester, my previous understanding of identity has been challenged. While writing my second blog post, I was able to develop questions about identity based off of the works we have looked at. How might an individual be affected when others refuse to see them how they would like to be viewed? All too often, characters are mistreated and misunderstood by those around them. When this question is in the back of readers minds, they begin to understand shifts in identities and how this can affect the way a text is developed. By looking at a variety of texts and the identities of characters,  it becomes clear to see that the literal meaning of a piece’s words do not always define the author’s point.
          The importance of staying true to yourself is another aspect of identity that was brought up throughout this semester. While reading Resistance to Civil Government, Henry David Thoreau presented his beliefs that were not widely shared during his lifetime, but they helped to define his identity. How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also. I believe this passage perfectly represents Thoreau’s view of the government and slavery. It is my belief that his hatred of enslavement influenced his disapproval of the state. His opinion was not widely agreed on, but that did not stop him from expressing himself and questioning how one human could own another while the state permitted it.
          English 203 has completely transformed how I view texts. As Professor Schacht states in “Is it what it is?” on the blog, Text is an important word in that vocabulary, but there’s no simple, straightforward, universally accepted answer to the question, What is a text? This is a difficult question to answer, but I believe the best way to approach it is to comprehend what you have considered texts in the past. I used to believe that texts were mainly novels that taught people something or held some sort of importance. However, this course has made it clear that texts can be an array of things, such as movies or songs. These formats present text, but it is presented in a more fluid manner than most people are used to.  The importance of moving up one level of abstraction is a concept that has been implemented in our course. Through doing this, the reader is able to understand the meaning of the text that might not be evident at first glance.
          Going beyond to understand a text is a practice that can be done individually, but it can also be helpful when it is done with other people. When our class was broken into groups to discuss the text, I often was able to learn material about the texts that I never would have realized if I was not given the chance to discuss with others. For example, while reading Mrs. Dalloway, it was obvious that parties were one of the main priorities in Clarissa’s life. However, the reason was not obvious to me when I first read the text on my own. Once I discussed this topic with some of my classmates, it became clear that Clarissa likely planned parties to keep her mind off of other things going on in her life. Clarissa’s personality also became obvious once my classmates pointed out that she cared more about the fact that her party had been ruined than the fact that someone killed themselves. By moving up a level of abstraction to look deeper into the text and its components like literary critics often do, my classmates and I were able to understand the motives of the characters in the text that allowed the text to offer more than what was visible at first.
          This course has taught me how to approach English and several aspects of life with a different mindset. By learning how to talk, write, and discuss how a literary critic does, I have come to redefine my view of texts and how they can be presented. This class has taught me how to approach assigned texts by moving up a level of abstraction in order to further my understanding of what the author is stating in their text. Overall, I feel like I have developed several skills that will benefit me in other English classes and in my future career.

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