Part Two: Interdisciplinarity

Joe Moran can summarize what I argued in the Part One of this two-part blog post in various chapters from Interdisciplinarity. In Part One, I took what was one idea given to me by Doctor McCoy from our November 3rd class regarding A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin and then used crosschecking and secondary sources to learn more. This led me to the self-discovery that A Song of Ice and Fire draws from history, books published before A Song of Ice and Fire was published, mythology, and anthropology. I wasn’t impressed, at first, that my favorite series could so clearly be compared to these topics. But Interdisciplinarity helped me sort out what to do with all this newfound information. Moran explains not only are authors “engaged in a kind of psychic struggle with the great authors of past generations” (105), but that these authors also draw on other experiences from subjects such as anthropology and mythology to accurately portray what they are writing about. As for acting as a reader, Moran explains that I was just trying to consolidate A Song of Ice and Fire’s own “separateness and uniqueness” (Moran 103) from history. Continue reading “Part Two: Interdisciplinarity”

Part One: Crosschecking and Secondary Sources

In class on November 3rd, Doctor McCoy raised the point that one of the seven new gods, the Stranger, from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin is not a novel idea that Martin came up with alone. Rather, the idea that there is a supernatural being that represents death is an idea that has occurred many times in literature. While Doctor McCoy related this to the books we read in class I sat there, baffled at what to me was a mind-boggling concept. There was one of my favorite book series, the very basis of my favorite television show, under the radar for what felt to me was a claim of being unoriginal. I can’t even begin to explain how much this new idea got to me. All those times I had talked about the originality and creativity of A Song of Ice and Fire flashed in my mind.  Continue reading “Part One: Crosschecking and Secondary Sources”

Literary Merit: Zulus and the Handmaid’s Tale

All throughout high school, I used to wonder how a book was chosen as part of a curriculum. My high school stressed Shakespeare, which is why over the past four years I have read seven Shakespeare plays (and counting). How did my school come to emphasize Shakespeare while my friend’s high school, a specialized public school only half an hour away from mine, made their students read Romeo and Juliet exclusively? That is a question I have yet to answer. Some of the books I studied in a high school classroom setting, however, were chosen for obvious reasons. My high school assigned every freshman to read Safe at Second by Scott Johnson, solely because the author was an English teacher at the school. I’d be shocked to find another SUNY Geneseo student who has read Safe at Second outside of pleasure reading. For the most part, though, the books I studied matched up with other schools. This is why I questioned how these anomaly books were chosen. Even then I didn’t question why. Continue reading “Literary Merit: Zulus and the Handmaid’s Tale”

The Psychic Struggle of Authors

It is no secret that pieces of literature can contain pieces of history. Many times authors will insert allusions that help to set the locale of their book without explicitly stating the setting. But literature doesn’t just interact with historical events; it also interacts with historical figures, particularly past writers. Continue reading “The Psychic Struggle of Authors”

Cultural Relativism in Literature

Stuart Hall once said, “A culture includes the ‘maps of meaning’ which make things intelligible to its members… but it is also the way those shapes are experienced, understood and interpreted” (Moran 56). In making this comment, Hall points out that only members of a certain culture can have a shared value system, because culture is learned; it is not in one’s nature to adapt to French culture if they have French parents but lived their entire life in America. Through the members’ shared value system, they interpret the world from their personal beliefs that can sometimes differ from another group’s. Hall’s theory of culture is extremely useful because it boils down to cultural relativism, or the idea that all cultures are of equal value and can only be understood within their own cultural context. An example of cultural relativism would be the varying interpretations of tattoos. As found by the Pew Research Center, Tattoo Finder, and Vanishing Tattoo on December 11th, 2013, the total percentage of people with tattoos who say their tattoo makes them feel rebellious is 29%; feeling sexy because of a tattoo goes up to 31%, while only a meager 5% say that their tattoo makes them feel more intelligent. While rebellion and sexuality are associated with tattoos for some, outside of the United States tattooing is a sign of maturity or a rite of passage, where a child moves onto adulthood. In Greenland, it is a sign of status to have a tattoo, particularly for women. This proves that the symbolism behind a tattoo isn’t universal.  Continue reading “Cultural Relativism in Literature”

A Grain of Salt

In “Literature into Culture” by Joe Moran, Richard Hoggart’s perspective is raised for his attempt of a “new field of contemporary cultural studies… the historical-philosophical; the sociological; and the literary-critical, the later being ‘the most important’” (Moran 50). Hoggart’s project endeavored to stop the separation in Britain between high culture and “real life”, he himself a scholarship boy from a very poor home in Leeds who always had to see the Americanized mass culture of tabloid newspapers and more, according to “Richard Hoggart- Obituary” on the Telegraph. Though Hoggart urged the literary-critical for Britain in 1982, it can be applied to any day and place. Hoggart believed literary criticism, or “the evaluation, analysis, description, or interpretation of literary works” (“Literary Criticism”), was the most important because people have to be analytical. It is imperative that people keep an eye out for exaggeration. Without any disparaging judgment, people would walk around naïve and blind, all like Oedipus only they have seen too little of the world. Without the literary-critical aspect of cultural studies, the world would believe that the life portrayed glossy and perfect on magazines is the life everyone should live. Continue reading “A Grain of Salt”