While working on my paper, I’ve been attempting to use the many typos in Zulus as an example of the novel resisting attempts to be analyzed with guidebooks or archives. Every time I type a sentence, however, I get caught up in wondering what the purpose could have been at all. I’ve assumed there’s some thematic meaning to the typos; in class, we brought up the possibility that they are purposeful results of Alice endlessly reliving the story. No matter how many great theories we think of, however, it’s likely that we will never know for sure what Percival Everett’s purpose was in writing in all of these typos. Continue reading “Uncertainty”


When reading Percival Everett’s Zulus, I couldn’t help but have my expectations shaped by other novels and ideas about dystopian environments that I have been exposed to. My perceptions of the rebels in the book, for instance, matched Alice Achitophel’s in that I assumed they were attempting to reform or simply destroy the government that runs the city Alice lives in. Continue reading “Misperceptions”

Endless Theories

In my last post, I expressed my surprise that by reading the fourth chapter of Interdisciplinarity, I was able to connect the books we are exploring in class to Marxist theory. A few days later, I found the entry “Marxist criticism” in The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms and must admit that I had missed something important in my last post – Marxist literary criticism has been pretty prevalent in the West since the 1940s (Murfin & Ray, 282). Had I known this, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to me at all when I was able to look at Cane and Meridian through the lens of Marxist criticism. Continue reading “Endless Theories”

Marxism and Our Class Assignments?

When we first started reading Jean Toomer’s Cane and Alice Walker’s Meridian, I probably would have laughed if someone had told me I would be, somewhere down the line, talking about them in the context of how they support Marxism. To be clear, I’m not going to refer to them as socialist works (for that’s quite an intuitive leap, although I’m sure it would be an interesting interpretation). Rather, I’m interested in how Interdisiciplinarity devotes a section to the theories of Marxism in respect to how literature, culture, and history all intersect. Continue reading “Marxism and Our Class Assignments?”

Pop Culture

In Interdisciplinarity, Joe Moran explains various viewpoints about the significance of pop culture in cultural studies, but what stood out to me was cultural critic John Frow’s explanation of “the commodification of high culture and the democratization of low culture” (Moran 69). Frow’s belief that both traditionally highbrow and lowbrow forms of literature have an impact on pop culture today challenges the stereotype of English majors as pretentious scholars who only place value on works they deem worthy of study. Continue reading “Pop Culture”

Literature’s Functions

In the second chapter of Moran’s Interdisciplinarity, “Literature into Culture,” it is said that “Literary works are also interesting ideologically precisely because they often fulfill several functions with coexist or conflict with each other” (59). Moran goes on to discuss these functions – works of literature are often published for a profit and/or with a specific message to deliver, but at the same time may be perceived by society in a multitude of contexts because it is hard to predict what significance and meaning a text will have to different people. This idea, of pieces of literature serving multiple functions at the same time, is one that relates to a few of the works I’ve read in this semester alone. Continue reading “Literature’s Functions”

Why an English Department?

The English discipline centers on literature, which is absolutely wonderful for those who enjoy reading, analyzing, and connecting books, but Interdisciplinarity refers to an argument against the need for such studies: Why does anyone need an English department when they can read literature on their own time? As stated by Moran, the problem with trying to legitimize the study of English is that “English…is generally accessible to those working outside the discipline in a way that, say, particle physics or differential equations are not” (19). On one hand, I find it hard to argue with this reasoning. Couldn’t an interested reader pick up any of the pieces of literature we’re studying in class this semester without having to go through the trouble of writing essays and worrying about grades? Why is this course necessary to my education? Continue reading “Why an English Department?”


I don’t think it’s any secret that one of the biggest challenges to English is its failure to put students on a specified career track. While students majoring in chemistry, for instance, know they are going to be chemists and are able to work towards this title, those majoring in English can choose a multitude of paths – educator, business(wo)man, writer, journalist, and so on. An argument against the study of English that Moran brings up in Interdisciplinarity is that “unlike many other disciplines, English does not make a strong connection between education and training for future careers” (18). While this reasoning Continue reading “Productivity”

Music and Interdisciplinarity

The fifth chapter of Joe Moran’s Interdisciplinarity brings together the sciences and humanities instead of discussing how these disciplines clash. Moran introduces the reader to scientists such as Richard Dawkins who believe “that all the cultural products of humanity, including literature, have a biological, genetic base” (161). In other words, science (in this context, biology in particular) is connected to the study of the humanities, and the disciplines do depend on each other to some degree. One of the most meaningful examples of this intersection of science and culture that I have experienced is the performance of music.

Yesterday, I spent over an hour practicing the marimba. I played the same lines over and Continue reading “Music and Interdisciplinarity”

A Defensive Stance

I have a friend who is fundamentally opposed to the very idea of anyone studying English (or any other “soft” discipline, as she would say). She is set staunchly against the mixing of disciplines; she will not read, despises papers, and considers anything that is not a hard science to be a waste of her time as an engineering student. Moran’s Interdisciplinarity debates the merits of a more holistic education; I feel as if people like my friend should at least think about these points.

Moran touches on the desire I feel to justify my interest in English to this friend with the statement “Most English students will be familiar with the ribbing by students in subjects such as law, engineering, and medicine…” (Moran 18). Although Moran only brushes on the topic and moves on to elaborate on the discipline’s controversial history, I was stuck on this and could only think about my friend’s attitude. I’ve heard it all from her – “You’re going to end up homeless” being my favorite – but each time it comes up I can’t help but remember all the papers she asked me to edit, or the literature I helped her analyze. As much as she likes to deny it, she needs English. She’ll always have e-mails to write, books to read for that one humanities elective, and people to impress. The world can’t be run solely by engineers. There needs to be some culture, some ability to thoughtfully develop an argument, and some willingness to consider the themes that literature contains.

Interdisciplinarity discusses the English major’s problem with earning respect for the discipline. I find it hard to understand why there are students who are willing to write off an entire area of study. I think we need a little bit of everything, whether we choose to specialize in it or not. I respect the laws of physics, the contributions an engineer makes to society, and the cultural understanding anthropology brings. All I ask is for my friend to withhold her judgment enough to let me explain why I want to study English – this discipline has its purpose too.

All in all, the biggest question Interdisciplinarity has brought to my mind is “…why am I friends with her anyway?”