Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Passing by Nella Larsen

This was an interesting new read for me, for several reasons: I had never read (or even, alas, heard of) the author, and I've never seen race dealt with in quite the same way.

For those reasons, I was delighted that my American Modernism professor chose Passing as one of the readings for my class. ...Can I go on a mini-rant here? So many of my professors think it's very important to read the canonized literature, so they all assign the same exact stuff and an English major ends up reading the same texts over and over again. (And, I might add, we go over more or less the same interpretation every time.) And yes, I know you remember it better if you read it more times, but I think there's much more to be gained reading a text, say, ten years down the road than in reading it 4 months down the road. As great as these texts are, when we just read the same stuff, we only get one side of the story. I think it's better to see many different sides of the same story, so that even if we don't remember the individual texts themselves all that well, we remember the different perspectives (or, at the very least, we remember that there are many different perspectives). I think my American Modernism teacher is doing a great job of mixing up canonized literature ("dead white guys") with stuff that also shows another side of the story, the way Nella Larsen does in Passing

Friday, March 7, 2014

Literary periods, movements, and all sorts of other fun

I'm in the middle of a few reviews which I've had a tough time finishing, for some reason. So, I thought, why not do the meme over at the Classics Club (which I've been neglecting the past few months)?

What is your favorite "classic" literary period and why?
First, a little background on literary periods and movements in general. Some people have mentioned that they don't really know which authors belong to which periods, etc. I wouldn't call myself an expert on literary history, but I've been studying it for over 3 years, so I do know a thing or two about it.

One thing that seems to confuse people is the difference between literary periods and literary movements. So, in case you're wondering, here's my understanding of periods and movements: A period is simply a space in time, but it's often confined to a certain part of the world. So, anyone who wrote during that time period, in that particular place, was part of that period. A movement, on the other hand, is when a bunch of authors decided to write in a certain way at a certain time. So, not everyone in the country at the time is actually part of the movement.

Movements are kind of tricky, at least for me. Some people are very obviously part of a certain movement. For example, Dante Gabriel Rosetti was clearly a Pre-Raphaelite. No doubt about that. Emerson was obviously a Transcendentalist. But what about authors that didn't firmly identify with a particular movement? There are about a million and one authors that have been identified as "realists," it seems. "Modernism" is another sketchy one.