Ashton’s Bridge to the Blog

For today’s class discussion, We talked about New Historical and Cultural Criticism. There are seven main points that we talked about in class, all which are self-explanatory (if they weren’t then the definitions helped to show that). The first main point that we talked about is how New Historicists see history as progressive. Traditionalist see history that everything is improving where New Historicists see that history can either be progressing or regressing.

The second point we covered was that viewing history is a Self-positioning act, or based in a viewpoint. History can never be objective, it is always subjective because the reader uses knowledge that they already have through their own cultural experience. The third main point is that power circulates through a society through exchanges, whether they be animate or inanimate. The fourth point is that there exists a master narrative, that is, a narrative told from a singular point of view that is universally accepted and thought to be accurate (upholds ideologies) and that it is a dynamic and unstable interplay among discourses.

The next two points really tie together. They are subjectivity/selfhood and text/context. These two groups of ideas are mutually constitutive, or they shape and are shaped by society. And the last point was cultural works; how do they function in a culture? What work is it doing? and mainly, who is consuming it?

After we discussed the definitions to all of these terms, we were given examples to see if we could tie New Historical and Cultural Criticism into the literary work. The first example was William Shakespeare’s My Mistress’s Eyes. Personally, I found that this example was challenging. Knowing some of the background to the actual poem, the time period and also to the writer helps when trying to critique from a historical and/or cultural stand point. The second example was easier; It was the recent Dilbert comic strip by Scott Adams. Critiquing a newer work, for me, took less effort because there were obvious difference in both of the works.

Some of the main questions I found myself asking were 1) Why is there such a difference in the cultural aspects from in the early 15th century til now? 2) Since there is such a difference in both, Why do the cultures accept these changes? Like sarcasm, and changes in women (flexibility for work, how much/ what they talk about. ect.), the stimuli that makes people tick (coffee, tea, smoking) 3) Since history is not linear or progressive, What has brought about these major changes in society? and 4) If history can regress, How far?

Karista’s Bridge to the Blog

Earlier in class today we had a long discussion of Deconstructive Criticism and what it entails. First and for most, Deconstructive Criticism is all about the text. It does not have to be a text in a novel, but in anything essentially…even Miley Cyrus who we brought up in class as a very “complicated” signifier. Anything in our world can be turned into text regardless of what it is. It was also mentioned that Deconstructive Criticism is post-structuralist, meaning that language seems to be a chain of signifiers and can be very unreliable. Going on with the whole idea that language is unstable and unreliable, this criticism strongly adheres to that fact that we as human beings are strongly shaped by our own ideologies in our world. An example that was talked about in class today, but also in the Tyson book, was the pioneers discovering the Grand Canyon. These people could not believe how deep it was and the river below, so they sent people down truly believing that they would return. Well not surprisingly to us (but surprising to them), they never returned. Another concept that needs to be mentioned is differance is a combination of deferral, which is that words are truly unreachable and have an almost fake meaning, and difference, which is that one word only has its meaning because of a relationship to another word. Going off of this idea, it brings me to the idea of binary oppositions which is two unstable opposites in which one side seems to be favored more. Lastly, and finally, I want to mention the logocentric idea. This is a Western philosophy that states that there is an ultimate truth no matter what. Well, my favorite part of this discussion is being able to say that is 100% nonsense in the eyes of a Deconstructionist.

Okay so yes there was a lot of ideas and definitions thrown out in class today that have to do with Deconstruction Criticism. But, before I start laying out all of my questions I first want to make clear that even though this theory seems to be very dark and ultimately negative about our world, it is my absolute favorite and I see no problem with it.

I might be a little biased because I really do like this theory, but I am in an introduction to logic class also this semester and I could not help but thinking of this class when we were discussing the logocentric idea. In logic it is said that A is A, and B is B. Well I completely disagree with that and so does Deconstructive Criticism. Am I the only one who thinks this? Let me drive my point home with an example. Lets say that A stands for French fries and B stands for chips. Well if you are in America A is not B, and if you are in England A is not B. This is because of their ideologies. But, my question is do you really think A is not B in this case? Because in America fries are fries, but in England chips are fries right? So, do you agree with me now that our culture is completely based on ideologies and not the actual meaning of a word?

Lastly, do you really believe that this theory is dark just because it states that nothing has originality? Can you think of something, anything, that you might call one word, but another culture calls it something different? If you can do that, then how can you say that our words do not come from our own experiences and beliefs?

Contradiction Between the Tyson Readings?

When I first started reading the Tyson essays, I thought that the different readings and interpretations of The Great Gatsby would contradict one another and become rather confusing. However, I feel as though the different forms of criticism are actually helping me to understand the depth of the text much better.

Nevertheless, it is a little bit difficult to see the same quotations used to try to prove rather contrasting points in neighboring chapters (an example of this would be New Criticism’s interpretation of the “valley of ashes” on pg. 151 as a portrayal of “the narrative tension between the corrupt world of the novel and its title character,” whereas, on pg. 72, Marxist Criticism interprets it as a “powerfully chilling image of the life led by those who do not have the socioeconomic resources of the Buchanans”).

Do you think that the differing critical reading strategies contradict or add to/build on one another in relation to your understanding of The Great Gatsby?

Possible Psychoanalytic Criticism of Gatsby

So I think that Tyson does a great job exploring the psychoanalytic criticism’s in Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, however after reading this whole chapter I am left wondering if perhaps there are some other elements there that are not discussed as to why Gatsby has such a strong devotion to Daisy?

I know that Tyson explains how he had an unfulfilling relationship with his parents, so much so that he kills them off in his made-up back-story, but what I would be curious to know is the specifics of Gatsby’s individual relationship with his mother? Does he feel abandonment by her, and therefore transfer these feelings to the first girl that pays him even the slightest attention? And thus the cycle would continue when he had to leave for the war, Daisy herself had to abandon him,perpetuating Daisy as a suitable lover and mother placeholder, and the longer that he fantasizes about this, the harder it becomes for the reality to break up this idea that he has been imagining for all these years? Or is it possible that Gatsby has an Oedipus fixation? Is that why he is so estranged from his parents? Because he was madly in love with his mother, and therefore competed with the father, and in the end lost and left home? I feel that whatever way this dream of Daisy was born from, it was not a healthy one, and therefore I feel that it somehow has some kind of psychoanalytic criticism that can help me deconstruct this novel and understand, but the elements in Tyson’s chapter do  not satisfy my curiosity.

Does anyone else have any of their own ideas or interpretations on this? Thanks

Madeleine’s Bridge to the Blog: Analyzing The Great Gatsby with New Criticism

In class today we discussed many of the beliefs that New Criticism holds and what is applied when a New Critic interprets a text. The main argument that New Criticism makes is that a work should be understood solely through its textual content and everything outside of that should be disregarded. This includes such things as authorial intention and personal response. The main attribute that New Critics look for in a work is whether or not it holds themes of “universal human significance”. In other words, does the work contain (or expose) timeless truths about the human condition?

So, through the eyes of a New Critic, what can be said about The Great Gatsby? Tyson makes the argument that the novel’s theme is “the inescapable longing of the human condition.” Each of the main characters in the novel, who represent different facets of society, are longing for something that can never be fulfilled. Daisy longs for her “beautiful white… girlhood,” untainted by society and age, in Louisville. Similarly, Nick reminisces about his childhood in the Midwest, a far cry from the corruption that he is now surrounded by. Gatsby longs for the Daisy he loved in his youth which coupled with his dream of a bright, successful future. Even Tom is mentioned “drift[ing] on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrevocable football game.”

The problem that I feel is highlighted by these characters’ desires is that they idealize the past and the future. Tyson gives the example of when Gatsby finally sees Daisy for the first time in years and finds that she still loves him, Nick states, “there must have been moments… when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault but because.. no amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”  The idea they have in their mind goes past the point that reality can follow, making it incapable for their reality to match their idea. This makes it so they are perpetually longing for something unattainable which leaves them with a jaded disaffectedness towards the world they live in.

Tyson compares this unfulfilled longing to the last line in the novel,

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

She explains that our own unfulfilled longing is the “current” against which we “beat on” in vain.

Do you agree with this assessment of the novel? Is it true to say that we all are pursuing our own green light in the distance? Thinking as a New Critic, what would you establish as the overall theme(s) in Gatsby? Or, what theme(s) in the novel do you feel fail to be universal or speak to the human condition and why?