Wednesday, February 9, 1983

The last instance


I got up early in the afternoon for my American Lit. seminar, the one for which I'd read Eagleton. The seminar was heavy at times.

I want to study literature as a product of its age instead of as an end in itself. The way we read literature in school--ripping apart The Secret Agent to discover imagery, etc.--is really boring. I like to see things in their historical context, so I'm rethinking my opinion of Marxism. Maybe it's useful as a way to explain context. But the thing I don’t like is the explanation of the whole of human life in terms of economics. Perhaps I’m being too na├»ve (and also wrong) in thinking this though.

 Isn't it presumptuous to relate all the mystery, all the desperation, all the individual sparks of creativity that push some to write and some to paint to a coldly predetermined scientific scheme? If the ‘spark of creativity’ (some call it genius) is denied, why is it some people produce art while others who live under identical ideological conditions never do? There must be something else there, something in the individual's psychology that somehow reacts to external conditions so as to produce an ‘artist’. I don’t believe the key to human existence can be so easily known.

After my seminar I went down the library and spent five hours reading through Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads, taking notes, and then reading Emerson’s high-flown quasi-messianic descriptions of “The Poet” and “Nature.” I enjoyed Wordsworth better than Emerson. In between I happily browsed in the stacks. I  photocopied a couple of letters by Helen Vaughan from a volume of her collected correspondence, but for once I did all my work for tomorrow’s tutorial.

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