Sunday, August 26, 2007

Renewed Reading

As I was finishing up a reading packet for class tomorrow, I found myself struck by the absolute beauty of some of the sentences. We had three short readings, one of which ("The Philosophy of Composition by Richard Atlick and/or John Fenstermaker) was about good academic writing, and the other two concerned themselves with the literary "Canon Wars".

All three pieces were marvelously written, and often funny--Atlick/Fenstermaker used his footnotes to make funny jokes with an important point about the use of footnotes. I kept laughing the further I got through the piece--I'm sure Lance and his parents would have thought I was silly for enjoying a scholarly article so much. (Just as he laughs at me for adoring The Elements of Style).

It was in the last piece, (Katha Pollitt--"Canon to the Right of Me") when I discovered that I was highlighting a sentence just because it was such a well-crafted bit of wordsmithing that I remembered why I'm in graduate school in the first place--to read lovely bits of writing (poetical, fictional, or scholarly) and to admire that beauty and attempt to be like them. Spending part of last semester with Jameson didn't help, since his writing lacks the grace and elegance of more reader-friendly writers.

I'm glad that I am being told to leave behind the purposefully obscure, horrible pieces of writing. Even if I have to study them, I can mock their terrible writing and strive to be an academic that can pride herself on the quality of her craft. I would like others to read what I write and feel that sheer enjoyment of the well-written sentence, as well as learn something interesting. Those academics who feel the need to be obtuse are idiots. No one will ever appreciate their prose style, and fewer will understand their perhaps brilliant points than if they had chosen to write like Terry Eagleton or Jerome McGann.

It does me good to be reminded every now and then that I'm not going into English to study and learn more about literature--I'm going into it because I love the written word, and I love the beauty and power of well-used words.

1 comment:

the secret knitter said...

I get the sense with a great deal of academic writing that the point is to make it as unintelligible as possible. They're writing for those in a closed scholastic circle. It's writing as showing off, not to generate thought and discussion with readers. In other words, it's worthless.