Do you know the fastest way to get a monkey to sit on your back and start criticizing every idea, every word you put down on paper? Enroll in a literature course. Literary analysis is the most effective way I know for drying up the creative juices and terrifying the living bejeebies out of any creative germ that has ever had a desire to worm its way into your psyche.
Although I was always a voracious reader, I found no value in conducting autopsies and examining cadavers. Literature for me was always a living experience.
Literary academia seemed to start with the premise that we’re dealing with a corpse, something dead that had to be dissected and analyzed in order to find out—what? How it compared to another work? What great ideas could be extracted from it in order to expound on a related thesis? As a philosophy major, I was already up to my neck and over with intellectual exercises.
Deep down, I knew I was ready to write with a passion.
Clearly, one of the basic goals of education is to teach a person how to think: how to absorb, process, and use information. Therefore, I did have compassion for those students who had not yet been saturated by the pincer-and-pound process of giving professors something to grade and get paid for.
I also recognize and support the value of learning how to think, reflect, research and respond, so I don’t want to totally dismiss this factory approach to opening the mind. If these exercises have an afterlife beyond the degree-awarding ceremony, then they prove their worth.
Possibly it is this partial approach to learning that is the reason for its ineffectiveness when walked out the door of academia and applied to the real world of flesh-and-blood people and their problems.
What is obvious to anyone with a creative bent is the fact that a logical “left-brained” robotic method of education serves a full course of tools and techniques for objective analysis, but the meal is dry and tasteless because the chef failed to season it with emotions. And there’s the Catch-22: emotions are verboten in objective analysis because they are, well, subjective.
During those 4-10 or more years, we learn how to be objective, how to remove “the personal” from class discussions, papers and examinations. Any statement that begins with “I think,” or “I’ve personally experienced…” or “I feel…” is considered sissy or effeminate.
One has to remember that women students are relatively new to academia. Rules and regulations for the learning process are still rooted in the masculine. The scripts reads: women feel and have babies. Men think and hunt.
Objectivity has its place. When you’re lying on the operating table, would you like to have a surgeon standing over you who is reminiscing about last night’s dinner party, or about how surprised his wife will be next week when he drives home in her new (birthday present) Lexus? There’s a time and place for everything.
The time and place for feeling is when you wish to give or receive a more insightful, pleasurable experience. Write with a passion!
When I feel, I want to feel because I feel. I don’t want someone to ask me to prove it or talk about what made the author tick. Was it not enough that the author made me tick? Was it not more than enough that I plunged into the novel, article, poem or short story with such enthusiasm and zest, I couldn’t put it down… and found myself reading and re-reading it? Isn’t that enough proof that it’s a great work?