There were three words scribbled on the title page of my English paper, and after several long moments of collaborative deciphering I and several other members of my class were able to make out the following: "Too Plot Centric."
Too Plot Centric.
Now what exactly does that mean? I was clueless, and given that I had a few rather imposing projects to work on, and that the revision of this paper wouldn't really be due for several months, I didn't invest any additional emotional energy into it until a little while ago when the words "Too Plot Centric" popped into my head, and I thought "now what in god's name does he mean by that?
Then I connected the dots, and realized what exactly he meant by "Too Plot Centric." Only by looking at this from his perspective was I able to fully understand what he was looking for, and the more I consider it, the more driven I am to completely deny him the pleasure of receiving it, because he's looking for an analytical method that I don't exactly think should be applied to any of the humanities, epically literature.
For those of you unfamiliar with the school of literary thought known as New Criticism, it is a product of the modern paradigm that promotes examination of literature in terms of the techniques and devices used to deliver the point. It aims to create a objective look at literature by removing all, or as much context as possible from the analysis, and focusing analysis on small selection and more minute details of a text.
This is the school of criticism that the Collage Board features for the AP Literature and AP Literature/Composition tests, and it's also the school of criticism which has given us academically viable papers that propose such outlandish theories which seem to have little barring on the piece itself.
My complaint is that looking at a piece with an eye towards new criticism, robs the context and the soul of the literature, which may be convent for a text book, but isn't healthy for exposing people to literature. You can't even hope to examine literature without looking at the authors contextual perspective, for instance you can't look at Oscar Wilde's work without really considering his homosexuality and how that reacted with the culture of his day, and you can't read anything by Jean Anouilh without really considering how existentialism and the experience of living during the Nazi occupation of France affected his themes and messages (which I think makes his retelling of Antigone all the more interesting and ironic.) I think if you take this out, you lose something fundamental about the work. Additionally, I tend to be of the school that says that a writer's write so they their works can be considered as written, for this reason I'm wary of literature texts full of no complete works and lots of excerpts, as well as literary schools that pay attention to details at the expense of the big picture.
Too Plot Centric.
At least where I'm standing, people write fiction to make a point about humanity, or something the world, and they create (hopefully) compelling characters and situations that convey this message. Unfortunately characters and situations don't exists well in a vacuum and you need something, some element that binds everything together and gives the story meaning and purpose, an element that puts the characters and situations in terms that the reader can understand.
Something like, oh I don't know, plot?
So then pray tell, how can an essay examining literature be too plot centric?
The problem with the modern paradigm is that it tries to isolates things, and idealizes an objective point of view that doesn't really go very far in the underlying effort of academic studies which should be to create a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
Too plot centric?
You've got to be kidding me.