The Colossus Crawls West

The acquisition of knowledge is not progression from point A to point B. There in fact, is no point B. The Colossus crawls ever westward, overlapping its own footprints, making new impressions in the Earth.

All Hail Zoidberg, the King With the Box

zoidberg

“The practice of close reading is tacitly viewed by many literary scholars as the mark of their tribe- as what sets them apart, in the last instance, from their like-minded colleagues in sociology or history.” “Being enthralled by a film, by contrast, is associated with more homespun and vernacular forms of aesthetic response driven by the dream worlds of mass culture”

There’s an episode of Futurama where alternate versions of the characters are brought over from a parallel universe. Dr. Zoidberg and his other self take turns sitting on an overturned garbage can, worshipping one another as gods. When Rita Felski discusses Enthrallment as an aspect of literature, she presents the resistance to concept in a way that makes literary scholars seem a lot like they spend much of their time in an alley using a discarded cup as a crown. Close reading and analysis are seen not just as ways to look at and understand a text, but as a mark of elevation above their colleagues and above society as a whole. Hard-lined analysis is seen as caviar whereas losing oneself in enjoyment of literature is viewed as more akin to bologna or a can of vienna sausages. This distinction has the added effect of not only snubbing any links literature may have to subjects and culture beyond the confines of theory and analysis, but also of making literary scholars seem like cold, pompous asses who refuse to enjoy anything and look down on those who don’t do the same. The reason, I believe, that people, especially those in the field of literary study, feel embarrassed by the books they read is twofold. First off, these books may not be in the literary canon. They may be newer works, which are either ignored because they aren’t classics or because they’re best sellers and represent the bologna of mass culture. The second reason of course, is that although these books are not looked on as priceless jewels of literature, we feel embarrassed because we’ve enjoyed them. We feel the need to apologize for allowing human emotion to touch the pristine deity of literature because we’ve been trained to ignore and seek to transcend feelings of enjoyment in favor of mechanical analysis when the beauty of literature lies in its ability to be both cerebral and enchanting. Literature does not exist in or for one particular section of humanity but for the world at large.

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2 comments on “All Hail Zoidberg, the King With the Box

  1. genxtrekkie
    January 28, 2013

    First, I give you much respect for the Futurama reference! That made my day.

    As I read your post, I began to think about the catch-22 such intellectual snobbery puts us all in. I think literary scholars are frustrated because more people don’t “get it,” yet that very attitude of superiority alienates people out of *wanting* to get it. The unfortunate effect is it makes it harder to teach us than it has to be.

    I’m reminded of when I took LIT 201 (Intro to Sci-Fi) 20 years ago. I was stoked about the class until I got there and the instructor insulted everything I love (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.) and dismissed it as crap — the balogna sandwich you were talking about. I was already a less-than-motivated student, and after that I rarely attended his class. I ended up with a D- or something like that, which was incomprehensible to most people because I like “classic” sci-fi, too.

    I retook the class last year with Andre Peltier. Totally different attitude in that class. He was less interested in prescribing what “good” science fiction is and isn’t and more interested in what a particular story was trying to tell us. We read classics but we weren’t treated like mutants for relating what we’d read to a Star Trek episode or whatever.

    And who’s to say that even the balogna isn’t occasionally worth some “hard-lined analysis,” too?

    Lots of food for thought. Thank you for that!

  2. Andrea Kaston Tange
    February 5, 2013

    I especially like this point: We feel the need to apologize for allowing human emotion to touch the pristine deity of literature because we’ve been trained to ignore and seek to transcend feelings of enjoyment in favor of mechanical analysis when the beauty of literature lies in its ability to be both cerebral and enchanting. You raise a really important issue here when you talk about the disjunction between what academic study says we “ought” to think about when we read, and what lovers of texts actually think about when we read. You point would be stronger throughout, I think, if you avoided the passive voice in the first half: WHO defines close reading and analysis in the ways you mention? Not Felski, I think. But these are the ways she says that these concepts are traditionally defined by literary scholars?

    I also have to agree with Shanna, above, about the problems of snobbery and the ways in which we create an endless cycle that pushes people away from wanting to read more.

    Very thought-provoking.

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .
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