Controversies, Fall 1998

        English 211 students are enouraged to consider the study of literature as an ongoing conversation with readers of many eras.  Feel free to use these discussions from a previous year's public folder postings as starting places for papers, as ways to stimulate your thinking about the week's readings, and as ways to review for quizzes and exams.   I'm not above drawing upon them for quiz and exam construction, so why shouldn't you take avantage of them, too?  You also can use them as a starting point for your own public folder posting to continue the discussion.  Remember to include the URL of the controversy in the body of your posting.  It automatically becomes a hyperlink when you post it, and that will save you from having to provide all the context, yourself.

Controversy #1 (Fall 1998): "Who decides what is literature, how transgressive can humor be in art,  how can an author 'retract' a work of literature, and what does it mean for readers when s/he tries to do so?"   This discussion was based on Chaucer but contains obvious implications for all humorous or satiric literature.  Particpants: Kim Garbe, Emily Chapin, Jenna Pearson, Joe Kranak, and Arnie.

Controversy #2 (Fall 1998): "Myth and Belief as Social Construction Materials, and Literature as Their 'Delivery Vehicle, Part One"  Joe Kranak took on the prime religious directive of More's "King Utopus," and asked why a social engineer would insist that people not believe "that the soul perishes with the body."  Particpants: Joe Kranak, Keith Winkler, and Arnie.

Controversy #3 (Fall 1998): "Why Doesn't Faustus Repent?"   The odds are wildly against the good Doctor failing to notice that Lucifer and Mephistopholis are tricking him, but he doesn't back out of the deal.  Why not?  Theology, morality, psychology, dramaturgy?.  Particpants: Joe Kranak, and Arnie.

Controversy #4 (Fall 1998): "Drama Performed vs. Drama Read"   The reader of a play hears no actual sword strokes when Hal and Hotspur fight, sees no specific Faustus playing tricks on the Pope, and doesn't know whether Death is smiling or not in Everyman.   What difference does that make?  Particpants:  Joe Kranak, Chris Phillips, and Arnie.

Controversy #5 (Fall 1998): "Myth and Belief as Social Construction Materials, and Literature as Their 'Delivery Vehicle, Part Two"   This discussion took off from Milton's revision of Genesis, wound past Dante (which JM also was remodeling), and opened a great view of the previous discussion of Utopia for those with eyes to see it.  Particpants: Kelley Barrett, Tara Conrad, Keith Winkler, and Arnie.

Controversy #6 (Fall 1998): "What is Beauty?"   The big questions aren't just for Philosophy any more--this one involves Aphra Behn's narrator's comments on Oroonoko's appearance and her apparent expectations of her audience's response, as well as a nice link to the next controversy, which Heather started.  Participants: Christian Henderson and Heather Mull. 

Controversy #7 (Fall 1998): "Oroonoko and Beloved"   Moving forward from a reaction to Behn's treatment of the "royal slave" in Oroonoko, this exchange explores what link there might be to the horrible infanticides that mark both of these plots.   Participants: Heather Mull and Arnie.

Controversy #8 (Fall 1998): "The quality of Dryden"   Joe had to get in one last shot because of his frustration with Dryden's canonical status and (perhaps) my emphasis on the critical essays' importance.  Then, Amy caught on to one of my syllabus construction strategies that helped her explain why I had some authors grouped together (also called "teaching the conflicts," though that phrase usually is reserved for the secondary critical opinions that swirl around these primary sources).  Between them, Joe and Amy helped inform our closing discussions about why things wind up in the Norton Anthology and in the English 211 syllabus, as well as why things occasionally get tossed out, too.  If you're just starting this course, or nearing the end, and wondering how to hold it all together in your brain, these comments might make a good place to start.   Particpants: Joe Kranak, Amy Dill, and Arnie.