Guide to Week 1: Thursday
To get a sense of what basic strategies of reading and interpretation we initially bring to the course, we will compare the reading and interpretive moves we make, and the doubts we express, in our reading protocols on Hemingway's "On the Quai at Smyrna." What rules were you following as you read, and how many of us shared those rules? Test your reasons for even the most simple rules (e.g., did you consider the collection's title as part of the story's meaning?; did you read the table of contents to see how the story fit into the collection?; did you read anything else to help you read the story?; do you have doubts about whether this is a legal "story" at all?). Are there rules you followed that you believe we also should follow but currently do not?
For an interesting philosophical attempt to define four basic rules for ordinary communication, see H.P. Grice's "Maxims" (AKA, "the cooperative principle"). Your academic prose succeeds more often as it follows Grice's four maxims. Artistic language might be identifiable precisely because it violates Grice's maxims.
Hemingway's short story posed severe challenges for readers of In Our Time because of its relative lack of interpretive context. The strain of making meaning without much interpretive context tends to force our theoretical assumptions to the surface, because they cry out for what they lack. Remember that theory governs our interpretation of everything we read, including ordinary reality, but we often are not aware of theory's operations until "ordinary" or "normal" no longer apply. What interpretative methods do we agree are important/legal and which are dangerous/illegal when interpreting literature. How can theory guide our attempts to read really strange objects, including objects that are not even "literature"?
Web Pages--Things we did while reading Hemingway--2013. Assignment for next week: Plato, Aristotle, and Horace, the most commonplace contexts of criticism before the Twentieth Century.