Monday, June 20, 2005

Apologia contra Doctrinaria

Regarding my lectures on Cranford, I should perhaps state directly my Instructorial sensibility on fiction in general. Very much a matter of aesthetic and temperamental character as opposed to a developed intellectual conviction, I consider didacticism in fiction to be a blight. The more a work of fiction propounds a dogmatic position, the less do I regard it as art.
In fiction, I look to find agonism; I delight in dialectic; I rejoice to experience subtlty, balance, open-endedness; diversity in fiction is a golden attribute. Fiction -- novel and short story -- is an entirely uncongenial mode for phillipic, invective, diatribe and polemic. Any putative fiction by
Ayn Rand is utterly unreadable for me: it is an aggregation of words; not art.
Thus, I amiably resist any attempt to reduce works that I consider great fiction into tools for the propagation of an ideology. Thus, when I say that I cannot pin Cranford down to any hard background, I am paying it my highest literary compliment. At the asme time, I recognise that this is merely my own bent, and I enjoy few things better than a vigourous exchange with some fellow scholar who affirms that a work which I find diverse is in fact a work designed to promote this or that dogma.

This sensibility of mine is companion to a broader feeling I have: to wit, that I deplore and am saddened by ideologues in life - academic life especially. When a colleague moves from a friendly explanation and advocacy of a personal system of belief or social ideology -- Marxism, say -- to grim-faced disapproval of and censoriousness toward non-agreement, my heart becomes heavy and, too often, the colleague turns face away from sweet converse.

At Simon Fraser, needless to say, exchanges are nearly always a source of joy and enlightenment. May it ever be so.

3 comments:

Maggie said...

I'm so glad you cannot pin down Cranford. Is Gaskell problemitizing not only gender, but also genre?
The novel has it's "in" jokes, appropriately enough if we think that the feminine is more inward looking than the masculine is. But the "in' is also class and culture. You, Dr. Ogden, have had to explain terms--for example "affected"--to us. And in Rob Roy, Scott explains the Highland dialect to us by restating a passage in the words of another character, or by other methods. What I'm getting at is: who is the "implied reader",not who is the market audience. In Cranford the implied reader must know the middle class decorum, conventions, codes. Some working class might not get all the "in" jokes. I think the novel would appeal to counter-middle class attitudes of that time. What I'm trying to say is that, for the writer, market is not the same as publisher/ retailer target audience. The text defines the "narrattee" by class, culture, etc. This may be splitting hairs, and I don't know what the idea does for our discussion, but somehow the ideas is niggling away at me. Is it that I see Cranford as appealing ("appealing to" in the sense of an appeal)to a counter culture, but I see Bridget Jones and Money as appealing to a certain culture?
One last idea, if I may. Because radio, TV, film were not yet available at the time of Cranford's "time", more people, proportionately,read novels than they do to-day, I suspect. Also, novels were read aloud in the family circle then, so any novel might have had an audience of men, women, and children.

Maggie said...

I'm so glad you cannot pin down Cranford. Is Gaskell problemitizing not only gender, but also genre?
The novel has it's "in" jokes, appropriately enough if we think that the feminine is more inward looking than the masculine is. But the "in' is also class and culture. You, Dr. Ogden, have had to explain terms--for example "affected"--to us. And in Rob Roy, Scott explains the Highland dialect to us by restating a passage in the words of another character, or by other methods. What I'm getting at is: who is the "implied reader",not who is the market audience. In Cranford the implied reader must know the middle class decorum, conventions, codes. Some working class might not get all the "in" jokes. I think the novel would appeal to counter-middle class attitudes of that time. What I'm trying to say is that, for the writer, market is not the same as publisher/ retailer target audience. The text defines the "narrattee" by class, culture, etc. This may be splitting hairs, and I don't know what the idea does for our discussion, but somehow the ideas is niggling away at me. Is it that I see Cranford as appealing ("appealing to" in the sense of an appeal)to a counter culture, but I see Bridget Jones and Money as appealing to a certain culture?
One last idea, if I may. Because radio, TV, film were not yet available at the time of Cranford's "time", more people, proportionately,read novels than they do to-day, I suspect. Also, novels were read aloud in the family circle then, so any novel might have had an audience of men, women, and children.

Anonymous said...

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