I found the image above when I was doing a bit of obsessive-compulsive boning up for my forthcoming final (thank the god of philosophers) subject for my MA in Creative Writing, which starts tomorrow. It about sums up what I anticipate from the experience… incarceration in a dusty garret, with only the cobwebby thoughts of ancient eminences grises to keep me company.
I am intimidated just by the title – “Literary Theory“. Well not intimidated so much as resentful of being forced to spend the next 3 months or so entombed in the philosophy of literature when I’d much rather be writing. For some reason that eludes me, this subject is mandatory to qualify for my degree.
I have no qualms with being required to study theory as opposed to practice, as to become good at something, it’s good to have a mix of both. What I am peeved about (and here I trust no curious eye from the teaching staff at my esteemed soon to be alma mater will light upon this whinge, or I’ll get an automatic deduction of points before I even start), is that there is absolutely no alternative to this particular subject. If I’d wanted to study philosophy, I’d have made an appointment with a psychologist immediately, and I wouldn’t have signed on for Creative Writing. Don’t get me wrong. I love literature, and I’d have joyously thrown myself into 19th Century Literature, Gender & Genre, Australian Women Writers – or any number of other subjects on offer at the Faculty, but not on offer for this degree. No, I was informed, Literary Theory it must be and nothing less.
A brief perusal of the literature on the topic of “Bitterly Dreary” reveals a daunting sub-dictionary of buzz words and terminology, e.g. “hermeneutics”, “alienation from consciousness”, “generic integrity of discourse”, “post-structuralism”, and so on. As well, it includes a veritable roll-call of esteemed scholars, e.g. Descartes, Hegel, Foucault, Marx, Nietschke, Freud, Ricoeur, any one of whom is enough to send cold shivers of inadequacy down my spine.
Oh well, perhaps I protest too much. There’s no question that I’ll come out at the end of it more informed than I am now, even positively erudite on the subject. Somehow I doubt that questions of Bitterly Dreary are ones you can confidently toss into dinner party conversation however. At worst, I’ll suffer only a temporary alienation from consciousness, and the end is in sight.