If you were an English major, as so many of us writers were and are, no doubt you spent more than your share of time pouring over Lit Journal articles for your papers. And no doubt you more than once stared at some critic's interpretation of something in a book and went, “Huh?” I mean, it is funny, right?
That cigar that Sally Seton smokes in Mrs. Dalloway is much more than a cigar. It's an appropriation of a male power symbol. What about those muddy drawers in The Sound and the Fury? Hawthorne's scarlet letter A? Or, as my friend Michael asserts, the lighthouse in To the Lighthouse is definitely phallic (no, I'm still not talking about the bloody lighthouse in my thesis, Michael!).
I could, of course, go on and on. Sometimes these things are illuminating. Sometimes they're mind-boggling. And sometimes they are downright amusing.
This article, found via Booksquare today, is a side-splitter for all you English majors out there.
In the latest issue of ELN, pride of place goes to an article by Jason Sellers entitled Dracula's Band of the Hand: Suppressed Male Onanism. “I argue,” Dr Sellers announces, “that the mediation of the unavailable lover and the subsequent urgent need for autosexual satisfaction is the sexual force that propels much of Dracula.
“I will explore both the physical and psychological autoerotic imagery with which the novel suppresses, in light of that taboo, the masturbatory endeavour pursued by Dracula's vampire-fighting crew of men – our, by way of physical allegory, manly Band of the Hand.”
The article gets even funnier after that, but I shan't spoil the fun by posting what he says about Sellers's theory. You'll have to go check it out for yourselves.
And speaking of academic blowhard stuff, my thesis bar down there keeps creeping upward. I passed the 10K word mark yesterday. I can't wait to be done with this thing! Goal for today is 4 pages, though I'll certainly take more if the muse is feeling inspired.
LOl… I am boggled. really. What will they think of next.
This makes me glad I’ve never taken a formal literature class. I’m soooo shallow. 🙂
I guess that’s the publish or perish thing at work, Cyn. This guy says, ‘hey, what if they were frustrated because it was a taboo to masturbate? Egads, a paper! I shall get tenure yet!’ 🙂
I have to admit to going on an EBSCO search for the article. It’s not available full text yet, but I got the citation and his list of references. He’s not the first, of course, to see sexual imagery in this novel. But he sure is getting the flack! Really, Band of the Hand? LOL!
LOL, Terry! The first time I took a lit class, having approached it from a writer’s point of view, I remember thinking: WTF!? I was pretty sure that I wasn’t thinking of symbology and subtexts when I wrote my stories. I also thought only *I* was allowed to say what my characters meant by a thing they said or did or didn’t do.
Newp. In literary criticism, we postulate what a character means by an action all the time, or how the urge to masturbate and social taboos not to do so create conflict and reflect social tensions. It took me a while to get used to that.
And then there are the approaches to a text: archetypal, feminist, Marxist, etc etc etc.
Makes you wonder who thought all this up in the first place.
Makes you wonder who thought all this up in the first place
Probably some one who couldn’t write fiction well. 🙂 LOL
Ha, I thought that too, Cyn! Especially when I first encountered Lit Crit. I think where it REALLY made sense to me though was in reading The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aenid. Then, I thought it made perfect sense to analyze the text that way. Maybe it was a distance thing.