Monday, March 4, 2013

It's Not Business, It's Personal

Nothing puts me to sleep faster than reading criticism written from the highly impersonal third-person perspective.  That, "As one reads this book, one finds..." makes me want to tear the essay to shreds.  The constant use of "one" or "the reader" is more distracting than any bias I might note by the writer using the personal "I."  That is one of the reasons I loved reading through some of the chapters in Writing About Literature in the Digital Age.  Not only did the writers use the personal "I" and easy, understandable prose, but they also addressed the very issue I mentioned above.  I especially enjoyed Ben Wagner's chapter about the need to make literary criticism more personal.  When he used a personal anecdote to demonstrate his point, not only was his point easier to understand, but I was also instantly more interested in what he had to say.  By making writing personal rather than business, we show that we care, and that makes a reader more interested than anything (as pointed out by Dr. Burton in chapter 2).

Just like the students whose pieces we read for today, we are undertaking a big task that may not receive much attention.  Or any attention.  But we have to set it apart in some way.  I think that reading through these chapters showed me that more than anything, we must make this personal.  We have to be personally invested in this because readers can tell when you are and that, in turn, makes them interested.  It's not all about the personal "I" writing either.  We should want to develop a personal relationship with our texts, like the Renaissance man was creating a personal relationship with books and (this is for you, Plough Boys) the Bible.  For me, I now want to really find a way to connect with each of my texts so that when I write about that text, readers will be able to tell that I am excited about what I am reading and writing.

It's not personal, it's business.
It's not business, it's personal.


  1. This is GREAT! Julie Anne, I think this is going to be the most important part of the ebook. It's pretty much one of the only things we have over Norton: we're real people! We actually have social lives, and consume entertainment, and breathe. I think I saw a post on robots, I'll probably read that next...

  2. Great points, and so let's do play up the personal. But how? Is it as simple as writing in the first person? Julie Anne mentioned the personalizing aspect of the plough boys theme -- a Bible in everyone's hands to read. And yet, from another angle, the Bible is an impersonal, authoritative text. What is highly personal about Reformation literature are those conversion narratives or journal entries or meditations. Does the focus on the personal suggest a different selection of texts to represent in the anthology? Just where in the Renaissance (besides what I've mentioned) do we see the engaging, personal interaction with text and ideas?

  3. The website is, to me, the pinnacle of literary criticism in the digital age. He read (as an example) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and blogged about each chapter as he went. He begins his literary journey skeptical of the series--nothing so popular could possibly be worth reading! While he makes valid critiques and references authoritative material, he ALSO falls in love with the book. We see him get excited about certain aspects of a chapter, or dive into the historical and philosophical sources upon which Rowling is drawing. His "reviews" enhance our own reading of the text--like any good literary critique should--while providing a deeply personal exploration of the text and its meaning to Mark.

  4. This is an interesting point that was even brought up in chapter three of the Writing About Literature in the Digital Age. The writer of that chapter wrote "By using our personal experiences and bias to inform our literary criticism, we make our work much more accessible...Our personal bias and experience serve as metaphorical 'on-ramps,' allowing our readers to better identify with our analysis." To apply it to our eBook, maybe by telling our experiences of how we arrived to our conclusions or the process it took to make the eBook (like we've discussed in class before) we can accomplish this connection.