Literary Criticism


Since today was officially declared a snow day about 10 minutes ago for me, and I’m already up, here’s a rant for you on movies and books. (WARNING: SPOILER ALERT)

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A very interesting primer on the use of language is British author and critic George Orwell’s (of Animal Farm and 1984 fame) essay “Politics and the English Language.” In it, Orwell does what he does best – he criticizes those who use language in ways that cause it to sound dull, stale, and unclear, creating bad language habits. (I often wonder if that won’t be a problem as a teacher of English: bad language habits that die hard, as the proverb goes.) He also, in the good spirit of his most famous works, links politics and language (as one might guess from the title).

I recommend reading the essay in its entirety, but here are some dislocated thoughts of mine:
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I had a very interesting idea – one that I would like to see through – for an educational tool for teachers and students of literature, possibly even extending beyond the normal literary canon to historical or sociological works. Hopefully someone will give me some feedback on how useful this sounds.

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I recently finished Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina (the 2001 translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, which is masterful), which was one of the most interesting books I’ve read for a couple of reasons: 1) It took me several months to read entirely because I started reading in the summer when I had the time to devote to it (all 864 pages), and school interrupted the process, forcing me to wait roughly 7 months before I could finish the last of it; and 2) the book itself is fascinating, albeit tragic and almost perplexing at parts.

I’ll try not to spoil the book for anyone who’s interested, and certainly the book itself is an incredible read, jumping through so many spheres of life in the late 19th century that it’s almost mind-boggling. You get a view of the aristocracy in Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as rural life in Russia and life abroad in Europe. You see life through the elite, through the very poor, and through the fallen (I think this of Nikolai Levin’s portrayal especially).

But I have to say, I was disappointed with the ending.

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