sdkelso wrote:Literary criticism takes a body of observations (structure, diction, tone, etc.) and uses them to draw conclusions, much like science. These conclusions and the methods by which they are drawn are not based upon the subject's opinion, they are based upon whatever paradigm currently underlies the discipline, much like science (don't let the plurality of paradigms fool you, they are analogous to the different types of science [biology, chemistry, etc.]).
The underlined portion is the subjective part of your discipline.
Arbitrary rules are created based on a group of people whose only function in society is to make up rules about literature.
I find the same problem in my discipline (political science) as well. People accumulate PhD's, get teaching/reasearch jobs then have to 'justifiy' their discipline with the constant pressure to create something new. Then "BLAMO" (like a super hero) someone creates a paradigm for a new type of criticism. Then all the lit majors get to reevaluate the great works and look for "evidence". Its no different in my realm where someone (Rorty) says "I discovered postmodern bourgeois liberalism" and then people study their(his) work in their continual pursuit of 'education'.
I am not attacking criticism as I think its very interesting and allows the reader to digest texts in a new an interesting way.
(My wife is the QUEEN of dissecting Mad Men
and identifying how all the characters, scenes, and settings, in a particular episode contribute to an overarching theme)
But you must realize that its all subjective. The rules established to apply criticism, are completely made up. They may seem very logical and the rules seem to work... its not scientific. The scientific method is not applicable to criticism, because the rules are subjective and arbitrary. Spring = rebirth is a made up human concept and not testable, measureable, or falsifiable.
Language is a manmade concept that means whatever we want it to mean and more importantly has different meanings to different observers. Maybe in the authors subconsious a tree = freedom. And since you can never know what influenced the authors choices, its completely subjective to claim you do.
Read books, have fun, don't claim you know some universal truth about them that others don't.
(I actually do agree with your premise that great works are more enjoyable if your are educated in literature. Shakespear is basically inaccessable to the modern teenager(xkcd geniuses withstanding) without a guide)