Bruno Latour

Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern


In “Has Critique Run Out of Steam,” Bruno Latour expresses his dissatisfaction with the critique. The basis of his argument is centered around the notion that the analytical tools utilized by critics have, in a sense, been recuperated by the mainstream-fringe, particularly in their denial of climate change and through 9/11 conspiracy theories. Latour’s critique of critique traces its argument through the idea that critique has moved away from its empirical foundation, and has, essentially, become concerned with displacement and abstraction. Latour spends a considerable amount of the essay devoted to alternatives to the established critical methods by investigating matters of concern and matters of fact.

Key Terms

    • Instant Revisionism
    • Science Studies
    • Matters of Concern
    • Matters of Fact
    • Critical Barbarity

Instant Revisionism is a term Latour uses to refer to the way in which an event (in his example, 9/11) seemingly occurs only moments before interpretations of the event spring up. For Latour, it is this conspiratorial revision that is a byproduct of critical theory.

Critical Barbarity, for Latour, is a form of vulgar critical inquiry. Latour illustrates the cyclical and formulaic structure of the arguments that these “critical barbarians” employ.

Matters of Concern for Latour

Passage Paraphrase

”We explain the objects we don’t approve of by treating them as fetishes; we account for behaviors we don’t like by discipline whose makeup we don’t examine; and we concentrate our passionate interest on only those things that are for us worthwhile matters of concern.”

    • Modern criticism, through its trivialization and berating of things it does not approve of amounts to elitism.

Discussion Questions

  • Is it true that criticism has run out of steam? Having read Latour’s argument, what are we to make of criticism in the way that it is currently practiced? And is it the case that it has in some way birthed instant revisionism and conspiracy theories?
  • What other alternatives to the established critical approach can you think of?



Diane Coole and Samantha Frost

Introducing the New Materialisms


  • In the introduction to an anthology on New Materialism, Coole and Frost suggest that philosophical thought has been dominated by a host of ideas that center on immateriality and abstractions. They argue that by focusing on the immaterial (language, imagination, etc), philosophers have ignored a substantial part of reality, that is, the physical world. For Coole and Frost, advancements in various fields of sciences have given rise to a new school of thought centered on the material.

Key Terms

      • New Materialism
      • Cultural Turn
      • New Vitalism
      • Complexity Theory
      • Constructivism

The Cultural Turn, according to Coole and Frost, was a philosophical turn towards a concentration in the cultural, particularly the abstract and immaterial, which were then perceived as superior to the physical and material. It is this cultural turn that New Materialists seek to undermine and disrupt.

Complexity Theory is a theory that examines patterns of complex organization. The theory emphasizes the malleability and instability of the material world.


Passage Paraphrase

”Bringing biopolitics, critical geopolitics, and political economy together with genealogies and phenomenologies of everyday life is an especially fertile development in critical materialist analysis. With this eclectic combination of approaches, scholars pay attention to the production and consumption of goods, to the uneven effects of globalization on differently located citizens, to the management, distribution, and legitimization of unequal life chances, and to the operation of power at state and quotidian levels.”

    • The eclectic approaches that New Materialism takes allows for an analysis wider than any one discipline. It examines broader contexts and their relation to and effects on people and individuals.

Discussion Questions

    • While a philosophical school of thought that decenters the liberal human subject, how can New Materialism adequately be applied to literary studies, especially when the novel itself is, generally speaking, distinctly centered, through form and content, on the human subject?
    • In what ways does New Materialism challenge the majority of theory that we have learned throughout the term? In what ways does New Materialism seem more productive than traditional critical theory? In what ways does it seem to be less productive?




Franco Moretti

Graphs, Maps, Trees


In the chapter “Abstract Models for Literary History” from Graphs, Maps, Trees, Franco Moretti explores an interpretation and way of looking at literature that shifts away from close-reading. Moretti emphasizes the use of quantitative history in his exploration of literature. Throughout the chapter, he offers numerous examples of how to view and interpret a large body of texts.


Key Terms

Quantitative Approach to Literature

The Three Time Frames

The Cycles of the British Novel (89)

The Old Historical Paradigm

The Fall of the Novel.


The Quantitative Approach to Literature is Moretti’s method of analyzing literature in its wider published context. Far from standard close-reading, Moretti’s approach is based within looking at literary big data and situating it within its cultural and historical context.

The Cycles of the British Novel, according to Moretti, fluctuates between male writers and female writers. This serves as representation of a temporary structure within the historical flow of the three time frames.

The Fall of the Novel in Japanese literature is an example of how data visualization can offer a different perspective on literature. For Moretti, the multiple falls of the Japanese novel, as represented in his graph, are intimately tied to politics and censorship, which is an idea he extends to the falls of the novel in other nations.


Passage Paraphrase

“… this is what emerges at the level of the cycle… no victory is ever definitive, neither men nor women writers ‘occupy’ the British novel once and for all… the form keeps oscillating back and forth between the two groups… what is happening is the oscillation, which allows the novel to use a double pool of talents and of forms, thereby boosting its productivity, and giving it an edge over its many competitors.”

      • What the oscillations of the cycle accomplishes is not victory of one group of writers over another, but rather it is the contributions they make to the novel as a whole in the literary market.


Discussion Questions

      • How does Moratti’s analysis of literature affect the way we think of literature as a whole? Are we to abandon close-reading in favor of this new data-driven approach? Or is there a way to incorporate and utilize both forms of analyses?

Eve Sedgwick


In “The Beast in the Closet,” Eve Sedgwick offers a lengthy queer reading of Henry James. Her argument is centered around the manifestations of compulsory heteronormativity and homosexual panic within the James’ “The Beast in the Jungle.”

Key Terms

      • Compulsory Heterosexuality
      • Homosexual Panic
      • The Gothic Genre
      • The Bachelor
      • The Unspeakable/The Unknowable

Compulsory Heterosexuality is a term Sedgwick uses to describe the social construct of male identity within the Victorian era.

Homosexual Panic, according to Sedgwick, is the psychological anguish incited in an individual when attempting to navigate within a society that prohibits homosexual behavior

The Unspeakable/The Unknowable points to the idea of homosexuality within the Victorian era as something unutterable and indefinable. As Sedgwick argues, this term’s very use is a contradiction.

Passage Paraphrase


Discussion Questions


      • How, if at all, has the representation of the Victorian “Bachelor,” as described by Sedgwick, permeated modern Western culture?



      • Do you, as an individual, feel a compulsive urge to conform to a particular sexual identity, and if so, do you believe it to be culturally constructed?


Judith Halberstam


In ”Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies,” Judith Halberstam describes alternative conceptions of time and space as it applies to queer theory. The ultimate aim of this work is to disrupt claims of universality that are predicated on heteronormative postmodern assumptions. In her analysis, Halberstam tackles what she perceives as the lack of sexual politics within postmodern Marxists, and offers alternatives and solutions simultaneously while presenting issues of corporate commodification of queer identity.

Key Terms

      • Queer Time
      • Family Time
      • Queer
      • Queer Space
      • Postmodern Marxist Geography

Queer in Halberstam’s terms, refers to “nonnormative logics of organizations of community, sexual identity, embodiment, and activity in space and time.” Thus, for Halberstam, Queer is a wide-ranging term.

Queer Time is a concept of time that is constructed – as indeed all concepts of time are constructed – outside of conventional heteronormative time. Queer time, for Halberstam, disrupts the universality narrative of conventional time.

Postmodern Marxist Geography is a term used to describe a pantheon of thinkers that include Edward Soja, Frederic Jameson, and David Harvey. Halberstam grounds her argument against the backdrop of postmodern Marxist geographer, who, she asserts, neglect to focus on sexual identity politics within their marxist narratives.

Passage Paraphrase

”…Delany redefines class struggle for a postmodern politics. He argues that class war works silently against the social practices through which interclass contact can take place. In other words, what we understand in this day and age as ‘class war’ is not simply owners exploiting labor or labor rebelling against managers but a struggle between those who value interclass contact and work hard to maintain those arenas in which it can occur, and those who fear it and work to create sterile spaces free of class mixing

      • In postmodern politics, class war is no longer between the bourgeois and the proletariat, it is between those in favor of class mixing and those against it.

Discussion Questions

    • Halberstam asserts, contrary to David Harvey, that some Queer individuals live “outside of reproduction and familial time, as well as on the edges of logic and capital production… Here we could consider ravers, club kids, HIV-positive bare backers, rent boys, sex workers, homeless people, drug dealers, and the unemployed.”While she describes the aforementioned as individuals outside of Harvey’s postmodern Marxist conception of the world, what do we make with the idea that the vast majority of the aforementioned can easily be incorporated within Marxist narratives? To put it another way, is this academic disagree between Halberstam and Harvey relevant when it seems as though, given an aspect change, they are in a lot of ways arguing the same thing?

      Judith Butler


      In the chapter “Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire” in Gender Trouble , Judith Butler explores the concept of gender identity and its relationship to language, specifically how the latter

      Key Terms

      • Genealogy
      • The Compulsory Order
      • Phallogocentrism
      • The Humanist Subject
      • Heteronormativity
      • Passage Paraphrase

        ”…gender is not to culture as sex is to nature; gender is also the discursive/cultural means by which ‘sexed nature’ or ‘a natural sex’ is produced and established as ‘pre discursive,’ prior to culture, a politically neutral surface on which culture acts.”

        Gender is used as a means to perpetuate the idea of the separation of sexes.

      • Discussion Questions

        ”What other foundational categories of identity – the binary of sex, gender, and the body – can be shown as productions that create the effect of the natural, the original, and the inevitable?

      • Butler poses an interesting question here – what assumptions and notions do we have about identity that can be exposed as cultural productions?
      • ”…the subjects regulated by such structures are, by virtue of being subjected to them, formed, defined, and reproduced in accordance with the requirements of those structure.””Feminist critique ought also to understand how the category of ‘women,’ the subject of feminism, is produced and restrained by the very structures of power through which emancipation is sought.”
      • In paraphrasing Foucault, Butler argues that many Feminists’ critiques rests on an assumption of women that is fundamentally restrained, which ultimately undermines their critiques and goals. This argument, however, can be applied to virtually any issue. How, then, can one emancipate themselves from an oppressive system when the only framework in which one can work is dominated by the discourse and governing rules of the oppressor? How can one perceive themselves as being outside of a system, when it is the system that allows for that perception?
      • “Said"

        Edward W. Said



        In the first chapter from Orientalism, Edward Said establishes the titular concept within the paradigm of Western hegemony and domination over “the East.” Said discusses the politicized nature surrounding Orientalism as a field of study, it’s cultural reflection of the West, as well as his reasons for embarking on a such a critical investigation

        Key Terms

        • Discourse
        • Gramsci
        • Hegemony
        • Distinction between Pure and Political Reality
        • Strategic Location/Strategic Formation

        Antonio Gramsci is an Italian Marxist thinker and politician whose works and theories are employed by Said through the first chapter of Orientalism.

        Hegemony, in terms of the way it is used by Said, is adopted from Gramsci’s idea of cultural hegemony, that is, the forces and institutions in civil society that are enforced through consent. Said notes that civil society within an imperial power serves to perpetuates the dominating forces of the political society, and how cultural hegemony in the in this regard works in relation to orientalist.

        The distinction between pure and political reality is, to Said, an ambitious if not noble they. However, he argues that it is nearly impossible to divorce the apolitical scholar from the circumstances surrounding their life. The focal point of acknowledging this (lack of) distinction rests on the idea that despite Western scholars’ attempt to remain impartial when studying the East, it is nearly unattainable to extricate the subject’s one cultural hegemonic assumptions from the study of their object.

        Passage Paragraph

        “Thus all of Orientalism stands forth and away from the Orient: that Orientalism makes sense at all depends more on the West than on the Orient, and this sense is directly indebted to various Western techniques of representation that make the Orient visible, clear, “there” in discourse about it. And these representations rely upon institutions, traditions, conventions, agreed-upon codes of understanding for their effects, not upon a distant and amorphous Orient (21/22)”

        • All representations of the Orient in the West are directly influenced by the culture of the West and not the object to which they are attempting to represent.


        Discussion Questions

        • While Said’s Orientalism encompasses virtually everything to the East of Europe, how applicable is the concept to the studies, representations and interpretations of peoples and cultures of the global south?
        • A much larger and perhaps more existential question, if, as residents of an imperialist/neocolonial power, how are we to express ourselves in a way that is sincere, sensitive, and authentic when we may have internalized imperialist discourse through compulsory consent of cultural hegemony?












        Simone de Beauvoir

        Myth and Reality


        In the chapter, “Myth and Reality,” Simone de Beauvoir investigates the idea of the prevailing contradictory “myth” that is ascribed to women in Western (particularly middle-class) societies. Beauvoir’s investigation then paves way to a critique of the prejudicial nature of such myths.

        Key Term

        • Feminine Mystery
        • Myth of Woman
        • The Other
        • Myth as Product of Socio-economic status
        • Contradictory Myths

        Contradictory Myths (or Incompatible Myths) is used throughout the piece to bring light to the various cultural generalizations of women which are fundamentally in opposition to each other. As Beauvoir points out, woman is depicted as “the Praying Mantis… the Demon… [but] also The Muse, the Goddess Mother…” (1408).

        Feminine Mystery is a concept Beauvoir introduces to refer to anything about a woman that a man does not understand is lumped into “inexplicable,” that is a “mystery.” That is to say, if it is beyond the scope of understanding of the subject (man), then it is fundamentally a “‘mystery’ outside himself” (1409). The myth of the feminine mystery thus serves to strip women of agency in locating them within the absolute point-of-view of men.

        Myth as Product of Socio-Economic Status is explored throughout the work (though not explicitly mentioned in the aforementioned terms).  Beauvoir argues that myths (as well as the “mystery”) are perpetuated depending on “…the position of economic and social privilege,” as well as being born out of a “luxury” that arises when “man escapes from the urgent demands of his needs…” (1411, 1412). To put it another way, “myths,” Beauvoir argues, are in someways dependent on socio-economic prosperity

        Passage Paragraph

        “It is noteworthy that the feminine comrade, colleague, and associate are without mystery; on the other hand, if the vassal is male, if, in the eyes of a man or a woman who is older or richer, a young fellow, for example, plays the role of inessential object, then he too becomes shrouded in mystery. And this uncovers for us a substructure under the feminine mystery which is economic in nature” (1410).

        • Given particular circumstances, a man can be a vassal through the eyes of an individual who is richer or older, thus also possessing, to a degree, a “mystery,” which suggests an underlying economic nature.

        Discussion Questions

        Beauvoir seems to adopt a sort of Marxist determinist view in regards to the perpetuation of the myth of woman and capitalism  (that is, the former is born out of the class division created by the latter), simultaneously while she lauds relations between working class men and women as more authentic due to being more “concretely lived” and “less idealized” (1412). However, can it be the case that the perpetuation of myths is not dependent on socio-economic class? Can the myths materialize just as strongly in the lives of general laborers/lower-class/blue-collar workers?

        How does the “feminine mystery,” as well as other myths of woman materialize within Oscar Wao, particularly, how do they factor into Oscar’s idea and perception of women, or, for that matter, Yunior’s as well? If indeed the myths materialize within the narration of the novel, how much, if at all, do they depend on the economic class of the characters?




        Lisa Lowe

        Work, Immigration, Gender: New Subjects of Cultural Politics


        In “Work, Immigration, Gender: New Subjects of Cultural Politics,” Lisa Lowe shows the interconnectedness between gendered and racialized marginalized groups within the nexus of various sites of exploitation and oppression in neoliberal global capitalism. Lowe presents an interdisciplinary response to transnational capitalism wherein a new social culture formation is born out of the contradictions inherent in oppressive systems.

        Key Terms

        • Transnationalism
          • Transnational Capitalism
          • Transnational Labor
        • Radicalized feminization of labor
        • Contradiction
        • Neocolonialism
        • Cultural Formation

        Contradiction is a term used to describe the antagonistic forces that a particular system produces through its perpetuation of itself. Lowe argues that three contradictions (Labor, race, gender) are found within the treatment of Asian migrant women.

        Cultural Formation, or Social Formation is a term used by structuralist Marxists to refer to a more material idea of society. In terms of the essay, Lowe interrogates both dominating forms cultural formation as well as bourgeoning ones produced by marginalized groups

        Transnational Capitalism is a term used throughout the essay to refer to the modern modes of capitalist production. Lowe examines Asian migrant women within the narrative of transnational capitalism.

        Discussion Questions

        How does the individual experience of a writer contribute to the collective experience of postcolonial/migrant literature?

        Lowe draws similarities between migrant workers in the U.S. and workers in other nations: “…Immigrant women working in the garment industries of Los Angeles are virtually part of the same labor force as those employed in Asia or Latin America” (39). What does such an assertion mean for the idea of the nation-state? Does such a labor force fundamentally undermine traditional notions of the nation-state, and if so, does the transcendental nature of these cultural/labor conditions of these workers also translate into other socio-economic spheres – or, to put it another way, are the borders between nations and peoples more rigid and less malleable for people of a higher socio-economic status?




        Raymond Williams

        Marxism and Literature



        In the chapter, “Cultural Theory,” from Marxism and Literature, Williams aims to uproot orthodox Marxist doctrine of which, he argues throughout has become too rigid and bogged down in its own dogmatic approach. Williams accomplishes this through examining, among other other things, the Base/Superstructure relation, Determinism, Productive Forces, and Mediation

        Key Terms

        Superstructure is, in Marxist theory, the cultural productions resulting from and determined by the material base. Williams devotes a portion of the chapter to exploring the malleability of both the base and the superstructure

        The Base includes the means and relations of production, which subsequently influences and produces the superstructure. The Base can be seen as the foundation of which a capitalist society rests on. Like the Superstructure, Williams explores the Base in some depth.

        Determinism is explored in a portion of the same chapter as well. Williams focuses his attention on what he considers to be two different definitions of Determinism: Abstract and Inherent.

        Passage Paraphrase

        “The strongest single reason for the development of abstract determinism is the historical experience of large-scale capitalist economy, in which many more people than Marxists concluded that control of the process was beyond them, that it was at least in practice external to their wills and desires, and that it had therefore to be seen as governed by its own ‘laws’. Thus, with bitter irony, a critical and revolutionary doctrine was changed, not only in practice but at this level of principle, into the very forms of passivity and reification against which an alternative sense of ‘determination’ had set out to operate” (86).

        • Abstract determination is a result of historical social notions of the capitalist economy which subsequently infected Marxist discourse and thus inadvertently made it passive and impotent.

        Discussion Questions

        • Williams seems to want to allow for a larger role of individual agency within Marxist thought through reexamining the relationship between Base and Superstructure. Given it seems relatively established that the Superstructure is malleable, do you think that the Base too can be influenced through free agents and/or the superstructure itself?
        • What is the practical literary application of examining the Base/Superstructure, Determinism, Productive Forces, etc.?



        Terry Eagleton

        Criticism and Ideology


        In “Categories for a Materialist Criticism,” in Criticism and Ideology, Terry Eagleton outlines a Materialist/Marxist interpretation of literature and texts and their relation to and influence from social formations.


        Key Terms

        The General Mode of Production (GMP) serves, throughout Eagleton’s work, as the basis of which, in one manner or another, all literary production rests on

        Literary Mode of Production (LMP) is one of Eagleton’s primary subjects of investigation within this chapter. He examines their relation to the GMP, as well as the multiplicity of LMPs throughout Western history.

        General Ideology as Eagleton asserts, may influence LMP while simultaneously at times a product of the GMP


        Passage Paraphrase

        “Language, that most innocent and spontaneous of common currencies, is in reality a terrain scarred, fissured and divided by the cataclysms of political history, strewn with the relics of imperialist, nationalist, regionalist and class combat” (54).

        • Language is political.


        Discussion Questions

        How does the overall idea of literature as a cultural product impact your appreciation of literature as a reader, if at all?

        Is language innocent and spontaneous? Or is it political, as Eagleton suggests?





        Michel Foucault

        What is an Author?



        In his lecture, “What is an Author,” Michel Foucault examines the role of the author in Western societies and discourse, as well as examining the role of the author’s historical role. In his speech, Foucault wishes to entirely reverse the idea of the author.


        Key Terms


        • Founders of Discursivity is a term given to authors whose ideas expressed in a work are greater than the work itself – it is the creation of a new discourse. Foucault uses the term in regards to the wider influence of the author in some cases; widened expanded idea of an author in Western culture
        • Author Function is a term assigned to the role of the author in the discourse of texts in western society. The vast majority of the speech explores the function of the author in Western texts.
        • Although Typology of Discourse is a term used sparingly throughout the lecture, it is directed towards Foucault’s investigation of other disciplines and how they negotiate the role of the author.


        Passage Paraphrase

        “A switch takes place in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. Scientific discourses began to be received for themselves, in the anonymity of an established or always redemonstrable truth; their membership in a systematic ensemble, and not the reference to the individual who produced them, stood as their guarantee. The author function faded away, and the inventor’s name served only to christen a theorem, proposition, particular effect, property, body, group of elements, or pathological syndrome. By the same token, literary discourses came to be accepted only when endowed with the author function. We now ask of each poetic or fictional text: From where does it come, who wrote it, when, under what circumstances, or beginning with what design?”

        • The idea of author underwent a transformation in the seventeenth or eighteenth century: it passed from the scientific discourse to the literary.



        Discussion Questions

        • Taking cues from Foucault, if we did discover that Shakespeare did not write his sonnets, how would we view and/or define the author that we call Shakespeare?
        • How does the anonymity of a text dictate the way we read it? Is it true, as Foucault suggests, that anonymity is not tolerable in Western discourse?







        In the chapter “Panopticism” from Discipline & Punish, Michel Foucault gives a brief overview of Jeremy Bentham’s prison concept, the panopticon. Foucault then goes on to examine how the disciplinary effects of the panopticon concept takes shape in various societal institutions.

        Key Terms


        • The Panopticon is a theoretical prison structure developed by Betham in the eighteenth century. In short, the main purpose is essentially self-discipline through the uncertainty of whether or not one is being watched. Foucault uses the panopticon as a spring board to examine larger issues of control within social institutions
        • The Functional Inversion of the Disciplines is a term Foucault uses to describe the transformation of disciplinary institutions. It is a transformation from institutions implementing discipline to “neutralize dangers,” to being a force of social good – that is, essentially, increasing social and economic efficiency.
        • The State-control of the Mechanisms of Discipline is a term Foucault uses in regards to the transfer of discipline from religious groups to state apparatuses. Foucault writes that power vested in the police represented a “co-extensi[on of] the state itself,” and the methods and procedures used in police surveillance in order to instill discipline eventually trickled into other institutions.


        Passage Paraphrase (206)

        “In each of its applications, it makes it possible to prefect the exercise of power. It does this in several ways: because it can reduce the number of those who exercise it, while increasing the number of those of whom it is exercised. Because it is possible to intervene at any moment and because the constant pressure acts even before the offences, mistakes or crimes have been committed. Because, in these conditions, its strength is that it never intervenes, it is exercised spontaneously and without noise, it constitutes a mechanism whose effects follow from one another.”

        • The panopticon’s success lies in its discrete exercise of power, which it achieves through limiting the number of those who can prohibit it and its ability to instill discipline in a society therefore offsetting the chance that an offense can be committed.


        Discussion Questions

        • In what institutions can you see panopticism at work? What kind of examples can you think of to best illustrate panopticism in action?
        • Do you think, with the prevalence of the internet, that it is easier to circumvent panopticism, or does merely reinforce it?














        In the chapter “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances,” Roman Jakobson argues that individuals suffering from aphasia – the loss of speech – can be traced to one of two types of the disorder: similarity and contiguity. Another underlying theme prevalent throughout the work is the suggestion that a multidisciplinary approach to solving linguistic and other scientific issues is beneficial

        Key Terms

        • Aphasia: Partial or total loss of power to understand written or spoken language (OED). This is central to the chapter and serves as its primary focus.
        • Metalanguage & Object Language: Metalanguage and Object Language are terms used in symbolic logic, however, the significance in these terms in term of this work is that Jakobson absorbs and utilizes the discourse of a different discipline, thus subtly offering an example of the benefits of a multidisciplinary approach to solving certain problem, and indeed, he identifies aphasics as suffering from a loss of metalanguage.
        • Metaphor & Metonymy: Metaphor and Metonymy are terms appear throughout the work in reference to the two types of aphasia. Jakobson uses these terms in relation to the primary effects of aphasia. He links metaphor to the similarity type, and metonymy to the contiguity type.

        Passage Paraphrase (131)

        • “The bipolar structure of language (or other semiotic systems) and, in aphasia, the fixation on one of these poles to the exclusion of the other require systematic comparative study. The retention of either of these alternatives in the two types of aphasia must be confronted with the predominance of the same pole in certain styles, personal habits, current fashions, etc. A careful analysis and comparison of these phenomena with the whole syndrome of the corresponding type of aphasia is an imperative task for joint research by experts in psychopathology, psychology, linguistics, poetics, and semiotics, the general science of signs.”
        • Close analysis and comparison of the bipolar structure of language as well as how aphasia reflects the primary of one while excluding the other is a task to be undertaken by a joint effort on part of individuals in various disciplines.

        Discussion Questions

        • How does Jakobson’s desire to see a multidisciplinary approach to certain issues reflect the idea of wanting to bridge the gap between the “two cultures,” or, in modern terms, liberal arts and the sciences?
        • Are there noticeable cases of aphasia (mild or otherwise) within works of literature, or exhibited by the authors that produce them? Does this way of analyzing literature offer any literary merit?



        In “Showing and Telling,” the author argues that in literary fiction, telling and showing are essential to narration, and despite criticism, it is virtually impossible for a novel to never, in some form or another, feature the voice of the author/narrator


        Key Terms

        • Showing & Telling
        • Impersonality/Objectivity
        • Sympathetic Involvement
        • Intrude/Obtrusion
        • Rhetoric


        • Objectivity: Objectivity is a running theme throughout this essay. The notion of objectivity in the authorial voice is hit upon numerous times, and indeed, there are many authors who seem to espouse total objectivity within narration, despite being impossible, as the author of this work suggests


        • Sympathetic Involvement: The author alludes to sympathetic involvement on a few occasions in this essay, stating that Homer’s work requires sympathetic involvement, and indeed, by extension, Boccaccio’s work also requires a form of sympathetic involvement.


        • Intrude/Obtrusion: Intrude and Obtrusion are terms used often to refer to the author’s voice that creeps in through the narration. When combined with authorial voice, intruding/obtruding act in contrast to the objectivity/impersonality favored by realist writers.


        Passage Paraphrase (8)

        • “Since Flaubert, many authors and critics have been convinced that ‘objective’ or ‘impersonal’ or ‘dramatic’ modes of narration are naturally superior to any mode that allows for direct appearances by the author or his reliable spokesman. Sometimes, as we shall see in the next three chapters, the complex issues involved in this shift have been reduced to a convenient distinction between ‘showing,’ which is artistic, and ‘telling,’ which is inartistic.”
        • Many realist writers and critics argue that the less the narration excludes an overt author’s voice, the better it is, favoring an almost stoic approach to narration. Such a way of viewing literature splits narration into the dichotomy of showing and telling.


        Discussion Questions

        • How does the concept of telling/showing relate to Oscar Wao? Does the narration tell or show or some combination of both? What effects does this mechanism produce on the reader?
        • Of the two, telling and showing, which is more common in contemporary literature? Why? Which has more impact on you as a reader?