Way back in the dim and distant days of Livejournal (okay, 2009), I decided I needed to read up a little more on literary theory. I had read a bit, but in a disorganized, unstructured way. I have never actually studied Theory.
So, one day when I was suffering a particularly enervating head cold (I’m not sure if that is pertinent or not), I decided I would read through David Lodge’s anthology, Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. And to maintain my interest, I thought I would blog about each piece as I read it.
The experiment didn’t last long. I read and wrote about the extracts from Ferdinand de Saussure and Victor Shklovsky, but I got bogged down in the two extracts from Roman Jakobson, and besides at that time I had other things on my mind. So I put Lodge’s anthology to one side, always meaning to pick it up again when time allowed.
Then, once I copied the two posts over to this blog when it was new in 2011, I started noticing an odd thing. Those two posts were consistently popular. In fact the post on Saussure is the third most visited post on this blog, Shklovsky is not far behind as the fifth most visited post. And it is not just that a lot of people have read them, it is that the visits are consistent, a regular trickle of visitors throughout the year, but with a noticeable increase in interest during the autumn and again early in the New Year. If you look at the search terms that bring people to this blog by far the most popular terms (that is, some variant on these terms will show up at least once a week and a certain times of the year once a day) are “theory and saussure” and “theory and shklovsky”.
In other words, every term poor benighted students are being introduced to literary theory and are frantically googling for any help they can get in mastering these rather offputting ideas. And they end up with me! Good heavens, I can see myself being cited in undergraduate essays around the globe, to the evident mystification of the tutors.
My immediate reaction to this is: for goodness sake, NO! I know nothing about these people. I have read nothing beyond the brief extracts in Lodge’s book. At best, what I have written is a lightning-flash glimpse of some tiny fraction of their work, not a considered or informed response to their ideas in total. I am an amateur; this is an immediate response to a first encounter.
Yet still they come. I am in the middle of one of the periodic explosions of interest in Saussure. Shklovsky will doubtless follow in the next week or so.
Which is why I now feel I can never go back to Lodge’s anthology.