Introduction of Bathos

In Susanna Kaysen’s not so typical autobiography, she narrates her experience in the McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Massachusetts. She uses real stories and experiences in attempts to possibly distinguish the difference between patients inside the hospital, and everyday people. We learn that the patients in the hospital seem to be a lot more creative and smarter than we as readers initially assume. One particular idea that Kaysen brings to the table, is that there are no normal people in this world. She claims that it is not one individual in a family that is crazy, but the entire family designates one person to call crazy and send to the hospital. Just as a baseball team appoints their best hitter to be the designated hitter, Kaysen was appointed her family’s designated crazy, similarly seen with the other patients in the hospital.

 

One particular section of the book that stuck out to me, was the very first chapter. The first chapter of a book is very important to the novel structurally, because this is where you win the reader over. Kaysen does a very good job in this section using imagery and other rhetorical strategies such as metaphors, to immerse her readers into her story. In the chapter “Fire,” she begins to tell the story of a girl who set herself on fire in attempts to kill herself, and also introduces herself and her story of an attempted suicide. In describing the idea of suicide, she says: “We’ve all had those. And somewhat more dangerous things, like putting a gun in your mouth. But you put it there, you taste it, its cold and greasy, your finger is on the trigger, and you find that a whole world lies between this moment and the moment you’ve been planning, when you’ll pull the trigger. That world defeats you. You put the gun back in the drawer.” Talk about a boat load of imagery. In reading this excerpt I found myself clenching the book; nothing could distract me. She continues to tell readers about the time that she took 50 aspirin, went into the street, then fainted. She described her leaving to go to the street as her putting the gun back. This is a great metaphor to show readers how much of an eye opening experience this was for her. Similarly, I would compare this style to the style portrayed in the autobiography of Fredrick Douglass. Douglass uses vivid, painful imagery to help immerse readers into his autobiography.

 

The next chapter that I noted in my journal was the chapter that introduced Daisy. “Daisy was a seasonal event. She came before Thanksgiving, and stayed through Christmas every year.” One thing that Kaysen does in her book is that she introduces characters, then makes their stories very personable. As a reader, I would almost be thinking that these are my friends as well as hers. The chapter goes on to describe Daisy as a girl who loves laxatives and chicken, and that her own father wants to fuck her. One very peculiar thing was that Daisy’s father would bring her a whole roasted chicken, and she was not allowed to leave the hospital until she has 14 chicken carcasses lined up. I noted this chapter as being completely absurd. Kaysen whether she knows it or not, uses the idea of bathos, unintentionally hilarious emotional appeal. This chapter seems to be full of bathos. I in no way shape or form think that mental health is something to laugh about, however the introduction of Daisy just seemed so absurd, that you can’t help but smirk.

 

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A Materialistic Weasel

The book “Teaching a Stone to Talk,” by Anne Dillard, is a collection of essays she wrote; some published, and others not. All of the essays have themes pretty similar to each other just as Emerson ties in centralized themes into his writing pieces. Each writing touches on philosophy, nature, religion, history, and general kindness.  She uses her personal experiences to help develop these central themes. Dillard tells her readers that she wants her essays to be read how they are, and not delve deep to find a deeper meaning. Each essay touches on different perspectives that enlighten and immerse readers.

 

In her essay, “Living like Weasels,” she uses plenty of imagery to describe her encounter with a real, live, weasel. In a particular paragraph describing how a weasel lives, she writes: “I might learn something of mindlessness., something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive. The weasel lives in necessity, and we live in choice, hating necessity and dying at the last ignobly in its talons. I would like to live as I should, just as the weasel lives as he should.” In this excerpt, she focuses on how simply the weasel lives, only doing what it needs to survive. The weasel is driven purely by instincts, while us humans are driven by wants and not needs. We live life measuring success on who drives the nicest cars, while innately, our ancestors were driven by food and instinct. We begin to ignore these instincts when we begin to listen to others and compare ourselves to them. When Dillard says she wants to live in necessity, she wants to live a life where she only has what she needs. Although this statement is quite drastic, something can be taken out of it. We do not necessarily need a fast sports car, or a luxurious home on the beach to be happy, happiness is having the little things in life, such as food on the table, and a roof over our heads. I too am beginning to realize that I have been living a life full of wants, and not needs.

 

Another essay similar to weasels is “In the Jungle.” In this essay she writes of her accounts in the wilderness of Ecuadorian Jungle near the Napo River. She uses loads of imagery to describe the complete isolation from society in those woods. Dillard uses personal accounts with the native people to have a solid foundation in the essay. She writes of the little girls singing Old MacDonald and braiding her hair while the native boys kicked around a volleyball shirtless in their jeans.  The same theme of ditching a materialistic life is present in this essay as well. While listening to one of the men she was with tell his life story of his materialistic Manhattan lifestyle, she notes that he concluded his story with: “It makes me wonder what I am doing under a tent here. It makes me wonder why I am going back.” This part of the essay is very powerful and the addition of this side story drive home her initial argument of a non-materialistic lifestyle. She uses the man to show her readers that if he can ditch his Manhattan-Hollywood lifestyle, why can’t we? Obviously we shouldn’t all drop out and quit our jobs, but I think we are asked to reevaluate our lives, and realize what is important, and what is temporary.

What is the philosophy of the essay?

Abstract: The essay is a powerful persuasive art that when used correctly allows writers to successfully have a solid argument. A good essay contains different elements such as originality, self-reflection, epistemology, and other poetic techniques to help strengthen the writing. The idea of originality can be questioned by essayists such as Emerson, but the idea is that since it comes from our mind, our writing is original. The idea of the essay shows the freedom the essayist has with their piece of writing.

 

When I was a younger writer, I was lead to believe that all essays in life were the same form: 5 paragraph form, with an underlined thesis. The essays I would write would be a regurgitation of another piece of writing and my discoveries. These discoveries were however not my own, but someone else’s that I was being told to view things like. These essays were not essay’s in my opinion, but rewritings. Writing an essay is an art form that not many can quite grasp. This leads to the common question of: what is the essay? The essay is everything from personal, to informative, and very much original. The beauty of the essay is that it is in the hands of the writer to choose where the essay travels.

Essays can be understood to be a reflection of the author’s life. Since the essay is made personal, an author must begin to be wary of showing too much opinion in their writing. Showing too much opinion would stray away from the facts, weakening an author’s argument. Montaigne writes, “I do not teach, I tell.” The essay’s purpose is to not teach individuals, but to relate the individuals to the text. An essay must be “immersive” enough to evoke some sort of emotion in the reader. For an essay to be immersive it must appeal to the reader allowing them to grasp the concept of the essay. Using personal experiences and facts in the essay to support opinions is important to take the formality out of teaching to allow the readers to relate to the essay. If the essay were to strictly teach, it would be too formal; however, if the essay were to be solely based off of opinion, there would be no argument. The frame of the essay is based off of the line between opinions and facts, all branching off of a central argument. A good essayist uses personal experiences mixed with justified beliefs to develop a good argument.

A good essayist uses plenty of different poetic, rhetorical, and philosophical elements to help strengthen their argument. This means that the essay can be dissected into those three main elements: poetic, rhetoric, or philosophy. In one of the essays written by Scott Sanders, “The Singular First Person,” he touches on the formality of the essay. He writes, “The essay is the closest thing we have on paper, to a record of the individual mind at work and play. It is an amateurs raid in a world of specialists.” This excerpt shows the battle between the essay being a teacher, and the essay relating. It shows that there is a lot of leeway as to how an essayist may go about attacking an argument in his writing. Our minds are “at work and play,” at the same time. The essay is a form of writing that is considered more free and leisurely from the incorporation of passionate opinion and factual evidence.

When an essayist uses his personal experiences to help form an argument, he is using his originality. The essayist uses originality and a central argument to show that the essay has a greater meaning. In “The Death of a Moth,” Dillard uses personal experience to tell a story of greater meaning. At a glance, a reader may say that “The Death of a Moth,” is nothing but a narrative of the observance of a moth flying into a candle, but the essayist had more in mind. Dillard writes “All that was left was the glowing horn shell of her abdomen and thorax—a fraying, partially collapsed gold tube jammed upright in the candle’s round pool. And then this moth essence, this spectacular skeleton, began to act as a wick. She kept burning… That candle had two wicks, two flames of identical height, side by side (Dillard).” For some, this is a simple story of Dillard observing the death of a moth, but the story may very much so question what death is. Dillard may be arguing that the moth never died, because he body is being used as a wick.

This also poses the plausible question of who is the essay written for? The essay is written for nobody more than the essayist, just the same way a song writer would not make a song he does not like. The essay is reflective. Montaigne is known for his philosophies of self-reflection: “You yourself only know if you are cowardly and cruel, loyal, and devout: others see you not, and only guess you by uncertain conjectures, and do not so much see your nature as your art: rely not therefore upon your opinions, but stick to your own (Montaigne).” In this short except, Montaigne tells readers that they people themselves are the only one who truly knows what they are thinking. Another interpretation of Dillard’s “The Death of a Moth,” could be that the moth is a reflection of himself as a writer. The moth dying symbolizes the death of his creative genius, and it burning like a wick is how his ideas stay alive, even after he dies. The essay if filled with different metaphors which helps build poetic and philosophical elements of a good essay.

As one can argue that our essays are original, others can argue it is not. Emerson is one of the greatest essayists because of his ability to incorporate all the right elements to write his essays. In “Quotation and Originality,” he writes that throughout our existence as humans, there has been “millions of men, and not a hundred lines of poetry.” This idea confronts the originality and personality of the essay. Emerson tells us that writers are influenced by older pieces, and convey our interpretation using our thoughts and knowledge. This challenges all of the pieces of writing that have ever been made. This challenges this essay I am writing using the philosophies of several writers. Our interpretations are our own beliefs and words; therefore, they are to be considered original.

A good essay has its own twist, like a remix. This is what makes all essays original. In “The Essayification of Everything,” Wampole writes: “The essayist samples more than a DJ: a loop of the epic here, a little lyric replay there, a polyvocal break and citations from greatness past, all with a signature scratch on top.” This ‘signature scratch’ is what makes each essayist different. Emmerson’s ‘signature scratch’ is how he intertwines the philosophy between nature and humans. This is much like the concept of sampling between rappers. Multiple rappers can rap over one producer’s instrumental, but they are all different songs. It is much like when a DJ remixes a song, the new song is his song, this can also translate to a writing remix. The goal of the “remix” is to be better than the original song.

The act idea writing an essay is an art that is perfected by none. There is always room for improvements with every writing piece because of the endless combinations of poetic, rhetorical and philosophical elements that can be incorporated into writing. Each essay is unique in the sense that it is a relation of personal experience, opinion, and fact, to a central argument. The essay is a unique form of writing because the writer chooses which way the essay travels, much like a DJ, or a songwriter. Each essay has its own ‘twist’ to it making it an original piece. The freedom of the essay is endless while our minds are “at work and play,” writing.

 

 

Works Cited:

Wampole, Christy. “The Essayification of Everything.” The New York Times 26 (2013).

 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Quotation and originality.” The North American Review 106.2 (1868): 543.

 

Montaigne, Michael Seigneur de. “Of repentance.” (1776).

 

Sanders, Scott Russell. “The singular first person.” The Sewanee Review 96.4 (1988): 658-672.

 

Originality ?

Navigating back to Emerson, last week we read “Quotation and Originality.” In this piece he writes throughout our existence there has been “millions of men, and not a hundred lines of poetry.” This confronts the originality and creativity of men and all writers. From this excerpt I took a quick reflection of my past writings and other projects and was very shocked to see that I agree with Emerson. My past writings are all based off of another writing, and I personally have only had a few original writing pieces that I composed in a creative writing course. This is a great example of philosophy in Emerson’s writing. Throughout the rest of Emerson’s piece, he continues to argue that the book is still most enjoyable literature even though writing is repeated so much. Emerson tells us throughout that essay that we as writers are influenced by older pieces, but use new ideas to convey our view points through our thoughts and knowledge.

Ironically, the book we had to read this week was “Reality Hunger: a manifesto” by David Shields. I personally laughed a little after reflecting upon my readings this past week because we read Emerson who was telling us that writings are all based upon older writings, and this book is completely plagiarized! “Quotation and Originality…….” hmm. Interesting enough there is no originality in Shield’s piece, other than this is the first of its kind. Using Emerson’s ideas, Shield is simply using other peoples’ ideas and forming one big idea.

Shield’s in his writing investigates the history of early writing. He “writes” about the literature of older civilizations and how most of them included simply only the most important events and accounts. Shields uses a weird style in his writing that I would consider more “new era,” and I am very indifferent about it. This book reminds me of a compilation of a bunch of tweets. All of the numbers seen as though they could fit in a tweet, 180 characters or less. After mentioning different types of writings, Shields moves onto the topic of gossip and lies, and other (in my opinion) pointless topics. One section that stuck out to me was section 32. This goes hand in hand with Emerson’s idea of the novel being the “highest delight.” “The word novel, when it entered the languages of Europe, had the vaguest of meanings; it meant the form of writing that was formless, that had no rules, that made up its own rules as it went along.” This excerpt of an excerpt has a very powerful connotation and persona of the idea of the novel.  Both Emerson and Shields use many different poetics in their novels that help amplify their message. Well for Shields, other writers’ messages.

Emerson is….

There are many comparisons that a reader can make to the reading and understanding Emerson. In class we discussed that reading Emerson is tranquil, hectic, and there was even a comparison to fishing. In the end, reading Emerson is a Circle. All of his readings are connected in one way or another. My professor even mentioned in class that it would be difficult to take a reading quiz on his Emerson because you would not be able to pinpoint which writing piece of Emerson’s it came from. Reading Emerson is like navigating around a circle. You always come back to the same philosophies.

 

The idea of reading Emerson is a tranquil act leads to one reoccurring theme in his writings: nature. He believed that to understand the universe, one must begin with developing a personal understanding of nature. He writes that our confusions of life alter our views of where we are in relation to nature. Further in his writing, “Experience,” he tells readers that relationships we build and other things that help build our ‘experience’ are irrelevant to finding our meaning as humans. He tells us not to waste our energy or time on such insignificant things. Expanding on the reoccurring theme of nature in his writing, he writes in “Circles:” “In nature every moment is new; the past is always swallowed and forgotten; the coming only is sacred. Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit.” In this short except, he tells readers that nature is nothing but the present and that is how we should live. When we dwell on the past, we become disconnected from nature which is ultimately what he was writing in “Experience” that we are wasting our time and could be doing so much more with our lives. The past is “insignificant.”

 

Emerson’s writings are also all inscribed with great philosophies, which is what attracts most of his readers. This is where the analogy of fishing comes into play. Two people can both go fishing but only one person might catch a fish which symbolizes understanding the philosophies. But two people might never catch the same fish which means that they will both read Emerson and interpret him differently. In “Experience,” he writes: “The only thing grief has taught me, is to know how shallow it is. That, like all the rest, plays about the surface, and never introduces me into the reality, for contact with which, we would even pay the costly price of sons and lovers.” He tells readers that grieving over something does nothing but hinders them from moving forward and onto better things. These are powerful words which he developed after grieving the loss of his son. These words would be powerful to someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one, or in deep grief of something he would explain is “insignificant.”

 

In “Circle’s,” Emerson tells readers that a circle is our life and tells us how we should have different things in our circle. For starters, in the center of our circle should be God. Not only should God be the center, but he should also be on the outside of the circle. In order to excel in life, we should “draw” a new circle around us. The essay focuses on better oneself through self-observation. Initially after reading this, I connected his philosophies somewhat with Montaigne’s in that as a person, I know myself better than anyone else therefore I should not let anyone else influence my circle. My circle is my life and I should have complete control over it.

 

Emerson also wrote, “The American Scholar.” This essay differentiates itself from the other two because he talks about the thinking man. He wants the thinking man to focus on his own duties in order for society to be able to function as a whole. Every man has their own duties in a working society, and in order for it to work, every man must perform their specific tasks. Reading further, he connects back to his theme of nature, and how nature is our professor showing us how alike our minds are with nature. He tells us how our soul is the opposite of nature so working to better understand nature is working to better understand your soul. This is another circle seen in his writing as the excerpt may be fit in with his writings in “Experience” and “Circles.” Another connection in “American Scholar” that may be confused with “Circles,” is the topic of the past. He expresses the dangers of reading books from that past. This poses a danger because every book was written with the past’s ideologies, and every new age should have its own writings. He drives home the idea that dwelling on the past is dangerous even when we read about it. In the end we can say that reading Emerson is redundant. Each piece of his writings proves similar points, but does it in different ways to allow readers to understand. Each of his writings can be seen as a stream so we can all fish on different streams and catch fish (understand his philosophies) in different writing pieces.

What is Death?

“Life is all about becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.” These are the words of my 11th grade philosophy teacher that have stuck with me ever since I heard them. One who is constantly comfortable and does not leave their comfort zone and challenge themselves is arguably not living. This is what I call the living death. Our entire life we are faced with new challenges that we must face in our development as humans. From learning to walk, to learning to ride a bike. Why would we stop facing our challenges as adults as well? Death. What is death? Death can be as simple as not living. To die is to no longer be yourself in spirit. For example, one of my close friends was recently hospitalized with a mental illness. Upon being realeased, I began to notice his change in behavior, and that he was no longer the same person that I was close to before he became sick. Death is to die, but what dies, your spirit or your body?

In Montaigne’s philosophical essay of “Of repentance,” he brought up many valid points on the idea of spiritually living. He wrote, “You yourself only know if you are cowardly and cruel, loyal, and devout: others see you not, and only guess you by uncertain conjectures, and do not so much see your nature as your art: rely not therefore upon your opinions, but stick to your own (Montaigne).” Montaigne argued the idea of self observance.  If you go your entire life basing your opinions off of others, you are in theory not living. You are in a living death. His essay has ideas of becoming a better person by improving  yourself through becoming an independent person from society’s ideologies and oppressions. This differs a little from Bacon’s essay “Of Truth,” in that Bacon argues for improving yourself for the better of society. With that in mind I would side with Montaigne’s arguments more because if you are not worried about other’s opinions, there is no need to lie to your fellow man because you are your own person.

“The Death of the Moth,” brings up another great point. Dillard writes about his observances of a moth flying into a candle while he was camping. He writes “All that was left was the glowing horn shell of her abdomen and thorax—a fraying, partially collapsed gold tube jammed upright in the candle’s round pool. And then this moth essence, this spectacular skeleton, began to act as a wick. She kept burning… That candle had two wicks, two flames of identical height, side by side (Dillard).” The question that Dillard brought up was: “Had she been new, or old? Had she mated and laid her eggs, had she done her work?” And the answer to that question is does it actually matter? The moth lived her life, and chose to fly into the candle. This is an extension of Montaigne’s essay pertaining to being your own person. As to the question of did the moth die? Yes, the moth was no longer a living moth, however it became a flame. The moth became fuel for the candle and became another wick and burned through the night. The moth was not dead but just alive in the form of a fire. Energy is never lost, just transformed. The spirit of the moth was still there even though she was dead.

Portfolio

Preface:

Literature today is shifting to a whole new world of technology. Literature pieces are being found in the electronic form more abundantly than ever before. This shift to electronic literature has a negative impact on the ways of the reader, even altering the way readers take in information. Conventional literature has the ability to immerse readers, and convey the emotions and beliefs of the author.

The reason I have chosen my third writing project to revise, was because I believed that it had the most potential as a persuasive essay. Before revisions, it was my best work so far this semester, but still not good enough. The goal for revising my third writing project was to revise in terms of expansion. Expanding my writing draft allows for me to really drive home the ideas in my persuasive essay. I expanded on the idea counterargument using Frankenstein, and also expanded on the idea of the electronic literature piece, Luminous Airplanes. In attempts to revise my draft even more, I contrasted the idea of expansion, and tried to condense some areas by combining sentences and taking some elements out. I also investigated run on sentences. Revising by condensing your argument allows you to keep your argument concise. A long argument will lose and bore readers, but a short essay will not get the argument across.

The revised draft of my third writing project is a shadow of my growing, writing, capabilities. Starting out the semester with strong writing, I have been using the writing role models to help model my writing. I believe that the revision techniques I have learned to use, have allowed me to better my writing in numerous ways. In high school, I never considered myself to be a strong writer because I was limited to writing systematized essays on books I didn’t enjoy. My writing this semester has opened a door full of new opportunities allowing me to go anywhere.

In future writing courses, I plan to use more of the techniques I learned this year. Using a role model to help style my writing, has also been very beneficial to me. In this particular revision I focused in on the work of Nicholas Carr; I used his extensive writing techniques to help strengthen my argument. Adapting to use these various techniques, I expanded on the use of counterargument. In the original draft, my use of counterargument was introduced, but did not drive home the idea. A strong counterargument introduces a new idea, and then reverts the reader back to the original argument. When revising and expanding on my counterargument I used this basic outline.

I pledge my word of honor that I have abided by the Washington College Honor Code while completing this assignment.

 Adam Andrew Mrowiec

 

The Electronic Way: Revised Draft

The world around us is relying on technology more every day. Even our common necessities like our wallets and maps are being integrated into our smart phones. With a smartphone we have access to a whole new world of information and knowledge. The shift to electronic literature is having a negative impact on people by shaping our society and the way we think. Written literature is an expression of an author’s beliefs and emotions. These emotions and beliefs are getting lost in this shift to an electronic era of reading because of the quick “skimming” adaptation readers have acquired, allowing for the idea of deeper reading to be forgotten.

Google works 20 times faster than most home internets, leaving the access to unlimited knowledge at your fingertips. Is this necessarily a good thing? In today’s world we are left with children who would google something 10 times before they open up a textbook to find an in text answer. In Nicholas Carr’s article, “Is Google making us stupid?”, Carr mentions the ungodly speed that we can get information. Our brains and bodies are adapting to this “swiftly moving stream of particles” (Carr 7). We are becoming more dependent on the internet for its tools and resources. We are entering an age where print is being forgotten. We are entering an age of electronic literature. Libraries are becoming less relevant, students are buying less textbooks, and people are forgetting conventional literature. Articles are no longer being read, but they are being dissected for the plunder of information. People find what they need from a piece of literature, and don’t look back. The age of immersion and reading is over. Is google making us stupid? Not necessarily, but it is changing our way of life and learning.

The idea that our society is shifting into one big “global village,” is not new to us. In 1967 McLuhan predicted this shift in a novel he wrote: The Medium is the Massage. He understood the technologies before his time. McLuhan pondered the question: is the medium that delivers the message more important than the message itself? He wrote, “All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered” (McLuhan, 19). In writing this, the author told readers that we are becoming absorbed in the way that we receive information. Our brain begins to adapt to the way we read. Since the new form of skimming and electronic literature have become prevalent, our mind has altered the way it tries to obtain information. Our society is becoming dependent on this idea of electronic literature. Written literature is being forgotten and replaced by search engines and “find” tools on our electronics. Electronic literature is not, however, exactly by definition “literature.”

When defining literature, there are a couple different approaches a reader can take. By definition, literature is “written works considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.” The problem with electronic literature, by definition, is that the artistic merit is overlooked by readers. While exploring electronic literature pieces such as Luminous Airplanes, I overlooked the message that the author was trying to get across because I got lost in the reading.  The piece was merely a perception of the writer, and more of the reader. Readers could navigate through the piece as they pleased, and could pick out parts they that wanted. The reader could in fact pick out the way the story played out. This is not a conventional reading experience. The artistic merit of Paul La Farge is lost because the reader does not receive the artist’s message from a deeper reading because there is no deep reading involved in the completion of electronic literature. I felt like I was clicking through a labyrinth of chapter that were somehow all connected. Birkets defines novels as “immersive” and he wrote about how reading in his younger days took him places with the characters. Electronic Literature lacks being immersive, because the reader is not going where the author wants them to. When an author writes a piece of literature, there is an introduction, body, and conclusion with an overall message. With electronic literature, all of this is avoided, because the reader can just pick out what he needs, and the author’s message is not passed.

The idea of deeper reading is being lost with this adaptation to a fast paced electronic world. McLuhan even said, “I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski” (Carr). By saying this, Carr shows readers how much the ways of the reader have changed. He finds himself guilty of only skimming through electronic literature, finding just what he needs; contrary to his old “scuba diving” ways of deeper reading. Birkets, in his Gutenburg Elegies, coins what it means to deep read. He tells us what it truly means to read. “Reading, because we control it, is adaptable to our needs and rhythms. We are free to indulge our subjective associative impulse; the term I coin for this is deep reading: the slow and meditative possession of a book. We don’t just read the words; we dream our lives in their vicinity. The printed page becomes a kind of wrought-iron fence we crawl through, returning, once we have wandered, to the very place we started” (Birkets). In this passage, Birkets gives an illustration of what an immersive text should feel like. He touches on the idea that reading changes from reader to reader to help us fully immerse into a text. Electronic literature adapts to the readers need in a different way. Electronic literature pieces do not immerse the reader because of the way it is read. Electronic literature promotes the idea of “skimming” and sells people short, instead of exploring new limits pushed by imagination. Part of the reading process is bringing a narrative to life and exploring the deeper natures.

Many people may disagree with my argument and say that the idea of a rapidly growing technologically based world is beneficial. Search engines leave people with the knowledge of a dozen libraries at their fingertips, instantaneously. Technology and electronic literature can indeed be used for efficient learning; however, the classic reading experience cannot be forgotten. The benefit of efficiency is conversely not applicable to electronic literature pieces similar to Luminous Airplanes because the reader is choosing the plot of the story taking away from the artistic merit and not picking out specific information. Classic literature pieces like Frankenstein show the author’s depiction of a cruel a dark world by using intertextuality. Readers must use Birkets’s idea of deep reading to analyze text and fully appreciate Mary Shelley’s artistic merit.

The deeper reading of Frankenstein can also be in some sense perceived as a hypertext. The reader must be interested and engaged to understand the intertextuality that allows fir the novel to further complicate the simple plot. Mary Shelley uses multiple literary techniques to immerse her readers that will further analyze text. Although I grant that electronic literature may be efficient at times, important artistic depictions are lost without the idea of deep reading. The idea of deeper reading is lost in the element of electronic literature pieces like Luminous Airplanes. It does not immerse readers for a deeper reading of a written piece.  Our minds are adapting to the vast availability of quick information, and people are forgetting the immersion of conventional literature.

Reading a book allows readers to push their imagination by immersing themselves in the authors words. In a conventional piece of literature, there is a beginning, end, and an overall message up to interpretation. With the shift to electronic literature, readers are allowing this access to alter their ways of reading. The altering of our reading habits changes the way our brain takes in new information. Readers are no longer absorbing the emotions and beliefs put forth by an author because they have the ability to skim through and pick out what information is needed.

The Electronic Way: Original Draft

The world around us is relying on technology more every day. Even our common necessities like our wallets and maps are being integrated into our smart phones. With a smartphone we have access to a whole new world of information and knowledge. The shift to electronic literature is having a negative impact on people by shaping our society and the way we think. Written literature is an expression of an author’s beliefs and emotions. These emotions and beliefs are getting lost in this shift to an electronic era of reading because of the quick “skimming” adaptation readers have acquired.

Google works 20 times faster than most home internets, leaving the access to unlimited knowledge at your fingertips. Is this necessarily a good thing? In today’s world we are left with children who would google something 10 times before they open up a textbook to find an in text answer. In Nicholas Carr’s article, “Is Google making us stupid?”, Carr mentions the ungodly speed that we can get information. Our brains and bodies are adapting to this “swiftly moving stream of particles” (Carr 7). We are becoming more dependent on the internet for its tools and resources. We are entering an age where print is being forgotten. We are entering an age of electronic literature. Libraries are becoming less relevant, students are buying less textbooks, and people are forgetting conventional literature. Articles are no longer being read, but they are being dissected for the plunder of information. People find what they need from a piece of literature, and don’t look back. The age of immersion and reading is over. Is google making us stupid? Not necessarily, but it is changing our way of life and learning.

The idea that our society is shifting into one big “global village,” is not new to us. In 1967 McLuhan predicted this shift in a novel he wrote: The Medium is the Massage. He understood the technologies before his time. McLuhan pondered the question: is the medium that delivers the message more important than the message itself? He wrote, “All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered” (McLuhan, 19). In writing this, the author told readers that we are becoming absorbed in the way that we receive information. Our society is becoming dependent on this idea of electronic literature. Written literature is being forgotten and replaced by search engines and “find” tools on our electronics. Electronic literature is not, however, exactly by definition “literature.”

When defining literature, there are a couple different approaches a reader can take. By definition, literature is “written works considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.” The problem with electronic literature, by definition, is that the artistic merit is overlooked by readers. While exploring electronic literature pieces such as Luminous Airplanes, I overlooked the message that the author was trying to get across because I got lost in the reading.  The piece was merely a perception of the writer, and more of the reader. Readers could navigate through the piece as they pleased, and could pick out parts they that wanted. The reader could in fact pick out the way the story played out. This is not a conventional reading experience. The artistic merit of Paul La Farge is lost because the reader does not receive the artist’s message from a deeper reading because there is no deep reading involved in the completion of electronic literature. Birkets defines novels as “immersive” and he wrote about how reading in his younger days took him places with the characters. Electronic Literature lacks being immersive, because the reader is not going where the author wants them to. When an author writes a piece of literature, there is an introduction, body, and conclusion with an overall message. With electronic literature, all of this is avoided, because the reader can just pick out what he needs, and the author’s message is not passed.

The idea of deeper reading is being lost with this adaptation to a fast paced electronic world. McLuhan even said, “I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski” (Carr). By saying this, Carr shows readers how much the ways of the reader have changed. He finds himself guilty of only skimming through electronic literature, finding just what he needs; contrary to his old “scuba diving” ways of deeper reading. Birkets, in his Gutenburg Elegies, coins what it means to deep read. He tells us what it truly means to read. “Reading, because we control it, is adaptable to our needs and rhythms. We are free to indulge our subjective associative impulse; the term I coin for this is deep reading: the slow and meditative possession of a book. We don’t just read the words; we dream our lives in their vicinity. The printed page becomes a kind of wrought-iron fence we crawl through, returning, once we have wandered, to the very place we started” (Birkets). In this passage, Birkets gives an illustration of what an immersive text should feel like. He touches on the idea that reading changes from reader to reader to help us fully immerse into a text. Electronic literature adapts to the readers need in a different way. Electronic literature sells people short, instead of exploring new limits pushed by imagination. Part of the reading process is bringing a narrative to life and exploring the deeper natures.

Many people may disagree with my argument and say that the idea of a rapidly growing technologically based world is beneficial. Search engines leave people with the knowledge of a dozen libraries at their fingertips, instantaneously. Technology and electronic literature can indeed be used for efficient learning; however, the classic reading experience cannot be forgotten. The benefit of efficiency is conversely not applicable to electronic literature pieces similar to Luminous Airplanes because the reader is choosing the plot of the story taking away from the artistic merit and not picking out specific information. Classic literature pieces like Frankenstein show the author’s depiction of a cruel a dark world by using intertextuality. Readers must use Birkets’s idea of deep reading to analyze text and fully appreciate Mary Shelley’s artistic merit. Although I grant that electronic literature may be efficient at times, important artistic depictions are lost without the idea of deep reading. Our minds are adapting to the vast availability of quick information, and people are forgetting the immersion of conventional literature.

Reading a book allows readers to push their imagination by immersing themselves in the authors words. In a conventional piece of literature, there is a beginning, end, and an overall message up to interpretation. With the shift to electronic literature, readers are allowing this access to alter their ways of reading. Readers are no longer absorbing the emotions and beliefs put forth by an author because they have the ability to skim through and pick out what information is needed.

Works Cited:

Birkerts, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. Boston: Faberand Faber, 1994. Print.

McLuhan, M. (1989). The medium is the massage. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Carr, N. (2008). Is Google Making Us Stupid? Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education.