Literary Paralysis

| Learning | July 3, 2013

(I’m in my English class. We’re studying a certain poet and our teacher has assigned us a project where we must compare his love poems to his other poems. My partner and I on the project are comparing them to his political poems.)

Teacher: “So, [my name], what’s your group doing?”

Me: “We’re going to examine the poet’s love sonnets and his other, more political poems, and how they are mostly interchangeable.”

Teacher: “What do you mean?”

Me: “For example, if you took some of his love poems and said that they were actually about Communism, it would be hard to disprove, and vice versa. Some of his political poems sound almost like love letters.”

Teacher: “Well, that’s very interesting, but is that really true?”

Student #1: “I don’t know if that’s really applicable.”

Me: “We just thought…I just—”

Teacher: “I’m glad you thought of something new, but you should really pick something else. Whenever you do literary analysis, you should always base your observations off of existing theses. You should never come up with a new topic. Always expand on existing literary criticisms by published, respected critics.”

(I’m a little annoyed at this, but since the project only just began I don’t mind changing the topic. Five minutes later…)

Student #2: “So, I don’t really get exactly what you want us to do.”

Teacher: “Well, that’s the beauty of it! This is totally your own thing, your own thoughts; anything you want to do, you can do. This is completely your own interpretation of his poems!”

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