1 Main Post (550-600 Words of content)
2 Responses each (250-300) words of content
After watching this week’s presentation and completing the readings, write a 550-600 word reflection on the central question of the review essay assigned, “What Is Reading For?” While answering this question, draw on the readings from the course and consider especially the role of faith and spiritual belief and commitments in the Christian literary critic’s vocation. As you develop your argument, be sure to address what, if any, principles from secular literary theory can support the Christian critic’s goals.
Submit your original thread of 550-600 words in response to this prompt; this thread must demonstrate course-related knowledge and evidence engagement with course readings, so you should have at least two citations.
In addition to this original thread, you are required to reply to 2 other classmates' threads, including at least one citation from course readings in each. Each reply must be 250-300 words and must extend the discussion in some way, rather than merely cover the same ground as the original post. Some possibilities include the following: evaluating the original post, discussing implications of points raised, contrasting an idea with something else relevant to the class, connecting ideas to course material, or providing additional examples.
Readings: From the Bertens book, you’ll read the conclusion. From Tyson, you’ll read chapter 10. You’ll also read a review article (about three books) by Michael Vander Weele, “What Is Reading For?” That final article, and your discussion board posts, should help you think through the faith-related implications of the material of this class. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/literary_theory_and_schools_of_criticism/index.html
Some questions seem silly until people actually think about them. For example, the question “What is reading for,” borderlines the absurd. Obviously, reading is one method in which people gain information and communicate with other people. Therein lies the issue; how do people impact the way information is read? The cultural background and location of an individual will greatly affect how that individual understands what he or she is reading. A fair question is do people read to find truth. This short post is going to presume that most people do intent to find truth in reading educational literature. People will read for truth that matters to them. If that presumption is correct, then Christians have an obligation to challenge their readers to find absolute truth.
Writers put their thoughts and beliefs down on paper so that others can learn new information. Christian writers must put information down that will challenge all people to think and consider what their beliefs are, and are those beliefs true. The society in which an individual lives will impact their outlook on the truth in scholastic literature. The challenge for Christian authors is to find a way to connect the truth to the circumstances in which their reader finds him or herself. Many truths could challenge deep seated beliefs that began centuries prior in some cultures. Lyons stated that theoretical concepts, “…are based on observations of human behavior and of the ways in which human behavior has been represented over the centuries in mythology, folklore, and literature” (297). The truth that Christians bring forth about Jesus shatter the truths of mythology and folklore. Christianity puts forth a truth that contradicts every other belief system in the world. The Christian truth is not a “what” but a “who”. Truth is Jesus, and Jesus is truth (cf. John 14:6). The fact that Jesus is truth impacts every aspect of a Christian’s life. Since Christianity promotes transformation through salvation not by works, Christians must write to bring people to explore that truth.
From a critical standpoint, non-Christians might read literature written by professed Christians in order to dissect any truth out of their writings. Convincing people that their personal beliefs are wrong is no easy task. People will not believe in a different truth if the one they do believe in is still valid. Christian writers must write to lovingly destroy any false concept that contradicts the truth of Scripture (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Weele stated, “Alert to the importance of memory for reading and to the roles of public as well as private reading, theology challenges us to think of reading in terms other than those of textural dominance” (59). Scripturally sound theological writings help readers explore new concepts of truth in a nonaggressive environment. People can read the truths of Christianity without the fear of confrontation.
Reading is vital. Reading truth that leads people to explore the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is essential. Christian writers have no idea who is going to read the literature they put forth. Christian writers must write in a way that the reader feels challenged. All readers have the obligation to explore ideas and concepts to find truth. There is absolute truth, and that truth is Jesus.
Tyson, Lois. Using Critical Theory: How to Read and Write About Literature. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
Weele, Michael Vander. “Review Essay: What is Reading For?” Christianity and Literature, vol. 52, no. 1. Autumn 2002, pp 57-83. Liberty University: https://learn.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/ENGL603_D01_202020/What%20Is%20Reading%20For.pdf
What Is Reading For?
While reading was once used for education, investigation, and religion, it is now a commonplace commodity. With the introduction of technology, book publishing has skyrocketed while the actual purchase of physical books is in decline. With the cultural change in literature, comes this concern from Vander Weele,” This question of values strikes our discipline as well. In literary studies, we swing between literature as formal appreciation and literature as a social symptom, without enough exploration of the space between” (Weele n.d.).
As a Christian literary critic, this “social symptom” should cause widespread concern for the hearts, minds, and souls of many. Society has lost sight of reading long text, which promotes brain growth in exchange for short blogs that deplete brain growth (Houston 352). In addition to the concerns for physical changes in the brain, a Christian should also be concerned about the content of the literature. For instance, according to C.S. Lewis on literary criticism, …you treat the picture (story, my word) —or rather a hasty and unconscious selection of elements in the picture—as a self-starter for certain imaginative and emotional activities of your own. In other words, you 'do things with it.' You do not lay yourself open to what it, by being in its totality precisely the thing it is, can do to you” (Lewis loc. 206-210). What Lewis is saying is a close second to the Scripture Proverbs 23:7, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." What we let in, we process and let it. If it is good, we express goodness. If it is garbage, well then, garbage in – garbage out. Perhaps it is essential to explore what is "in-between" as Weele stated.
Present-day literature, especially as a social symptom, should be considered closely whether the reader is a critic or layperson. The following list is a shortlist of books or series of books that are trending in today's society. In addition to the book is a listed ethical concern that can be addressed when exploring what is "in between."
This shortlist contains the underpinnings of what is going on in culture today. It is more than just entertainment. It fills the minds with everything anti-God. If whatever a man thinks in his heart, so is he is true, it is safe to say that a reader is playing with fire when some secular works of literature are entertained.
No matter the method used to analyze literature, there is a distinction between the sheep and the goats in literature. According to Lewis, critics create a hard line between the casual reader and the academic reader (Lewis 1209-1215). Perhaps it is better to take into context what it is that is read. An individual may find that reading Scripture is both engaging and relaxing. On the other hand, an individual may find a secular text engaging that leaves much to be wanted in the Christian world view, and may be very dangerous to the mind, heart, and soul of the audience.
Houston, S. M. "Reading Skill, and Structural Brain Development." Neuroreport 25.5 (2014): 347-352.
Lewis, C.S. An Experiment in Criticism. London: Cambridge, 1961.
Weele, Michael Vander. "What is Reading For?" Christianity and Literature 52.1 (2002): 57-83.