Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Newspapers: Possible answers to our questions

Last week's homework assignment.
Last week, for your homework, we presented an essay on the suitability of Bob Dylan's work for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Here are some possible answers to the questions we asked concerning that essay.

These are certainly NOT the only correct answers, but, as you prepare for the end-of-semester test, we hope these sample answers help you understand what our questions are aiming at.

How is the article structured? This article is an essay, a structured argument, presented in the form of a blog post.

Given the structure as you’ve described it, list the segments of the article. 
  • Part 1 explains why Bob Dylan is significant, and what he accomplished in American culture.
  • Part 2 explains how he did this: by demonstrating that popular songs can express huge ideas.
  • Part 3 contrasts Bob Dylan's lyrics with what the author considers truly good poetry. 
  • Part 4 claims that literature is self-contained, in contrast to Dylan's lyrics, which are inseparable from music.
  • Part 5, the conclusion, is a sort of lament: we literati have few occasions to celebrate the uniqueness of literature; if you take the Nobel away, we'll have one fewer.
Is there a ‘take-away’? (One point that the author wants you to remember?) Yes: Giving a folk singer the literature prize is like going to a hardware store for oranges -- it is a category error.

Is there another thing you will remember, in addition or instead, a week or so from now? Literature is a silent activity.

What are three good discussion points that the article brings up? Anything that made you think or question?
  • Point 1: Literature in this specific sense of a self-contained, silent art, is little older than the printing press. (Do we agree?)
  • Point 2: Reading is a lonely activity in which you listen to a voice generated by your mind's interaction with another mind's words. (Do we agree?)
  • Point 3: Is it true that song lyrics are nothing without the music? Could we pick a better example than the song quoted by the author?
Did you notice anything illogical in the article's arguments? Do you have information that tends to contradict or supplement the info or perspective in the article? Yes. Metcalf's comparison might be unfair. Also, can a text be part of more than one category? (Folk music and literature, for example.)

Describe the voice and register. The register is literary/conversational ... note words such as "contingent" and "perspicuous" but also the use of the second person to address the reader. The author is speaking in his own personal voice to an audience that is probably already following him, either through his entries on Slate's culture blog, or in his podcasts.

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