Victory as an Interpretation

It is strange to be back in academia. I am waiting for the day that I go to school and it feels normal. Right now I am still in wonder of it. I vaguely recall these sensations of stretching within my mind. Ideas bounce up against the edges of my understanding, demanding more room. They lick at my capacity, tickling, demanding. The vague recollections that I have of this are actually quite scary. I was never the type of kid to practice moderation and when I learned something new I went heels up all the way in. That is not to say that I got caught up in all kinds of fads, although I went through the usual college development, but more that I would wrap up in trying to understand something new so much so that I became a knot- a black void. I am sure that I spent most of my high school and college career incomprehensible to those around me. Now that I am back in that familiar setting, feeling my mind jump off cliffs, I wonder how much of the catatonic dreaming that I experienced was due to the search for understanding and how much was from my chemical imbalances. I don’t see many other people walking around with their heads positively fizzing, but then I suppose I can’t see their brains. Actually I believe that most people go to college seeking knowledge, not understanding, and so they activate a completely different part of their brain than I do during and around classes. But sometimes the quest for “understanding” goes deep enough that even I call bullshit on it.

I am taking an English Literature class- “The Modernist Novel.” I quite like it. It gives me an excuse to read some fiction, our professor is passionate and knowledgeable, and in a lot of ways it reminds me of my Shakespeare class, which thoroughly challenged me back when I was 19. Today though, I could barely keep from laughing with the absurdity of our discussion. We do “close readings” of the text, which means that we go through line by line, word by word, and relate everything to the social issues and influences of the modernist period. In theory that is okay. However, at one point, when we were looking at pronoun usage and other word choice issues, I realized that what we were doing was rather pointless. Yes, everything can be related to the early 1900’s, but that does not mean that the choices were intentional. Conrad did not choose these lines. They came out of him. Writing was not a strict formula, a scientific exploration. It was a creative act. One could argue that his time period influenced every aspect of his writing and so therefore becomes visible in every word, but I think that is stretching things a bit. At some point lines are just filler to get to a bigger idea, and a close examination is really us just masturbating our own historical frame.

Once I realized this I really started to enjoy the class. It is a game. There is nothing to understand. It is an exercise in application. There is no truth. There is no right or wrong. After all the work and effort and whether or not you choose to enjoy the experience, Victory was really just an interpretation. 

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