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.