Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This is SO High School

My Sitemeter referral logs never work, but when they do, I learn things.

Like how some high school student (presumably) arrived at my blog by googling "interpretation of Gatsby's shirt scene." I don't think my post referencing that particular scene is all that helpful, but there you go. I think the previous five links or so above mine (which comes on page two!) about "artifact in imagery," "ressentiment and social poetics" do a much better-than-flyby analysis. I am not sure I was even analyzing the scene correctly! Oh wait, I am po-mo, there is no correct interpretation, and I can't know the author's, so there you go again.

Man, I forgot how high school English classes would ask you to write such essays in an effort to teach students how to read beyond text and understand metaphor, synecdoche, metonymy, etc. It gets better in college, or at least more intelligent and less blunt and heavy-handed. In some ways I miss those days of literary interpretation.

But I don't miss being a high school student. Nor do I think it's a great thing that students are googling things to steal other people's interpretations and arguments. If there's anything post-modern literary theory will teach this student, it is "don't be afraid to be wrong and stake a normative position/interpretation. Everyone is wrong. Or everyone is right. Whichever."

It just makes me kind of sad that Google and Wikipedia have become the default sources of normativity. I concede to you, Philosophical Werewolf--just because it is found by Google, does not mean that its right. Moreover, just beause Google alerts you to others' interpretations and normative claims, does not mean that they are right, either.

Think for yourself, High School Student! How would you interpret that scene with the shirts?


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