Beowulf comprehension questions essay

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Beowulf comprehension questions essay

These are valid questions. Literary snack food has its place. In the same way, how often you like to push the boundaries of your literary palate with exotic fare is up to you.

This kind of problem arises routinely whenever a society fulfills two criteria. The second is that it has a rich enough literary culture that members of subculture A have next to no reading material in common with subculture B.

Mutual incomprehension is the usual result. That is to say, the way to avoid mutual incomprehension is to have a canon. A canon, in this sense of the word, is a collection of works by dead people that everyone reads, discusses, and thinks about in the course of their schooling.

There are three characteristics of a canon that deserve attention here.

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Who makes these decisions? In any canon there are certain works that everyone, or nearly everyone, agrees on, certain others that are less unanimously included, and a fringe of works that this or that subculture of fans consider to be canon fodder and everybody else dismisses.

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This allows the canon to shape itself, and reshape itself, as an organic expression of the experience of a community. Finally, a canon is always unfair. Factors other than literary merit and relevance have their inevitable roles, too, ranging from ethnic, gender, and class prejudice all the way to temporary vagaries of cultural taste that make the appeal of this or that literary gimmick irresistible for a while, and incomprehensible thereafter.

Now of course the inevitable unfairness of a canon is one of the standard points raised by those who insist that having a canon is a Bad Thing, and that canons of literature should therefore be abolished.

Pay attention, though, to what inevitably happens thereafter. So a canon is always changing, always contested, and always unfair. None of these things keeps it from doing its job, which is that of providing a basis for shared understanding in a society diverse enough to require that.

The current bickering between the political correctness of the left and the patriotic correctness of the right is a familiar phenomenon in cultural history. One of the great advantages of having a canon is that it makes it a lot easier to filter out trash.

Even in the most brilliant of literary cultures, a century might see a dozen genuine masterworks and a couple of hundred really good pieces of writing. Mark Twain once did the world a favor by exhuming one of these last, an otherwise forgotten midth century American novel, The Enemy Conquered; or, Love Triumphant by Samuel Watson Royston.

In most cases, this is exactly what they deserve. No doubt some of my readers will take umbrage at this claim. Have there been great works of literature that nobody recognized as masterpieces at the time, until they were hauled back up out of obscurity at a later date?

Beowulf comprehension questions essay

You can find their novels in online archives of old books if you want, and I dare you to read them without either dozing off or spraying the beverage of your choice across your computer screen. Many of them were wildly popular during their time, as popular as Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey were in ours.

All of them slipped into merciful oblivion once the fad for their kind of fiction was over, just as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey will in their turn. One of the great advantages of a canon, in turn, is that over time it fairly reliably scoops up the Jane Austens of the past and leaves the Samuel Watson Roystons in the obscurity that they deserve.

Put yourself in their shoes, and you can easily see why. Under these circumstances, a certain degree of bitter jealousy and even actual hatred can readily be understood.Last week’s post on the spooky dimensions of reading—the one-on-one encounter, in the silent places of the mind, with another person’s thinking—sparked a lively discussion on the comments page, and no shortage of interesting questions.

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Then learn more about the rule of thirds, a guideline that. Snowball. Orwell’s stint in a Trotskyist battalion in the Spanish Civil War—during which he first began plans for a critique of totalitarian communism—influenced his relatively positive portrayal of Snowball.

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