Recalcitrance, Faulkner, and the Professors (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Austin M. Wright has written a rare work of literary theory, a readable and entertaining study of a major theoretical problem that can be understood by a thoughtful reader who is generally unfamiliar with literary theory. The key to his success is his use of the dialectical approach which he adopts from Plato. Wright discusses this method at the end of the book, when he has two of his characters, Charlie Mercer and Eve Birdsong, discuss how their experience of a four-day roundtable can be written up most effectively. There are good theoretical and practical reasons for presenting the ideas they have discovered in the way they discovered them rather than as conclusions based on discussions, but Charlie acknowledges that such an approach will be less efficient than a direct presentation. This approach, however, is what makes the book accessible perhaps even to undergraduates.
In Arthur Birdsong’s ideal English department, a disturbing rivalry has developed between Bill Tuttle and Jake Jackson. Because they are friendly in public, this rivalry is not easily apparent, but their students notice it in the classroom, because what they learn from Tuttle is contradicted and scorned by Jackson and vice versa. Student Eve Birdsong takes this problem to her friendly junior professoi; Charlie. Both go to her father, and the result is one of his favorite activities, a department round-table. The interested parties gather and agree that Tuttle and Jackson will present...
(The entire section is 2191 words.)
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