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Monday, October 26, 2015

Folk Hermeneutics

My students told me last summer that they like poetry in free verse, because the meaning is open. A sonnet will have a fixed meaning. Therefore, they like fixed-form poetry in class because the professor can tell you what it means.

In the course this semester, my students say they like poetry because it is open to whatever meaning the reader wants to attribute to it. Narrative prose has more fixed meanings.

I don't bother to argue with these conceptions. Rather, I find them interesting. I would argue with a grad student, but not with an undergraduate. This is simply the folk hermeneutics of the bright but not professionalized student. The Spanish major / minor is not a specialist in literature, but studies literature as one of the components of the course of study, enjoying it when it's taught well and h/she can be caught up in the enthusiasm of the prof.

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