Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"Do not speak ill of society ... only people who can't get in do that."

I got a total of 13 comments over four posts on my thesis.

"S.A.M." said
5. Cause + Effect - As a pitch for an article to be published in Salt Lake magazine, find real locations/businesses that match Stegner's false but plausible locations, and compare the real life story of that location/business. That would be interesting reading, and ultimately advertisable.
I love this idea, and have concluded that I will ultimately have to pursue two parallel papers, one more formal and analytic, the other more crafted to sell papes.

I posted a link to "Does Great Literature Make Us Better?," and got two responses:

Courtesy of Following Day by Day
Rachel said,
I have a soapbox that basically consists of: "reading is just as much of a waste of time as consuming other types of media, but it somehow seen as better" which the article goes into. I actually don't read books very much anymore, although some of the buying habits remain. Luckily my craziest book sprees occur only when books are really cheap.

And Michael countered with,
That article makes some interesting points, but doesn't even try to address other benefits of reading (which are much more testable, and I feel like probably have been proven? though I guess I'm not totally sure).

Food for thought!

Dr. Burton asked for clarification:
I am personally drawn to the concept of surveying all that lies before you, and I think that this one could have a broader impact than the advocacy of recognition a local writer locally. I'm teased by your concept in the last claim about the rewriting of our experiences of real spaces. And I don't know how you mean that Stegner's fictitious places are a metaphor for the act of authorship -- but these are intriguing enough for me to ask for more clarification. I hope you will give it.
Jamie also wanted me to state the metaphor more clearly.

Therefore, I will combine my 2nd and 5th claims for my final thesis:

Stegner stated that to really understand a city, one has to be able to get up above it. This very Western idea of surveying all that lays before you has deep implications not just from a geographical perspective, but a psychosocial one as well. Authors, by creating fictional worlds, rewrite our experience of real spaces: this act of (re-)creation mirrors the act of writing itself. The reader is able to get above a narrow mindset by entering another mind through the author.

My starting point will be the following (non-fictional quote by Stegner:

Salt Lake City is an easy town to know. You can see it all. Lying in a great bowl valley, it can be surmounted and comprehended and possessed wholly as few cities can. … The streets
are marked by a system so logical that you can instantly tell not merely where you are but
exactly how far you are from anywhere else … Looking into the blank walls of cities … breeds
things in people that eventually have to be lanced

I believe that both great literature and great city- and landscapes promote healthier development in a very real, tangible sense.

The more literary criticism I read this year, the more I am convinced that what we read reshapes the very fabric of our brains.

Hopefully the metaphor is more clear: the fact that Stegner invented a mortuary that never existed and put it at a real address in Salt Lake City is what an author does in microcosm: using real pen and ink and time to, essentially, tell a made-up story.


  1. I like where you are taking this, combining Stegner, SLC and "the very fabric of our brains." An interesting combination, truly Charly style and being able to see the process of all of it come together is fascinating.

  2. This is more clear (and more interesting) to me now. So, you are looking more at making a more general statement about what an author or fiction does to change our views?

    1. Clarity=interest.

      Yeeeeeees, but à travers, as the French say, this specific author. I feel like a too-general statement could be too broad for only six pages?