Literature Makes Trouble

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Question 1 ‘Literature makes trouble’. Discuss with reference to the readings for weeks 1 and 2. Literature is an intricate and “paradoxical institution” (Culler 2000, p. 41) that is primarily considered as having “diametrically opposed functions” (39); to establish and challenge ideologies, to both liberate and control in the same breath – being “at the same time the name for the utterly conventional…and for the utterly disruptive” (41). Literature’s ability to disrupt and divide opinion is evident within the first chapter of Christos Tsiolkas’ novel, The Slap (2008). Tsiolkas’ description of the sequential events that lead to a grown man hitting a four year-old boy evokes conflicting emotions regarding the appropriateness of the man’s actions. It forces the reader to question ‘would I have done the same?’ Challenging yourself in this manner disrupts preconceived ideas of moral conduct. As an adult, shouldn’t your instinctive reaction be one of disgust with the idea of hitting a child? But what if it wasn’t? Culler (41) highlights this disturbance, stating that “for anything that seemed to make sense, literature could make it nonsense, go beyond it, transform it in a way that raised the question of its legitimacy and adequacy”. Question 2 Is The Slap literature? Why? The term literature, generally used to describe written works, is a complex concept. Culler (23) compares the definition of literature to that of a weed; in that weeds are simply unwanted plants – the specifics of the plant, however, vary greatly depending on the gardener. A piece of literature predominantly contains a story or elements of a story. Decent literary works should, at some point, encourage the reader to question themselves, using language-based techniques to provoke and/or challenge in some way. Culler suggests that literature is “the place where ideology is exposed; revealed as
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