Friday, April 27, 2012

Is the Author Dead?

Writing About Literature in the Digital Age, an e-Book written by my professor and his students from a previous section of the same class I'm taking right now, has been an interesting read because it's articulated many of the ideas that have been germinating in my brain about blogging. I've tried blogging a few times, actually. Blogging is exciting for me, but at the same time, it often leaves me feeling bewildered and overwhelmed. What if I write something but the readers don't like it? What if it's not interesting? Funny? Clever? Intelligent? Will people quit reading? Will they even start?

Chapters 5 and 6 address the ways in which authors connect with their readers. In Chapter 5, Alyssa Rutter writes about Harper Lee and her unwillingness to connect to her audience. Shortly after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, Lee practically disappeared off the face of the earth after becoming overwhelmed by the popularity of her first novel. I admit I've occasionally daydreamed about being a mysterious author who never talks about her books and leaves the readers to discern the meaning without my influence. But that's hardly been the effect of Harper Lee's silence. Some people actually believe that Lee didn't even write her famous novel. Lee wrote a bestselling novel, but she failed to create an authorial presence. Meanwhile, Toni Morrison is connecting with her audience on all kinds of levels, as Andrea Ostler writes in Chapter 6. Morrison is able to help her readers to understand her book Song of Solomon. Morrison's ability to connect with her audience is producing only positive results, while Lee's readers are left puzzled by her disappearance--if not worse.

Blogging is a great way to take creation of an authorial presence into your own hands. As Rutter points out, if an author doesn't create his or her own online personality, then someone else will. I really enjoy blogging as opposed to other kinds of writing because it's so personal. On blogs, we get to use "I." We get to project our opinions even if they're not perfectly articulated and supported, as Dr. Burton wrote. We get to put our own voice into our writing and sound the way we like to sound. Using Alyssa Rutter's words, we create ourselves online. Blogging is all about creating a relationship between author and reader, a relationship which is becoming not only valuable, but critical in today's literary world. Contrary to Roland Barthes' opinions, the author is not dead, as Andrea Ostler points out. The author is not only alive and well, but being sought after by the readers of literature in the digital age.

Gone With the Wind

For a long time, I've been feeling a lot like Scarlett O'Hara, saying, "I'll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day." That's largely how I've been approaching the idea of getting connected in the digital age. I've dabbled a little in tons of social websites, but as far as actually making it worthwhile and not just a waste of time? I'll think about that tomorrow.

So I think it's only appropriate that I write about Gone With the Wind. Like Scarlett, even though I say I'm not going to think about it until tomorrow, eventually tomorrow comes and I have to act. And I guess tomorrow has come with this class and with this blog. 

But there's more to my decision than just a personal connection with Scarlett O'Hara. Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite literary works for plenty of reasons, but one of the most important is that it's real. I mean, it's a novel; it's not a true story. And it takes place more than a century ago, so it doesn't depict any current situation. Yet, despite its fiction, the characters are real. There are no black-and-white good guys and bad guys. Scarlett herself is a perfect shade of gray, yet an evolving, changing shade. She starts out young and naive and, throughout the novel, grows into a woman who has no choice but to take care of herself in the best way she can. She is neither a "good guy" nor a "bad guy." She's an actual human being. The same is true of the rest of the characters, even angelic Melanie. Mistakes are made. Character is formed. People grow older. This is life. And Margaret Mitchell has captured the essence of life in a novel so we can examine it safely from outside the glass wall of fiction. 

The BYU-I Learning Model

I'm actually pretty enthusiastic about the BYU-I Learning Model, mainly because of self-directed learning. As a student, sometimes I feel like all I do is sit, listen, and take notes. All my self-directed learning takes place outside of and only as an addition to schoolwork. I try to be a self-motivated learner but with all the demands of deadlines and teacher expectations, I don't always feel like I can afford to take charge of my own education. What's wrong with this picture? Isn't college supposed to be all about finally working on our interests and preparing for the rest of our lives in a way that suits us individually? If that's true, then why don't we ever feel like we're in charge?