I've been reading through this student's paper. It's a paper from his undergrad days, and now he's a grad student and talking about working on romance stuff. The paper is an okay undergrad paper. It quote mines, and doesn't think very theoretically about its questions, assumptions, or arguments, nor does it think about cultural contexts except in fairly simplistic ways, but it's okay. I can imagine a lot of classes where I would have been pretty happy to see a student write this paper.
I'm trying to think about how to explain to the student how different a grad level or publishable paper would look.
I'm hoping the student hasn't looked at the paper for a couple years and has become more theoretically sophisticated in the meantime.
I find a certain style of writing irritating; it's the "character X has to do Y because [insert big theoretical or social idea]" style. For example, "Ophelia has to commit suicide because she hasn't successfully transition to adult heterosexuality." (And yes, I've been guilty in more than one piece of writing.)
Now, on one level, of course a character "has to" do whatever the author makes it do, but that's because it's a character and not a person, and there's no free will or whatever here, just what worked for the writer at a given moment.
But I get irritated at the sense of inevitability, especially with things I'm not sure of. Yes, Ophelia is thought to have committed suicide by other characters, but we don't see it happen, nor do we see her say anything particularly suicidal. So shouldn't we hold onto at least the possibility of doubt about the other characters' interpretations of her death? (I have no doubts about Lucrece's suicide, but I do about Ophelia's and Lady Macbeth's.)
And haven't lots of folks not killed themselves despite not "successfully transition[ing]" to adult heterosexuality, even in very heteronormative societies?
I get even more cranky about the "what if only" style, as in, "what if only Othello had just talked to Desdemona and believed her?" To which I can only respond, we'd have the most boring play of marital bliss ever. Marital bliss makes for boring plays, good lives, but boring plays; conflict, death and destruction make for interesting plays but unhappy lives.
And so, interrupted in my revery (but not a really good laudanum-induced revery, alas... more a clorox bathroom cleaner induced revery) to go talk to my student.