I don’t really think about literary theory. Very often.
So, surprise! I’m an English Major. In fact, I have a Bachelor’s of Arts in English with a Professional Writing Certificate. The reason why I try to read a classic novel a month is because of a promise that I made myself in college that even though I literally did not have sufficient time to finish reading all of the books then, I would eventually do so. Or give it that old college try, mwa-mwah…..
Anyhoosen, for a person who regularly says be-tee-dubs and has been trying (sort of) to stop cursing for at least 5 years, I don’t think I would seem to be a person who generally thinks about literary theory. This is actually true. I don’t care about literary theory. I read about it and found it mildly interesting and massively irritating in college, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to bring out into my regular life with me. I love books for the magic they have of creating an escape, a world where you can experience ideas, places, magic, love, hatred, and horror. If you can truly “sink into” a novel, you have just had a truly magical experience.
It is for this reason that though I love classics and I appreciate books that make you think and present different ideas and such, my first concern with a book isn’t its inherent “value” on my life. It is whether that book will transport me somewhere that I will enjoy. As a writer, I don’t care about feminist theory, changing the lives of readers, or teaching some moral concept. I care about giving my readers the escape from their day to day lives which will renew and refresh them.
Like books do for me.
However, glimmers of memory have been hatching these last few days, rolling about in my head and making me think thoughts. Particularly the one called “Reader-Resonse Theory.” Here’s the definition according to good ole wiki: Reader-response criticism is a school of literary theory that focuses on the reader (or “audience“) and their experience of a literary work, in contrast to other schools and theories that focus attention primarily on the author or the content and form of the work.”
Well, I can tell you that I have noticed that this is totally and completely true. Most of the time, I think Literary Theory is ivory tower nonsense. Just a way to torture undergrads with random theories they have to apply to books they would never, ever choose to read without an assignment. Here, student, professors say with an evil gleam in their eye. Read Don Quixote in the next 10 days and write me a 10 page essay (double-spaced, 1 inch margins, Times New Roman Size 12) using the New Historicism theory. And then they cackle at the looks of horror and madness to overcome those otherwise capable adults sitting in that classroom.
When I was a girl, I read Anne of Green Gables (the first 6 books because I didn’t realize the last 2 were Anne books). I LOVED those. I loved the hijinks of Anne. How she was always getting into trouble. That near miss where she almost ended up being a helper in someone else’s house instead of staying with Marilla and Matthew. Every time, it killed me. Gilbert Blythe was certainly one of my first literary crushes.
As an adult, as part of my Popsugar Book Challenge, I decided to reread Anne of Green Gables. In fact, the last two books for this challenge have been Anne and The Fault in Our Stars. Which only matters because they had similar effects on me. Hazel Grace–when I read her story last time, like with Anne, I read it identifying with the protagonist. When I read the stories of Anne and Hazel Grace this time, I read from the perspectice of a changed life. I’m not the little girl anymore. One of the defining characters of my mind and heart is being a mother. So, when I read the stories this time, I couldn’t help but notice how often Hazel Grace needs to know what happened to Anna’s Mother. I thought about my own mother, but most often I thought about my kids. About my sweet boy and wonderful daughters. I wondered what their lives would have been if they had been born in 1905. Or 1805.
At the end of Anne of Green Gables when Marilla is thinking back over the childhood of Anne–Marilla realizes that taking Anne in wasn’t something that was just charitable or right. It change Marilla’s life in a positive and wonderful way. Marilla was enriched and blessed because of the “charitable” thing she had done. It was Marilla who was blessed. And as I look at my life, I think AMEN sister, AMEN.
As a foster parent, I have had more than one person tell me I am a “saint.” BULL CRAP I say. Have you SEEN my kids? They tell me I’m crazy for taking all three, as if they were kittens instead of children. BULL CRAP. I say. Each of them is precious to me. Each of them enrich my life. Each of them are blessings for which I will never, ever stop being grateful. It is me, in the morning, who gets to hear my oldest two playing together and laughing. To see them looking out for the other. It is me who has my kids runs up to me like I’m a rockstar instead of a middle-aged single girl of dubious looks and personality. But not to them. To them, I am precious and wonderful. It is me who gets to hold them tight when they’re sad. It is me who gets to do their hair in the morning and sit next to them on the couch and sing the Teen Titans theme song with them.
It is me who will get to watch them grow. So, like Marilla and Anna’s Mom and Hazel Grace’s Mom, I can look at my life and think, I am so damn blessed. I am so damn blessed. I am not a saint or an angel or anything other than stupidly, wonderfully, insanely lucky.
Just so damn blessed.
And in this small, exquisite infinity, it is the children and connections of my life that make it worth living. Something that I knew already but that was illustrated beautifully by my response to Anne of Green Gable’s Marilla and Hazel Grace’s mother.
ps I’m down to the “book my mom loves” on the Popsugar Challenge. I have about 92% of the Old Testament done and that last page can’t come soon enough. As for my own challenge–I’m reading the rest of Anne’s story and fitting it in somehow. Regardless, I’m on Anne’s House of Dreams, and I cried at work when baby Joy died. Damn it. I remembered that she died from my childhood, but it didn’t matter in the least. Weep, I did.