Finding Patterns


Image by Fiestoforo

by Bill Benzon

Is perhaps the most important skill of a literary critic. The trouble with Theory, then, is not so much the terms in which interpretations are couched, but the fact that it privileges creating those accounts over the finding of patterns. Right now we need better descriptions of our texts and that requires that we find the patterns which are the “joints” of the textual body, to use Plato’s metaphor.

This, incidentally, is why digital criticism is so very important. By its very nature it foregrounds the discovery patterns. It is because the patterns are so very strange that the fact of their “patternhood” is foregrounded.

Of course, the discovery of patterns is not the ultimate end of literary study. But the meanings and mechanisms we seek are there in the patterns. Without those, we have nothing to understand and explain. Simply cranking out more propositions from the Theory Engine is, at this point, a waste of time.

Piece originally posted at New Savannah | Creative Commons License
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