On Criticizing “Detail” In Literature

My students often rail against what they call the excessive “detail” and “style” in literature, saying things like, “They don’t need all that fancy stuff.  Just get to the point and get it over with!”

When they whine like this, I sometimes think (but never say), “Wow, if that’s really your attitude toward things, your sex life is going to be awful.”

7 comments on “On Criticizing “Detail” In Literature

  1. I LOL’ed too.

    Less time playing games and watching soaps and more time reading stories that tell more than just “he shot him in the head and calmly walked out.”

  2. You could set up an interesting exercise based off that attitude and ask them to point to exactly what could be removed and have them find places in the text where the same information presented.
    You could have them pretend that they are the editor that the author is submitting the story to and have them look for things that could be cut without changing the effect of the whole. Make them justify their decisions.

    Just an idea. It might get them thinking about what kind of effect the author was trying to create.

  3. Thanks, all. Velska, that right there is enough of a script to get you a movie deal these days! :)

    Michaela, good idea! I’ll try that sometime.

  4. Bah ha! That is hilarious. And to think, I was just re-reading The Great Gatsby and thinking, “his descriptive language is so enjoyable…”

    also, did you notice the guy who disagreed with your education ideas misused his form of “too?” people who discount education are so frequently the ones “who’s word chosing is just krapy.”

  5. As I have been convalescing here, I have read all but two of Jane Austen’s books. Reading the late-eighteenth-century English is not so easy at times, but the reward is also good.

    One needs to understand, that two hundred years ago they didn’t have TV, Internet, Cell Phones with texting, IPo/ads etc. that take up their time and give instant gratification. The people then appreciated a sentence that was beautifully built. That same condition lasted until about the 1950s. Jack Kerouac, for example, wrote very little, but he would describe scenery etc. with colorful expressions.

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