What Is Gerald Graff's Argument Of Intellectualspeak

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Gerald Graff began his career as a teacher before becoming an author focused on critical theory. “Disliking Books at an Early Age” is one of his publications that focuses on the teaching of critical theory. Graff’s argument is that students should be introduced to theory early in academics because a pure reading experience is impossible. Every person brings their own experiences and questions to a text that influences it. Therefore, literary theory gives them a scholarly way to shape their readings and develop the level of “intellectualspeak” that colleges seem to require, which teaches them the skills needed to discuss literature and add to the scholarly conversation. While Graff makes a valid point about the instruction and importance of…show more content…
To support this point, he conveys his own feeling of intellectual deficiency when he started college. He claims that he did not have the intellectual capacity to convey his ideas at the level that college required of him: “Inevitably, the students who do well in school and college are those who learn…to produce something resembling intellectualspeak. By what process do we imagine students will learn this language?” (47). While this is his second round of support, it is stronger than his first. It is still initially based on his own experiences, but he brings up a problem that plagues most students: a constant fear of intellectual inadequacy. Personally, this is a fear that kept me silent during my first years as an English major. I felt that I had ideas, but the ability to intellectually convey them. Graff claims that literary theory can help a student gain confidence by exposing them to the style of discourse they need to contribute to a scholarly conversation. As a person who likes structure, I agree that reading criticism can help one frame his or her own writing. However, this could lead to one’s own voice being stifled and traded in for one that sounds exactly like the critics that he or she reads. Therefore, I agree with Graff’s point to an extent. Maybe students should be allowed to develop their own voice first and then introduced to theory as a way of…show more content…
Graff paints reading as an insufferable and tedious chore that must be endured and the way that one is able to complete such a task is through theoretical analysis of the text. However, some students have a passion for reading that can drive them to spend time studying and interpreting a text. This would lead to more original ideas than interpretations that are influenced by what other critics say about a text or by the reader being told how to read a text. Graff does not believe in Bloom’s idea of “just reading”: “As readers, we are necessarily concerned with both the questions posed by the text and the questions we bring to it from our own differing interests and cultural backgrounds” (46-47). While Graff views this as an unavoidable contamination of “pure” reading, I believe this can also be viewed as a unique perspective that could be lost by an introduction to literary theory. Therefore, “pure” reading could be considered reading without the knowledge of literary theory because if one is unaware of the questions and perspectives that they bring to the text, they will be more likely to have their own ideas about a
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