Assorted Thoughts #3: Literature Edition

1. Things I'd like to see a randomized experiment on: Whether reading to your kids has any of the beneficial effects people think it has. (Google Scholar coughs up nothing relevant for allintitle: reading children trial OR experiment.) I predict zilch in the long run (say, beyond grade 5). But perhaps these experiments should not be done. Can it really be socially beneficial to put the entire German middle class in a state of shock?

2. "Cultural studies" is when scholars of literature do sociology using methods they learned for the interpretation of literature. What would people say if sociologists decided to do "infrastructure studies", sending out questionnaires to houses and bridges: "All things considered, how stable do you feel these days?"

3. The text of the Beatles song "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" is, um, a bit opaque. But the title is a pretty cool metaphor, stating a correct psychological hypothesis in a way that encourages a more specific genitally-themed interpretation. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Lennon had culled the phrase directly from the cover of a gun magazine. That doesn't undermine an interpretation of the song title as metaphorical, but still.

4. Speaking of which- Professors of literature will claim that the interpretation of texts is not particularly subjective, contrary to popular stereotype. Reason given: You have to back your arguments up with evidence (typically from the text itself). Problem: What counts as evidence for what is far more subjective than in the natural or social sciences. One man's coincidence is another man's clue. Cf. "conspiracy theory".

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