I’ve always assumed that most people get a kick out of close reading the way I do. Maybe not to my extent, true. (I mean, I do enjoy writing papers analyzing a single sentence of prose. Seriously.) But the other day I was reading a friend’s blog, in which he reviewed a movie and was then chided in the comments section for “analyzing the s**t out of everything and ruining it” (more or less). The comment reminded him to sit back and enjoy the on-screen explosions without worrying too much about plot holes and character analysis because it’s a freaking popcorn movie, man, not Shakespeare.
I truly love analyzing stuff. That’s why I’m going to try to make a living at it. It’s almost a creative process in a way, because of course the literary analyst’s job isn’t just to mine for hidden treasures of meaning but also to suggest them. Placing a work in context, suggesting other modes of interpretation, and juxtaposing other works in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in order to draw out new realms of meaning for the reader–those are the joys of analyzing the s**t out of writing.
But I’ve also been on the flip side of the debate, especially in my Intro to Poetry class from freshman year. Spending an hour and twenty minutes analyzing a five-line poem? That’s just overkill. Poetry is definitely not my specialty in the academic field, but it’s something that I enjoy simply for itself—and I enjoy it most when I’m simply sitting outside by Lake Michigan, savoring the verse simply for its beauty. Not overthinking it.
I wonder if I’ve let my love of analysis creep too far out of the classroom. Would a movie be better if I didn’t think too much about motivations and implications (and just let myself enjoy watching Joseph Gordon Levitt ride a bicycle through Manhattan)? Do I read too much into conversations and muddle up my own thought process by injecting too much introspection?
Is it better to sit back and let everything flow over you–the beauty of poetry, the impact of on-screen explosions–without thinking too much about what it means with a capital M?