David Gilman-Frederick is an ALT living in Kobe, Japan.  He works at Fukiai Senior High School (Hyogo prefecture’s debate team champions!) and attends Kobe Union Church on Sundays.


5 Responses to About

  1. George T.Karnezis says:

    Your piece on Christian Lit Theory was sent to me and I found it intriguing despite my impatience with how theory has affected lit study, generally. My own work , decades ago, was in hermeneutics, focusing on Gadamer’s work as a useful antidote to the less than adequate hermeneutics of E.D. Hirsch. My goal has always been to discuss “theory’s” relevance to what we do in the classroom when we read with others. Your take on interpretation seems refreshing and justifiably wary of treating texts as sermons. (I’d be curious how a Christian interpreter would approach works like Wallace Stevens’ “Sunday Morning,” or Camus’ THE STRANGER.)

    As you may know, the coming wave in lit theory is now “cognitive literary study” and I’m trying not to get swamped by it.

  2. David says:

    Professor Karnezis,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I’m only a little familiar with Hirsch and even less with Gadamer — but I would absolutely love to hear more about them. Unfortunately, because I live in Japan, my access to academic literature is limited to what’s either online or available through my Kindle!

    I checked out the Wallace Stevens poem, and I will write a reflection on it sometime. Cognitive lit. theory looks kind of interesting, but a bit too far away from the art for me. But this was the first I’ve heard of it. Do remember, I’m only a high school teacher. I would greatly appreciate any more informed comments you can send my way.

  3. George T.Karnezis says:


    Thanks for your reply. I agree, if I understand you rightly, that much theory leaves the “art” out of literature. Indeed, any attention to aesthetic matters is often viewed quite narrowly, as if paying attention to the “art” were a distraction from the real substance of a work rather than an essential entry into it. For all too many paying attention to a artistry is to commit the sin of “formalism” or aestheticism (as in the pejorative “aesthete.”) There have been some recent reactions to this view, and even some signs that it’s alright to talk about “beauty” again. Fancy that

    Incidentally, I’ve often found that students resist talking about the Bible as “literature,” as if doing so would violate its “true” nature.

  4. I’d never have been able to approach the Bible if it hadn’t been introduced to me as literature.

    As for art and aesthetics. . . I don’t think it’s so much that theory misses the point, as it is that it has the potential to lead us to forget what the point was in the first place. I worry (though I don’t know anything about it) that cognitive theory would seek to explain our artistic impulses in terms of a series of material, neorological processes. Is that right? If so, if the creation and appreciation of beauty becomes just another chemical process in the brain, that’d degrade the term “art” the way mass-produced plastic degraded the term “artificial.” Wasn’t plastic itself once a much more interesting, if shiftier word, before it was arrested by modern science and reformed to a practical drudgery? Sometimes I’m (foolishly) certain it’d be worth all the grocery bags, computer casings, sipping cups, bic pens, and polar fleeces &c. in the world to hear “plastic” used the old way again. Or “avatar,” for that matter, in exchange for all these fancy social interfaces.

    Despite that, though, this is fun, isn’t it? The first novel I’m going to bring to this blog is Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, which gives a grim picture of a future in which the arts are enslaved by the sciences. It does a wonderful job grieving for the beauty lost when words fall out of favor, and it’s remarkably hopeful about the future of language anyway. That’ll be in a couple weeks, though, after I get to the bottom of this stack of papers.

  5. George T.Karnezis says:

    Believe your fears about cognitive lit study are not misplaced and I like your sense of how language gets twisted around. William James had similar fears about misthinking religious experience as materially based, and I think Wittgenstein understood the dangers of certain kinds of “explanations.

    As far as I can tell, there’s something quite commonsensical about the cognitive study of lit: i.e. that a good understanding of literature calls upon and further develops cognitive capacities we use to make sense of experience. The idea that the kind of cognition made available through poetry (in the widest sense of that term) needs to be granted, is a cry the New Critics sounded in the 30’s thru the 50’s in their call for a more artistic sense of literature. They were addressing those “positivists” (in philosophy) who relegated the languages of ethics and art to simple expressions of feeling and preference, as well as Marxists who insisted on unpacking the material conditions that “caused” literature to be what it was. These tendencies remain in the academy, I think.

    There are some critics and thinkers who retain a sense of literature true weight and cognitive import, but they do not usually inhabit English departments these days. I’d cite much of the work of Martha Nussbaum (in classics, philosophy) and Susan Nieman (MORAL CLARITY- philosophy) as using (without abusing) lit to cultivate the moral and ethical imagination.

    Thanks for the Atwood references; look forward to checking them out. Alas, ars longa, vita brevis. Grade on.

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