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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Three Adequacies in Literary Criticism  

2009-05-17 16:44:09|  分类: Three Adequacies |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Zhang, John Zaixin.  "Three Adequacies in Literary Criticism."  

<http://bfsutheory.blog.163.com/blog/static/3229368320094174449700>

Noam Chomsky has articulated “Three Adequacies,” as presented at the Ninth International Congress of Linguists (1964): observational adequacy (“concerned merely to give an account of the primary data” of language), descriptive adequacy (“concerned merely to give a correct account of the linguistic intuition of the native speaker”), and explanatory adequacy (aiming to “provide a principled basis, independent of any particular language, for the selection of the descriptively adequate grammar of each language”).[1] For Don L. F. Nilsen, adequacy of research can be broken into four levels: Prescriptive Adequacy (what people should do), Descriptive Adequacy (what people do), Explanatory Adequacy (patterns, trends, predictions), and Evaluative Adequacy (based on elegance, simplicity, completeness, internal consistency, and generative power).[2]

Based on Nilsen’s model, we can formulate three adequacies in literary criticism: descriptive, evaluative, and critical adequacies (DEC adequacies).

Definitions

Descriptive Adequacy: Citing research findings or introducing existing critical views

Evaluative Adequacy: Examining the value of a critical view (including internal consistency/inconsistency, strengths/shortcomings, etc.) and/or its connections to other critical views (including patterns, trends, or predictions, etc.) - minimum requirement for an M.A. term paper

Critical Adequacy: Stating a critical view of your own with proof by going beyond other critical views - requirement for a publishable paper or a Ph.D. dissertation

Examples

Source: Zhang, John Zaixin. “‘Postmodern’ Space in the Heart of Beijing: From the National Theater to the Palace Museum.” PMLA 122.1 (2007): 256-83.

Descriptive Adequacy

Example 1: Introducing a critical view

According to one report, the dome of the theater with the glass middle resembles an egg in the process of hatching and thus symbolizes life and openness (Yin and Hang 8).

Example 2: Introducing a critical view

An anonymous article in the Architectural Review relates the design of the National Theater to Andreu’s first effort in airport building, the cylindrical Charles de Gaulle 1 in Paris; the form of the airport departure hall has been grafted onto the main lobby of the theater, where “there is no sense of direction, orientation or place.”

Evaluative Adequacy

Example 1: Evaluating a critical view about its shortcomings

In his analysis of Foucault’s use of the panopticon to illustrate the “eye-power” inherent in the architecture of concealment in the Forbidden City (10–11, 182), Zhu fails to pay attention to the theory of power and resistance in Foucault’s History of Sexuality. And in his discussion of the connection between the panopticon and Han Fei’s legalism (11, 172-26), Zhu also fails to take into account the strong tendency in the ruler’s inferiors to resist, which urgently requires the ruler to maintain power (shi) through law (fa) and methods (shu [of investigating officials and subjects]). Behind every stratagem in Han Feizi for wielding power and achieving control is the ruler’s fear of powerful rivals, the “danger of being blocked in five ways” (17), and the need to guard against “eight villainies” in officialdom (46-47). Power and resistance are thus locked together in interdependence.

Example 2: Evaluating a critical view about its strengths and inconsistencies

Following trends in America (see, for instance, the Jan. 2001 issue of PMLA on “Globalizing Literary Studies,” esp. Giles Gunn’s introduction), Wang Ning, in an effort to globalize Chinese literary studies and rewrite Chinese literary culture, calls for a reformation of the Chinese literary canon to be powered by “postmodernism, aesthetics of reception and New Historicism” (68). I agree with Wang about using postmodernism as a tool for literary studies, although I think he needs to examine some of his own claims more closely under the postmodernist theories he hails as guidelines for Chinese literary globalization: claims about the distinction between canonical and popular literature (54–56) and about the fact that contemporary Chinese literature “will not be so powerful as to push forward social change and promote economic reform” but functions merely as “a means of aesthetic enjoyment” (57), a notion that contrasts with his implication that translations of “Western literature and cultural and theoretical trends” had fueled the May 4th Movement in Beijing in 1919, which “marked the beginning of China’s modernity” (60).

Critical Adequacy

Example 1: Stating a critical view of one's own as the main argument of a paper, the rest of the paper as proof

In the pages that follow, I will discuss the “postmodern” space manifested in both the National Theater of China and the Palace Museum (also known as the Forbidden City) in terms of their blurred spatial dichotomy of inside and outside.

Example 2: Stating a critical view with proof by going beyond other critical views on the National Theater

The image-reproducing dome of the theater, sitting in the middle of a reflective lake (roughly in the shape of a square) with entrances through underwater tunnels, epitomizes Jameson’s description of an example of postmodern architecture—the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles in its inside-outside “flatness or depthlessness” (9). Similar to the hotel’s reflective glass skin, which “achieves a peculiar and placeless dissociation of the Bonaventure from its neighborhood” (42), the titanium bulk of the dome reflects sky light during the day, and the glass middle, in the shape of a water drop, reproduces on its surface the images of the sky and the immediate environment, including part of the lake. The theater is a vista of distorted glass images (in the front and the back) accentuated by the blurry titanium skylight reflections fused with the sight of the sky in the background. Since Heaven (the dome) is round and Earth (the lake) is square in traditional Chinese symbolism, one might interpret the whole edifice as a manifestation of Heaven and Earth in harmony. However, this interpretation can be complicated by the glass middle of the dome. The glass middle may symbolize the ancient Chinese cosmological view of the “Central Kingdom” in the center of the universe (Wright 45), meaning that the dome can be both Heaven and Earth in itself, an image to be doubly reproduced in its reflection on the lake. In other words, Heaven and Earth are reduced to two simulacra, or two merely self-referential signifiers in the theater complex, which reproduce and reflect each other.

 


       [1] See Professor Jennifer Watson’s web page at the University of Chicago: 17 May, 2009 <hum.uchicago.edu/~jagoldsm/Webpage/Courses/HistoryOfPhonology/JenWatsonHouseholder.pdf>. Also see Horstein, Norbert. “Noam Chomsky.” Ed. Edward Craig. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge, 1998. 17 May 2009 <http://www.chomsky.info/bios/1998----.htm>.

[2] Nilsen, Don L. F. “Basic Linguistic Concepts.” Personal communication, 12 March, 2008.

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