Oh wow. Great post! It’s odd how nobody really likes indefinite answers anymore. They want to know if they’re right or wrong. That’s all. They don’t want to try to see both sides of a debate, they’d like to pick one and stick with it. But by understanding both sides, there’s a bigger understanding of the work in general. You’ve got all these factors to consider, historical, cultural, psychological, gender, and so on- I find it’s research- like how scientists research medicine- only in a different way. And the research of literature done by people, just like the research scientists do, has the same goal: to understand how things work in life- we’re just looking at books instead of doing experiments.
When people call physics and chemistry “hard sciences” they refer to those subjects’ basis in mathematics and quantitative reasoning. In the lengthy definition of “hard,” such subjects fit best with 7a,“1. firm, definite; 2. not speculative or conjectural: factual; 3. important rather than sensational or entertaining.”
By that definition, my own specialty—reading, thinking over, and writing about literature—is decidedly soft. Many people probably assume the earlier definitions of “hard” don’t fit English either. Because literature classes don’t require mastering complex and rigorous physical laws, they aren’t seen as being as difficult as classes involving equations, graphs, and experimental data. Literature is fuzzy, subject to slippery interpretations and airy whims. You can say anything about a story, novel, or poem, the reasoning goes, so what you say is insubstantial, variable, and, on some level, false. Some people think English teachers should grade easier because there’s nothing really to grade. If…
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