Miller vs. Perloff: The Decline of Literature
J. Hillis Miller discusses the decline of literature in his book, On Literature, and his sentiments echo those of Marjorie Perloff in her essay, Crisis in the Humanities. While both authors construct thesis that assert that there is a modern movement away from reading literature merely for pleasure, Miller and Perloff argue their points in alternating ways.
Perloff’s essay title alludes to a focus on the umbrella of humanities but she quickly narrows in to focus on the study of poetics, a borrowed term that she prefers to use in place of literature. Perloff does not focus exclusively on poetry, but rather on literature as wider body of work. Aside from the actual arguments that she does make in her essay, the way in which she initially draws the reader into her piece is one striking way in which her method of argumentation differs from Miller’s. It is problematic in that the reader assumes Perloff will return to the humanities to relate it to her discussion of poetics, but she never does so in a thorough manner. Miller is highly focused on literature exclusively and does not inject discussion of humanities into the introductory arguments of his book. The result is a cleaner discussion of the issue.
Despite this initial variance in the construct of their arguments, Perloff and Miller arrive at similar conclusions concerning literature and provide comparable points to support their thesis. Like Perloff, Miller quickly addresses the question of ‘what is literature?’ Notably, his discussion while similar to Miller’s, is substantially more thorough. In tracing the historical roots of the development of both literature itself and the definition of it, he asserts that free speech has paved the way for its evolution. Likewise, he contends that modern technology, providing an alternate and broader method to communicating, is currently playing a central role in disintegrating literature as we have...