Upon the completion of far too many papers I find myself criticizing the inconsequential nature of the draft; its redundant analysis of redundant themes, its nearly total dispensable street value. I really do hate feeling that I've just devoted a significant amount of time to nothing more than a rhetorical exercise or, worse, a catering of style and opinion in conformance to that of the whomever is to dispense the grade. Of course - this is sometimes partly my fault for not stretching my entire intellectual threshold during each writing assignment, but I would argue that what is more to blame is the lackluster groove that, not all but some, English Lit professors and/or TA's have fallen into and the flaccid prompts that occur as a result. ("In 3-5 pages please locate, analyze and fully explain why Gregor Samsa can be rightfully labelled a Kafkaesque character. Validate this with cited examples from the primary text.")
So in that sense I can get behind Edmundson's claim that literary study has become impotent and sometimes trivial. However where Mark and I differ - why I would "like" run from a class of his - derives from the hierarchy of art he erects in the text, placing literature firmly above all other fields of artistic expression. Actually, to Edmundson, it really isn't even a hierarchy; it seems to him that while literature carries the weight of every human soul on its broad shoulders, the other modes of artistic catharsis (dance, visual art, music, etc.) whimper and compliantly bow. This is allegedly because the written word comes the closest to answering the impossible question of "What is life?". Edmundson claims that because "for most of us the prevailing medium, moment to moment, is verbal" this means the only way to consequentially absorb, say for instance, Ravel's String Quartet in F Major or a wall-sized Rothko, is to take that non-verbal experience and whittle it down into words. Here, he says it himself on page 112: "Thus a critical part of making the non-verbal arts into the stuff of human expansion is verbal description".
This is very crappy. No one medium is going to universally address the question of "What is life?". In dealing with a question of such weight, it comes down to a subjective preference. Whatever it is that stimulates your dermis's follicles to become attentive and erect (otherwise popularly known as 'goosebumps') is, to me, the closest thing to affecting ones fundamental human level - ones "innermost circle" - be it Proust or be it Coltrane.