so serendipity then

Serendipity is the unintentional occurrence of fortunate events. Things just happen that way. I guess this is what leads people to think that their lives are being controlled and that everything happens for a reason. “And the words that are used for to get the ship confused will not be understood as they’re spoken.” That song came about, not because of a sense of some coming social apocalypse, but because of an argument the then relatively unknown Bob Dylan had with a hotel clerk. Or so the story goes. Did he intend to echo the paratactic syntax of the King James Bible, somehow instinctively aware that its Anglo-Saxon rhythms better suited popular song than the more Latinate sensibilities English was beginning to develop in the sixteenth century? Who even cares? The intentional fallacy of the New Critics would have us believe that it doesn’t matter. Privilege the device, and leave the biography of the author to be picked over by idle curiosity. An uneasy blend of the two is somehow where we stand in the conventionalised mode of literary criticism that has dominated A-Level English Literature for the past several decades. Linguistic analysis has failed to seep into A-Level Lit, leaving us very much in the hands of Leavis, training students to set themselves up as miniature arbiters of truth and rhetoric. It seeped into me in the Spring of 1981 in Reading, so much so that I nearly followed the army of Palmer, Crystal and Trudgill and left English Lit behind. I have battled in the quest for a hybrid ever since. Meanwhile, A-Level examiners will continue to set questions that offer no help to students in providing a productive analysis of literary texts.