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  1. #1

    Descrbe, or limit?

    Mr. Bellow enjoyed the university because it was a place where he could exchange ideas with people from many different disciplines. But he said he was troubled by literature professors who over-analyzed books and set themselves up as arbiters of what is worth reading.

    What confuses me is who did Mr.Bellow refer to. Were they all of the literature professors at his University, who presumably typically tend to over-analyze books, or were they the professors who did so?

    And I also wonder why there's no the word 'the' before 'professors' in the original sentence. OED says one of the functions of 'the' is that it could be used to point forward to a following qualifying or defining clause or phrase, as in "the fuss that he made of her | the top of a bus". If this is true, I think perhaps the dependent clause 'who...' is describing the word 'professor' rather than limiting it. But What if we insert a 'the' between 'literature' and 'professor'? What difference would that make? And what if we inserted a comma between 'professors' and 'who'?


  2. Mister Micawber's Avatar
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    Re: Descrbe, or limit?

    1-- Just some of the literature professors over-analyzed (hard to believe, I know-- but that is the writer's intent). If he were speaking of all of them, there would be a comma before 'who'.

    2-- forward-referring 'the' before 'literature professors' is optional. Omitting it does seem to me to refer less specifically to the professors he is speaking of, which is diplomatic of him. No article can go between 'literature' and 'professors' here-- it creates a meaningless clause. The comma's effect I have already mentioned: it changes the restrictive (limiting) clause into a non-restrictive one.


  3. #3

    Re: Descrbe, or limit?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Micawber
    Omitting it does seem to me to refer less specifically to the professors he is speaking of
    It's really a great discovery for me. I used to think the placement of articles is extremely rigid. And I think if the omission of 'the', which is optional, strikes you that way, it should have the same effect on others. Maybe Mr. Bellow was by no means criticizing all literature professors, yet he might also want to tone down his criticism a little bit. Now I know more. Thank you!

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