|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #43|
In my experience, it means one of three different things, depending on who is speaking.
If English majors say they "study the craft" they mean they examine the products of that endeavor as opposed to those features specific to it. They are superfans, Monday morning quarterbacks who might think they can coach an NFL team without knowing what a Bang 8 is. Their favorite question is "what does this mean?" Why? Because if you remove the technical there isn't much left beyond the interpretive. Their measure of a work's value is how much classroom discussion time can be wasted guessing at its references and influences. Derivative hypertext trumps the modern masterpiece.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #44|
Both groups are inspired by Convenient Poetics and dominated by Content Regents, the difference being that Literature scholars work in all dimensions, tracking influences through time.
To my knowledge, the only people who study the elements of the craft are the onliners. Among many other advantages, this allows them to engage in the serious technical criticism that defines them. It allows them to detail the difference between free verse and prose [with or without linebreaks], between the poetic and the merely profound. And, no, it isn't largely a matter of opinion.
The catch is that, in venues ruled by ConPoets and Content Regents, neither quality nor qualities matter. In such forums a subjective reality pervades where technique doesn't matter because it doesn't exist [in the minds of those present].