“American research suggests that class culture are weakly defined in the U.S.; that ethnic and racial minorities reinterpret mainstream culture into their own original culture; that high culture is being debased by commercialization; that the highly educated consume mass culture, but also have a wider range of cultural preferences which distinguishes them from other groups “(161).
In the U.S., the question of literature and its place in high culture is relevant because our society is one that consumes and creates different forms of literature. In a society with many different identities and ideals, one cannot help but confront mass culture. The educated elite of Ivy League schools are familiar with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. These individuals mainly of traditionally high cultured lifestyles live and function within a society that recognizes these types of works as widely influential and even “brilliant.” Despite the fact that works such as these have achieved global critical acclaim, have been adapted into films featuring Academy Award recognized actors, and have earned the kind of dollars the high cultured cultural capitalists wish they could have, conformists to Lamont and Lareau’s new definition of cultural capital reject HP and HG as “pop literature” since their existence reverberates within mass culture and because they have become forces unto themselves that reach all levels of American social strata.
Intriguing how Hebrew was offered as an “extra study” but only during the senior year. I understand there were very limited “major” programs and it appears that schedules left little room if any for “electives.” Were electives a thing back then? And was there a large Jewish population in Rutgers at this time?
Also interesting how “history of the English language and literature” were taught under the first stage of English Literature courses in 1891. Nowadays we don’t care and are not taught such in university, nor even elementary school as far as I remember.
Reading the 1891 archives makes me feel not as smart as I am. The diction of it makes it read like a research paper; why is that? Was this a form of informal writing? Or was all writing even for the course catalogue expected to be formal in tone? “These curricula vary in length from 128 to 140 semester or credit hours and are planned to meet various educational needs and interests. Instead of being a miscellaneous collection of courses with a few required subjects each curriculum offers a program of study which has unity and continuity and presupposes that the student has a definite purpose in view . . . Should the student in the course of his four years find that he has mistaken his major interest and desire to enroll in another curriculum, he may do so; but he must fulfill all of the requirements of the curriculum to which he transfers” (58).
They still used the word “negro” in 1969 (79)? Smh.
“Experience of Literature” needs to make a comeback (80).
“Seminar in Negro Literature” and “Seminar in Black Literature” both existed in 1970 (85). Negros seem to be defined as blacks pre-WWII, blacks being post-WWII.
Omg at Nikki Giovanni teaching at Livingston College in 1971 and for Martin Gliserman being here since then (75).
The idea behind the marriage of “Science and Literature” seems to have largely disappeared (78). Livi College 1971-1972
“The world did not say to her as it said to them, Write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What’s the good of your writing?” (Woolf, 601)
There is a bitter taste to the pairing of these sentences. There is certainly a more biting tone to the latter especially with the accompaniment of the dramatic guffaw. However, the perceptions that Woolf depicts on the world’s attitude towards writing in general can be seen as equalized. The questions could be reversed and produce the same message: what’s the use of men writing when it makes no difference? What’s the use of anyone writing when it makes no difference?There is an underlying assumption that men possess the talent for writing because they can write if they choose, but the relevance of written creations from either sex is worthless. I recognize the misogynistic tone that Woolf relays above concerning the idea of women’s writing, however, what I can read beneath this layer of societal bullshit is that whatever anyone writes is not worth a damn anyway.
“Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society . . .
“Power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away” (Foucault 1628).
Reading and engaging in literary texts allow us to participate in a similar mode of power that Foucault suggests. All of us that are capable of reading have an ability to participate. The power that I speak of is not only accessible through the ability to read, but the ability to philosophize and politicize and put into context, to imagine. Reading is only a route to these unique abilities of human beings. In the society of humanity, our power to affect and evoke emotion, to create stories and images and that depict the human condition are unique only to us. This power is not acquired nor seized for they are intrinsic to the characteristics of the human mind. Literary texts are pathways to which we can do such things as philosophize and “create art.”
In the latter half of “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” Marx poses quirky, future oriented questions. One of these is “Is the view of nature and social relations which shaped Greek imagination and Greek [art] possible in the age of automatic machinery, and railways, and locomotives, and electric telegraphs? . . . What becomes of the Goddess Fame side by side with Printing House Square?” (Marx 411). What comes to mind is the reality of how fast everything in our culture, community, and processes are advancing, especially in the methods of communication and expression, which ultimately alter the different ways artists now express their art. We live in a digital age where almost everything can be found online. The world’s leading magazines and newspapers post their content online and through social media accounts. The written word is not as valued as it once was. Makers of literature are looking at all the new ways to publish their work and struggling to find a place where they can be recognized; more writers than ever have turned to blogging to project their voice in this eruption of technology. Even tweets, with the restriction of 140 characters per tweet, can be argued as an evolving form of literature with the popular emergence of “two-three sentence stories.”
“The difficulty is not in grasping the idea that Greek art and epos are bound up with certain forms of social development. It lies in understanding why they still constitute with us a source of aesthetic enjoyment and in certain respects prevail as the standard and model beyond attainment” (411). Though we have largely participated in social media interaction and reading online media, there remains a deep admiration for the printed word. Physical books are still read, libraries are still frequented, and writers still want to be published in print. The “aesthetic enjoyment” of literature is not only constituted by every natural, enjoyable, and relevant facet of literature, but reading a novel with a physical form is slowly becoming a novelty. Soon enough, physical prints will become the previous “standard and model beyond attainment.”
“The poem is not a collection of beautiful or ‘poetic’ images. If there really existed objects which were somehow intrinsically ‘poetic,’ still the mere assemblage of these would not give a poem. For in that case, one might arrange bouquets of these poetic images and thus create poems by formula. But the elements of a poem are related to each other, not as blossoms juxtaposed in a bouquet, but as the blossoms are related to the other parts of a growing plant. The beauty of the poem is the flowering of the whole plant, and needs the stalk, the leaf, and the hidden roots” (799).
According to Brooks, poetic beautiful language is not all poetry consists of. The form of a poem is not merely a vase abundantly filled with gorgeous flowers. Rather, a poem is an entire plant itself as described in the final sentence including its stalk, leaf, and hidden roots. A poem is written and must be read as a complete piece; every line accumulates towards its final completion as an artwork. As Brooks says, “the beauty of the poem is the flowering of the whole plant.” A poem is not admired merely for a specific line, but for the entire universe that it creates which connects to the reader in love. However, what I find problematic is his rejection of formulaic poetry, because why shouldn’t they be able to exist? Immediately, I think of the way we are taught to write haikus using its formula. A haiku can be generated meaninglessly, but it is still a haiku. A poem can be generated the same way, in whatever way or form the writer chooses to do so and it will still be born a poem.
Brooks, Cleanth. “Irony as a Principle of Structure.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 799. Print.
“A Poet, as he is the author to others of the highest wisdom, pleasure, virtue and glory, so he ought personally to be the happiest, the best, the wisest, and the most illustrious of men. As to his glory, let Time be challenged to declare whether the fame of any other institutor of human life be comparable to that of a poet” (361).
Poets are the most inspiring and memorable people to exist. The most iconic paintings will always be remembered through our eyes as they are forever referenced. Likewise, poetry is forever recited and while there are those who do not care enough to offer an opinion on a painting, the words of a poem affect us more still. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what does it mean when a poem leaves us speechless? As long as we record and remember history, poetry will live forever– additionally insured by the upsurge of social media. At a certain level, no other art form has changed the course of history the way poetry has. The fiercest, most heartbroken and angry change makers singe us with their words. I think of the Civil Rights poets and storytellers such as Langston Hughes, WEB Dubois, Maya Angelou, the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, Martin Niemoller’s Holocaust poem “First they came . . . ,” Carolyn Forche, and beyond these names are the other legendary Frost, Dickinson, Wilde, Yeats, Cummings, Whitman, Ginsberg, so on and so forth.
So a painter helped usher in a new era of painting styles and was lambasted and ridiculed and died poor, only to be remembered and heralded after her death. Or remember the black musicians who were the first ever to headline a show or perform with an all white band for an all white crowd, but soak into the lives of the poets who wrote honestly and realize the impacts they made.
Shelley, Percy B. “A Defence of Poetry.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 361. Print.