Monday, February 2, 2009

Page 13

While I was reading the introduction to Eagleton's book, I was very interested in the anecdote on page 13 that describes I.A. Richard's experiment of showing poems to students without them knowing the authors or titles. Not surprisingly, many poems by highly revered authors were not as appreciated by the students as some of the poems by very obscure authors. It made me wonder: If we took a survey of, say, all of the students at UT, how many famous poets would receive praise from the students if their name wasn't attached to their work? Or perhaps it isn't that well-known authors receive undue laud only because of the status they have already earned, but maybe that less people are willing to give an unfamiliar author any consideration. After all, everyone knows that Ulysses is one of the greatest novels of all time; you must agree that it is a great work of literature. But how many works by undistinguished writers are praised world-wide?
This whole experiment reminded me of another story that I came across recently. Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world, anonymously played some of the most complicated pieces ever written on a violin worth over three million dollars in a subway station in Washington, D.C. for forty-five minutes during rush hour. Amazingly, only a few people actually stopped and listened to the music, and the majority of them were children who were dragged away by their parents. I guess it just proves that setting and background greatly influence everything we do. A virtuoso isn't appreciated as much outside of a concert hall. Would supposed great works of literature be appreciated in places where the people know nothing about "great" literature?

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