Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Re: My Conclusion (Sort Of)

I have to both agree and disagree with Grace's post (I like sitting on the fence!). I agree that it seems like we are trying to stay "safe" and stick with the classics. I've noticed that a lot of young p people who love English (namely myself) are inclined to believe that the rules are necessary for something to be good literature, if it doesn't follow the rules, it's probably "wrong." I think this seriously skews our outlook. I know that when I was introduced to Stream of Consciousness I absolutely hated it. I could hardly make sense of it, it didn't seem as if any thought had gone into it, and I hardly considered it literature. I think my abhorrence for SOC came mostly because it seemed to throw out all the technique that I'd been taught was "right" for the first 17 years of my life. I felt a little tricked, as funny as that sounds. 
Although I still dislike SOC, I more or less appreciate it. I understand why authors of such esteem like Faulkner and Joyce chose to write in SOC, they did it for the same reasons that Shoenberg broke the Pythagorean scale standard and Picasso (yes, I went there again) branched into Cubism: because sometimes the rules need to be broken in order to go to the next level. 
To me, this is of extreme central importance to the question we've all been pondering for the past week. I've advocated that literature is completely relative, and I've since come to embrace some flaws in that logic. Obviously we all believe in certain "rules," whether we like to admit it or not. 
On a slightly different note, I think I've finally come up with a possible answer to the question Rachel was asking in class: who decides what literature is? We touched on this a tad on Tuesday, but I think it deserves a bit more recognition: publishers. Publishers may go through 2,000 manuscripts a year, throwing most away and deciding to print a precious few. Their opinions of a work ultimately decide whether we, the public, get to even consider it in the literature discussion. God only knows how different the modern canon of classics would be right now if every book ever written had been published at some level. Sure, anyone can make a movie and post it on Youtube, but you don't see many people reading full novels online. 
Thinking about the mass amounts of books that most of us will never see simply because some publisher didn't care for it makes me sad and angry. I understand it's a process that is necessary, but knowing that something I might consider to be the best book ever written may be tossed into a pile somewhere never to see the light of day truly freaks me out. 

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