Monday, February 2, 2009

Re: The Taming of Literature

     We're taught from grade-school in the form of definition. We're very rarely introduced to anything "abstract," and when we are, we're usually given an interpretation and told it's the "correct" one. This can make it hard to accept certain terms, like literature, for what they really are: interpretable. I like nice neat little definitions, but after getting over the initial shock of realizing that literature can't really be defined succinctly and universally, I am kind of comforted to know that literature can be whatever I think it is. It makes me warm and happy inside. 
      I really like the modern art example, it hit home. Two Summers ago I was in New York, and we went to the Museum of Modern Art. I remember very distinctly walking up to van Gogh's Starry Night and thinking "this is wonderful!" and then walking into the next room, seeing a huge canvas that had been painted solid blue, and thinking "Why the hell is this here? I've painted rooms blue before." Little juxtapositions like this happened all day, seeing Dali's The Persistence of Memory and then looking at Duchamp's Fountain (the urinal we talked about in class) blew my mind; I simply couldn't understand how anyone could compare the two. After reading the original blog, It made me think of when I hear people say "Who could read this?" in a completely disgusting manor and be talking about Shakespeare or Hemingway. I still don't understand some modern art, just like I don't understand some prose, but now I have a greater appreciation for how others may. 
     I'm really interested in "finding out" what literature is. Even though I feel as if I know that I'll never get a satisfactory answer, evaluating my standards compared to everyone else's makes me feel as if I know them a little better. It may sound kind of far-fetched, but I went on a date the other night and we eventually started talking about Ayn Rand. I'm somewhat of a fan, but my date absolutely despised her writing. Finding a girl who even knew Ayn Rand was a very refreshing experience, even if we didn't agree on her literary merit. We won't be going on another date (English majors and Biomedical Engineering majors don't mix well, apparently) but I took one very important lesson away from our dinner together: never assume that any prose is universally considered to be literature, because there are always plenty of people who believe the contrary. 

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