Friday, April 03, 2009

I do, after all, have a "stupid" tag

I am very liberal; I know this because a Facebook quiz told me so.  But when reading literature, my impulses are sometimes what might be called conservative: in respect for the Western canon and tradition, in a willingness to just go ahead and say a Shakespearean character is evil, in a desire for spiritual fulfillment or moral edification in literature.  I don't know what this means.


  1. J'Rod4:47 PM

    Can you give some examples?

    I think I experienced this with the character of Undershaft in Major Barbara. I knew I shouldn't agree with his stance on selling weapons, but I sometimes did. He's a very interesting and entertaining character.

  2. A few examples. Despite theoretical and pedagogical commitment to a more inclusive canon, my personal reading betrays a reverence for the dead white males that make up the traditional Western canon. I can also get impatient with attempts to re-assess traditional villains on some sort of cultural grounds--certainly, I can recognize the conflicted nature of an antagonist, and I've sometimes defended villainous characters myself. But sometimes I want to say, "No, this character is just evil. We don't have to defend him/her." This first happened in high school while reading "Beowulf," when somebody was trying to say maybe Grendel was a misunderstood victim. I was thinking, c'mon. Grendel is the hideous monster that murders people. Can't a hideous monster that murders people be the hideous monster that murders people? And some of the things I find interesting in literature (reflections on God, fiction featuring characters making moral choices, the always problematic phrase "universal themes") might be described as conservative.

  3. By the way, this sort of dynamic is not unique. If you read the literary criticism and commentary of Harold Bloom, he sounds like a right-wing reactionary. Then I watched an interview in which Bloom said he votes for socialist candidates when they're an option.

  4. I understand your impulse. I know too many people who will insist that a toddler pounding away on a saucepan is just as worthy as anything by Bach or the Beatles!

    And I find myself agreeing with Bloom more and more.