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.

4 comments:

  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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