Re: RARA-AVIS: letting time sort it out

Date: 22 Jun 2006

Piggybacking on Kerry:

"So, I'm suggesting that historically, by and large, successful artists created works to suit the taste of established, wealthy patrons- mostly the church and royalty."

Which is why there was a major shift in subject matter with the renaissance, from religion to private, as the bourgeiosie gathered enough money to want to show off their wealth through the ownership of art. This is why there were so many landscapes and flattering portraits that showed ownership of the same.

"Anyway, part of my point was going to be that public literacy is a relatively new thing, and that a popular, or pulp, or dime-novel publishing form, where average folks read words from the page (as opposed to having words read to them, as in the case of Shakespeare's plays) was exceptional, . . ."

Which is why the novel form was initially railed against for diluting literature. Asserting the consequent, it was reasoned that it the masses liked it, it couldn't possibly be art, it must be pandering. This is where the popular becomeing high class literature argument does work well, with works by Stern, Trollope, Austen, the Brontes, etc.

". . . and short, and was eclipsed when technology brought performance into the home."

So we're in a post-literate age, now? And we're all Luddites here for continuing to turn pages? Maybe.

"Not that book=literature, but did Melville have a popular audience of, say ordinary farm workers, or even stevedores and whalers? How many of them could read in Melville's time?"

As I recall from long ago lit classes, I think Melville was somewhat popular for his "whaling tales," but nowhere near a Stevenson, for example.

"If a bit of art is here in the present, however it got to be here, then I guess it has to be better than whatever art is not here in the present and so cannot be evaluated at all, making Miker right, sort of."

But better by what standards? By contemporary standards. The works are judged by how they relate to current standards. So it is quite possible that during shifts of aesthetics and the ideologies with which they are allied (ideologies in the big sense, not specific political parties sense), all sorts of great (along with the not so great) works have drifted off, never to be read again, for failing to fit in with the times, failing to continue to move and/or entertain readers. And they remain lost, even if times may have or may in the future shift to a more sympathetic mindset.

So I am perfectly willing to believe that what survives is some of the best of the past, but I have trouble believing it's all of the best. I always wonder about the masterpieces that are lost forever, either because no one later checked out a book that fell out of favor (no, I'm not volunteering to do the literary dumpster diving to find these) or because it was never published because it, to quote Brian Wilson, "just wasn't made for these times."

Luckily, there are still far more good books than I will ever get a chance to read, relegating all of the above to a tangential academic argument. I really have little reason to complain.


------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor --------------------~--> Yahoo! Groups gets a make over. See the new email design.

RARA-AVIS home page:
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 22 Jun 2006 EDT