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Elitism: Great Literature for the Sake of Great Literature
Why do we value Great Literature in our lives? That’s a pretty big question. Let’s look at several different ways we can allow literature a prominent place in our lives.
One way is to look at the great writers and their great works of art that they produced purely for the sake of studying and appreciating their great literature. That’s it. Why say anything more. I mean, there’s got to be much to say for this attitude. Let’s just sit back and be elitists? After all, we have proper literary taste, right?
Obviously, there can be much said for this attitude without the elitist label. After all, if great art is in fact humanity’s highest achievement (certainly a common idea), then studying the great art of particular periods, or of the past in general, is one of the highest activities we can do as educated people, right? So, we need no apology for studying great art merely for the sake of studying it. I mean, after all, most universities have entire colleges, much less departments, devoted to literature and art in general.
But, beyond that, part of what makes a highly educated person is a deep understanding and appreciation of great art and literature. Or, as I used to tell my students, nose sufficiently in the air, “So what will set you apart from the underlings you will work with in your highly paid profession will be that you have read Shelley and they haven’t.” Well, maybe another Big Question ought to be what is the place for snobbery and elitism in our literary lives? (I need to find that emoticon for “just joking.”)
Obviously, a deep study of Great Literature gives us a deep and abiding appreciation for humanity. The major writers of Western Civilization touch on the great universal concerns that we all can identify with.
But, there are problems aplenty with such an attitude and such an approach toward literature. Can you see the problems? Let’s start a discussion. Give out your ideas in the comments at the bottom of this post.
Then stay tuned for my take on problems with the elitist approach to Great Literature. Re-blog, re-text, and let others in your network know about The Literary Life. And please click the follow button.