• LD Saunders
    176
    The fact that there is so much garbage on social media and the web points in the direction that literature is in decline. It's difficult for me to imagine that the same people who are posting complete rubbish on social media, day in and day out, as a sort of obsession in life, are also people who are capable of sitting down for hours and absorbing the contents of a well-written work of literature. Often times, in literature, there is not a black and white message, but a far more nuanced one, taking place, and this is quite different from what we get on social media --- some "meme" that is completely bogus, but it "resonates" with a person's prejudices, so gets sent around the globe in an instant. If people were even remotely paying attention these days, they would realize that the vast majority of what gets posted on the web these days is pure bullshit on steroids, as life and the problems we face, just aren't so simple that they can be resolved with a 100 word post on twitter, google, or facebook.
  • Number2018
    145
    I'm sorry, but I don't see the fine literary novel ceasing to be what it was beforeBitter Crank
    Don DeLillo lays out in his novel" Mao 2": “The novel used to feed our search for meaning… It was the tremendous secular transcendence. The source of language, character, occasional new truth. But our desperation has led us toward something more extensive and darker. So we turn to news, which provides an unremitting mood of catastrophe.
    This is where we find emotional experience not available elsewhere. We don’t need the novel.”
    Yet, it is not just that the novel cannot compete with other media, which are using more intensive means affecting human minds. “Crime and Punishment” or “In the Search of Lost Time” were neither written nor read for pleasure or satisfying some intellectual or emotional utility needs. They were true experimental laboratories of human existence for both writers and readers, where writing and reading constituted the ways of becoming with the unknown outcome. When DeLillo and Self say that the novel has no future, they probably try to express their intuition that it loses its fundamental functions.
  • Number2018
    145
    There are still plenty of Writer's Festivals around the world, where lots of people turn up just to hear authors talk about their work, their views on life, the universe and everything, and maybe read from their books.andrewk

    Furthermore, the directors and actors are so carefully stage-managed by their media minders that there is scarcely any opportunity to get an authentic thought about the world out of them publicly anyway.andrewk
    Authors are not able to compete with the directors and actors in shaping people minds, regardless of the authenticity of their thoughts.
    Jeffrey Nealon in his book “Post-Postmodernism” takes the point that "media images have taken over the very resistant, interruptive power of the “thought from outside,” that for so long was the privileged territory of literary language, that has made literature a privileged ethical discourse within modernism and postmodernism… writers have become the last believers – not in any positive content or anything as predictable as “meaning,” but writers are the lust believers in language’s ability to be the primary driver in the interruption and reshaping of subjectivity (which is also to say, the resisting and disrupting of so-called normative subjectivity)"
  • Number2018
    145
    If people were even remotely paying attention these days, they would realize that the vast majority of what gets posted on the web these days is pure bullshit on steroids, as life and the problems we face, just aren't so simple that they can be resolved with a 100 word post on twitter, google, or facebook.LD Saunders
    I think that the explosion of texting and social networking chatting as the smooth, familiar and enjoyable way of communicating and expressing one’s immediate thoughts and feelings deserves our attention as an essential socio-cultural phenomenon of our digital time. (Curiously, isn’t it the highest chain in the evolution of the epistolary genre, at the beginning of which one could find Seneca’s Letters to Luciliius?) Some thinkers assume that behind this phenomenon there is an imperative to force one to expose herself, to speak incessantly, to take part in numerous public and normative communications.
  • Number2018
    145
    So literature, or print, as we conceive of it now, is actually a relatively recent and brief phase in the history of human civilization. Already, if we group together all the new forms that came to prominence in the 20th-21st centuries, this new age is comparable in length to the age of print.SophistiCat

    You are right in stating the objective facts as they are. Much more difficult to imagine the world where the book (you call it" print") was the primary source of knowledge, meanings, and values and to understand how the disappearance of this world affects our thought and the way of being.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    Authors are not able to compete with the directors and actors in shaping people minds, regardless of the authenticity of their thoughts.Number2018
    I agree, and that is in line with your OP. However my comment about the position of writers was in response not to the OP but to this post that quotes Will Self, which was not about novelists being the most influential people - I doubt they were ever that - but about their being seen as the highest and deepest artists. If we are talking about power to shape people's minds then neither novelists, directors nor actors have anywhere near as much of that power as advertising executives, populist politicians and their spin doctors. But I don't know anybody that views them as the repository of high culture.

    I like your reference to Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk. For all that novels only reach a minority of the population, and perhaps a smaller proportion now than it was forty years ago, I don't think any medium has replaced it as the closest in people's minds to that ideal.
  • Number2018
    145
    For all that novels only reach a minority of the population, and perhaps a smaller proportion now than it was forty years ago, I don't think any medium has replaced it as the closest in people's minds to that ideal.andrewk

    I think that most of my disagreement with others about the situation with literature, the novel, and reading has been rooted in the incorrect use of the critical terms applied here.
    We do not have the same art, literature, authors, readers as it was in the past.
    The cultural practices have changed dramatically and applying the same signifiers
    just lead us to confusion and misunderstanding.
  • Eden-Amador
    10
    People still gobble up Stephen King. I see hard copies all the time. But I also live in one of the top five literate cities in the U.S.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.5k
    So, the novel isn't eternal. The Elizabethans didn't write novels. Other forms had popular preeminence--verse and drama.

    What cultural forms will be most celebrated in 20 years is uncertain, let alone what will be most celebrated 200 years from now. Who in 1940 would have anticipated the beat movements of the 1950s? Or the 'psychedelic art' of the 1960s? What will the state of (big C) Cinema be in 20 years?

    Cultural Cassandras are always wringing their hands and bemoaning the decline of [music], [art], [manners], [writing], [you name it]. With some justification, of course. Culture, like a glacier, is always declining. It always heading down and ending up in the sea. But at the other end it's always being renewed.

    If global warming turns out to be as bad as expected, I would expect the state of the arts in 200 years to be really lousy. One thing for sure: people won't be writing apocalyptic novels. They'll be living the apocalypse.
  • Number2018
    145
    So, the novel isn't eternal. The Elizabethans didn't write novels. Other forms had popular preeminence--verse and drama.

    What cultural forms will be most celebrated in 20 years is uncertain, let alone what will be most celebrated 200 years from now. Who in 1940 would have anticipated the beat movements of the 1950s? Or the 'psychedelic art' of the 1960s? What will the state of (big C) Cinema be in 20 years?

    Cultural Cassandras are always wringing their hands and bemoaning the decline of [music], [art], [manners], [writing], [you name it]. With some justification, of course. Culture, like a glacier, is always declining. It always heading down and ending up in the sea. But at the other end it's always being renewed.
    Bitter Crank

    You are right in everything, no doubt that new generations will be doing well without the serious novel and other cultural forms will be invented. I just try to figure out how “the death of literature” affects my talking and writing.
    “Absent thee from felicity awhile,
    And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
    To tell my story” (Hamlet V,2).
    What is the way of telling a story today?
  • Bitter Crank
    6.5k
    There was a thing on the BBC World Service last night about rhetoric. They were talking about rhetoric. They were using examples of up-to-the-minute rhetorical devices that have been in use for a very long time. One of their examples (conduplicatio--the technical name for it) involves repetition of the first 2 or 3 words in a sentence.

    We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. — Winston Churchill

    Churchill did two things here: first, he described the anticipated invasion of Great Britain, but what was emphasized was "we shall fight". Second, the emphasized the fight. One could think that the fighting would be on somebody else's beaches, landing grounds, fields, streets and hills, and think of victory.

    Another rhetorical device they discussed was the rule of three, like "veni, vidi, vici". The rule of three is still essential in all sorts of speech.

    Point is, some things never go out of style.
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