Sunday, April 10, 2005

Literary Murder?

Here's something to ponder: Literary Down, Information Up

It just struck me as interesting how this "problem" (if I can call it that) is only receiving attention now in the US, if it is receiving attention at all and not just dismissed as some unfortunate consequence. Some weeks ago I read this other thing: Reading Poems, more specifically the section titled "How did things change? Why are most Americans no longer comfortable with poetry, and why do most people today think that a poem has nothing to tell them and that they can do well without poems?"

Apparently this neglect of literature in favour of other "hard" studies is something that has been happening for some time but nothing much has been done about it. It is recognised as undesirable, yes, but... nothing's happening is there? Which is interesting since what is happening is the continuing phasing out of literary studies in the lower educational institutions.

Or consider this: The Latest Theory Is That Theory Doesn't Matter. I don't know what to say to that other than "hmmm..." But two years on and I'm still studying literature, so I guess the prophecy has yet to come true. Either that or, as usual for academics, it takes a herd of rampaging elephants to get them to stop talking and start acting.

Then again, why the concern? Isn't all this happening two continents away? So literature is dying out, a conspiracy is afoot to spread the notion that literature does not matter (or matter less) and so should receive less attention, so what? Well... Other than a probable lack of future employment opportunities for myself, I guess I find it somewhat ironic and slightly comical that all these "death signs" of literature, now so rampant in the US, have been commonplace and the norm here in Singapore since...

Is it not true? Since when has any government official come out and champion the benefits of reading literature? And when was the last time some government official came out and championed the benefits of entrepreneurship? Probably some hours ago. In Singapore Inc. the bottomline is what counts. If it doesn't sell (or earn) then it has no use. At all. An obvious fallacy that seems to zoom right over the heads of generation after generation of policy makers. Now one begins to see why even a reputable bookstore doesn't stock the stuff that matters, but the stuff that sell.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) not a lot of people are doing anything about this sad state of affairs. I'll give my fellow patriotic countrymen the benefit of doubt and assume some are actively trying to change the situation. Though sadly, I would suppose the government will eventually see these people as quintessential unpatriotic citizens, who is not helping the country move along. Well, nothing terribly unexpected of course.


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