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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: May ::
Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1151  Monday, 31 May 2004

From:           Al Magary <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 28 May 2004 17:50:04 -0700
Subject:        Shifting of Cultural Tectonic Plates

A long article, "The Eyes Have It," by Bruce Miller in the Financial
Times Friday analyzes the shift of culture from literary to visual:

http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1084907813779

"The public that consumes art--more or less equivalent to what used to
be called, significantly, 'the reading public'--has expanded
tremendously with social mobility and the widening of educational
opportunity, while at the same time traditional literary education has
all but disappeared. An audience familiar with the King James Bible and
Shakespeare, with Bunyan, Milton and Wordsworth (plus at the higher
levels with classical Greek and Latin authors) was primed to respond to
literature above all other arts.

"Today, by contrast, even Eng Lit graduates may have negotiated their
way through GCSE, A-level and a degree studying just two or three
Shakespeare plays and not a line of 'Paradise Lost', 'The Pilgrim's
Progress' or 'The Prelude'. Eng Lit abandoned 'Beowulf' to Virginia
Woolf in the last decades of the 20th century, becoming instead a far
less stable, less historically linear selection of texts.

"More crucially, we live in a visual age, and are programmed from early
childhood to decode visual representation from television, video,
photography, advertising and so on. So our visual sophistication has
grown as our literary sophistication has declined. We struggle to
appreciate Bunyan, whose religious impulse baffles or bores us, while
finding freshness and accessibility in pre-historic cave paintings from
Lascaux."

Cheers,
Al Magary

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