[lit-ideas] Re: The Western Canon and the Politically Correct

  • From: John Wager <jwager@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2012 15:21:27 -0600

Lawrence Helm wrote:

. . . . Therefore,What "right,"donarrow-minded, bigoted, white-Anglo-Saxon male authority figures of the pasthaveto tell us that Shakespeare, Homer, Dante, Milton,Rembrandt, Bach,Beethoven, or anyone else in their "canon"has created"good art"? We will decide for ourselves whatgood art is.And so they do.

Or they don't.

I submit that one absolutely necessary (but not sufficient) condition for judging a work "better" or "worse" than another is a full reading of that work, with enough encouragement and support to get the most out of it that the student can get. THEN a person might be able to make a judgment between two works. The problem is that fewer and fewer new teachers have read Dante, much less Milton. Even Shakespeare isn't nearly as common. So in picking an author one "likes" one only picks among authors one has read.

I submit that anybody, ANYBODY, who reads Dante or Shakespeare with a half-open mind will make a much more informed choice, and will almost always chose Dante or Shakespeare over almost any other option. I agree thoroughly, though, that the goal is precisely to "decide for ourselves whatgood art is." This requires thoughtful comparison of texts, not a quick pick based on knowledge of only one option.

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