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The Classics in the Slums (The Value of Literature)
City Journal ^ | Jonathan Rose

Posted on 12/23/2004 11:44:26 PM PST by nickcarraway

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1 posted on 12/23/2004 11:44:28 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway; TaxRelief

Great article, Nick! I'm printing it out!


2 posted on 12/24/2004 7:34:33 AM PST by Tax-chick (Benedicere cor tuo! Quomodo cogis comas tuas sic videri?)
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To: Physicist; Xenalyte

Physicist, are you the one with the Bibliopath ping list? (I know Xenalyte is on it, but I can't remember the others ...)

This is a great Great Books article!


3 posted on 12/24/2004 7:57:21 AM PST by Tax-chick (Benedicere cor tuo! Quomodo cogis comas tuas sic videri?)
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To: Tax-chick

Thanks for coming. I love this article.


4 posted on 12/24/2004 9:03:38 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
Great article. But let me play devil's advocate. Was the decline a total loss? Was reading in the early 20th century so tied up with political utopias and totalitarianisms and collective hopes that we may have gained something by its decline, or by the decline of the conditions that made reading the only means of escape?

I can see how much was lost and it was considerable. Literature doesn't have the status and influence that it once had. A whole dimension may have been lost from people's thinking, but I have to wonder whether or not having all of those readers marking how different everything was from what it could be and dreaming of the day when everything would change was really preferable for society -- though it may have been great for art.

And it's not merely a "keep the lower classes down" thing, either. Plenty of middle class people who prided themselves on their literacy were willing to go to great extremes to maintain their superiority or to act to realize their own visions. Maybe it's better that such frustrations and tensions between aspirations and realities are less today.

Could we get back what we once had? Maybe it wasn't just that people could read and did read, but that reading was a very, very big thing in the lives of many of them. Today, you can get people to read, and even to read some very good things, but books aren't going to have the central and exalted place in the people's lives that they did a hundred years ago. At best, people's interest will be "reading plus" -- plus images, plus audio, plus immediate feedback, etc. -- and that makes for a very life and culture and way of looking at the world than just reading alone did.

We still get much of what reading provided people in those days -- wisdom, information, escape, contact with the wider world, new ways of looking at conditions around us -- but we get it in another form. Perhaps we are less inspired by pure literature or the appeal of the written word, but that may make us more critical and less susceptible to the power that the perversion of the word creates.

I don't demean or belittle efforts to get more people to read better books. It's good work and deserves success. I was just struck by how tied up so much of the early 20th century interest in reading was with political movements that we'd find questionable today, and thought a little discussion was in order.

5 posted on 12/24/2004 9:04:59 AM PST by x
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To: nickcarraway; sionnsar

I pinged a few ... maybe more people will read it after Christmas. Too good to disappear.

Sionnsar, would you consider pinging the Undead to this outstanding article?


6 posted on 12/24/2004 9:05:46 AM PST by Tax-chick (Benedicere cor tuo! Quomodo cogis comas tuas sic videri?)
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To: Tax-chick

Excellent read - thanks!


7 posted on 12/24/2004 9:09:58 AM PST by Xenalyte (Who you tryin' to get crazy with, ese? Don't you know I'm loco?)
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To: x
I was just struck by how tied up so much of the early 20th century interest in reading was with political movements that we'd find questionable today.

I think the author's perspective creates that impression, rather than its being a characteristic of the phenomenon of reading in itself. The author might have chosen very different examples.

On the other hand, it is true that much, if not all, great literature makes some kind of social or political statement to the reader, even if it's not the statement the author originally intended. If a person reads widely, he will be exposed to many different points of view, which he can accept, reject, or modify according to his own reason and experiences.

8 posted on 12/24/2004 9:12:13 AM PST by Tax-chick (Benedicere cor tuo! Quomodo cogis comas tuas sic videri?)
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To: nickcarraway

Ping


9 posted on 12/24/2004 9:15:33 AM PST by No.6
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To: Xenalyte

Merry Christmas! I hope you get some books!


10 posted on 12/24/2004 9:20:55 AM PST by Tax-chick (Benedicere cor tuo! Quomodo cogis comas tuas sic videri?)
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To: Tax-chick; fanfan; JudyinCanada; beckysueb; Rebelbase; tuliptree76; annyokie; Asphalt; Just Dan; ...
Sionnsar, would you consider pinging the Undead to this outstanding article?

Not exactly on topic (unless NicknamedBob decides to stcok the library some more), but...

11 posted on 12/24/2004 9:34:18 AM PST by sionnsar ( trad-anglican.faithweb.com || Iran Azadi || All I want for Christmas is a legitimate governor.)
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To: sionnsar
whether children today in America's inner cities would give their schools such high marks—and if not, why not?

No. Because they are being robbed in broad daylight.

The classics -- not the schools -- made educated men of colonial farmers like Washington, Jefferson, Madison.

12 posted on 12/24/2004 9:42:16 AM PST by GVnana (If I had a Buckhead moment would I know it?)
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To: sionnsar

Some will be interested, some won't ... but we're a literate ganag, by and large :-).


13 posted on 12/24/2004 9:54:38 AM PST by Tax-chick (Benedicere cor tuo! Quomodo cogis comas tuas sic videri?)
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To: sionnsar
"...unless NicknamedBob decides to stock the library some more..."


"...stood in the center of what would one day be a prestigious library. Great wooden bookcases would reach for the high, vaulted ceiling, whose skylights and chandeliers would flood the chamber with gentle, sparkling light. Rolling ladders in the Victorian style would give access to volumes on the upper shelves, and window seats, tables with sturdy chairs, and study carrels would provide a place for contemplative thought."

...working on it! -- NnB
14 posted on 12/24/2004 9:59:34 AM PST by NicknamedBob (AuthorHouse.Com ... BookStore ... Hawthorne ..."Outlandish!"...Science Fiction? Farce? Marital Aid?)
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To: x
I was just struck by how tied up so much of the early 20th century interest in reading was with political movements that we'd find questionable today, and thought a little discussion was in order.

And how do you think they came to be questionable? The same people who read them began to question them. And then they began to talk about those questions. Then they began to write against them.

When you read something it touches on a whole different level then just hearing or seeing. Reading forces thinking. It is not possible to read even the most mindless of books without thinking where it is quite possible to half hear or half watch something. If you can get them to talk and write about it you move up even higher on the thinking scale to critical thinking and analyst. Once you reach that point the questionable parts are quickly discarded.

15 posted on 12/24/2004 10:09:53 AM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum europe vincendarum (Merry Christmas))
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To: GVgirl

bump


16 posted on 12/24/2004 10:25:32 AM PST by cyborg (http://mentalmumblings.blogspot.com/)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
"It is not possible to read even the most mindless of books without thinking..."

Yahbut, first you got to order it...

17 posted on 12/24/2004 10:34:03 AM PST by NicknamedBob (AuthorHouse.Com ... BookStore ... Hawthorne ..."Outlandish!"...Science Fiction? Farce? Marital Aid?)
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To: sionnsar

This is an excellent article! I had never heard of the City Journal before.


18 posted on 12/24/2004 10:34:28 AM PST by international american
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To: GVgirl

"The classics -- not the schools -- made educated men of colonial farmers like Washington, Jefferson, Madison."




19 posted on 12/24/2004 10:36:06 AM PST by international american
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To: sionnsar

Thank you for the ping.


20 posted on 12/24/2004 10:47:20 AM PST by TASMANIANRED (Free the Fallujah one)
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