We have an annual lecture in the department. The last four years the lectures have been excellent, and none of them have had anything to do with literature at all. The topics have been entirely sociological, or about some other cultural expression not defined as literary per se. We choose the speakers by consensus in the department, and always nominate good people, and then give them the option about what to talk about. I am not complaining here, since the talks were good, and I'm interest in many things that aren't literature, but I'd like to know whether anyone is still interested in literature out there?
(I'm talking not about a talk in which a novel is used to address a historical or sociological point, but where no novel, poem, or play, or even film, enters the picture at all.).
Or, if you are interested, where do you go to study it?
Who's the audience you're thinking of, that wants to hear yet more talking about literature? Not the faculty, presumably -- that would be a busman's holiday. I could see expecting it of grad students.
Ten years ago or so I thought about taking a literature class at SF State, but the schedule was impossible. Any studying I've done has been with books. I know a few poets and have been to readings, but even with the scholarly-minded ones that's not the same as a lecture.
The public library I'm sitting in was built about 1900. Carved in the stone on one side is LECTURE HALL, but it's been radically remodeled. There's a modest room for events (today, it's the Russian writers' club), but the hunger for lectures seems less.
(correction: 1914, a Carnegie Library)
Let's face it, literature is either old hat or too complicated, irrelevant or, at best, used as you say simply for illustrative purposes in some other discourse (historical, political, sociological, anthropological). That's what's implicit in many modern-day attitudes and trends. Poetry was the first to go. Then drama. And now even narrative is threatened.
Related is also the end of classical music. It seems it is no longer normal to listen to it in a serious way unless you are some kind of specialist (i.e. DEAD serious about it).
There was a generation of grad students a while ago (80s-90s) who either found poetry incomprehensible (poor preparation in high school and undergrad) or who found that in general it didn't respond directly to their political concerns. Those grad students are now early- to mid-career professors, and they're eliminating poetry wholesale from their syllabi, primarily because they don't know what to do with it themselves, but also because today's generation of students is even less equipped. There are a few notable exceptions to the general purge: for instance, for political reasons, a few (always just a few) poems by Marti, Nicolas Guillen, and Nancy Morejon. (Of course, this is a generalization, there are exceptions.)
And yes, classical music is on life support, because 95% of children aren't exposed to it in their homes during their younger years, so it never becomes part of who they are.
Yeah. Well my daughter is classical musician, daughter of a specialist in poetry.
Exception that proves the rule.
I didn't mean it that way. I meant that, as a specialist in poetry with classical music in my family too, that I am very aware of the marginal place of culture in our culture.
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