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Monday, September 10, 2018

Literary Value

My project is making me think about what we mean by literary value. First, the very existence of the project depends on the value that people put on Lorca's work. We wouldn't have a book about musical settings of a poet... whom nobody had set to music. In musical settings, the value of the literary text is preserved, in that we value the song for the poem, as it pre-existed the song. We don't forget the author, despite fantasies about Lorca being sung by people who have never heard of Lorca.   

Then there is the tradition of looking for the value of traditional songs in their lyrics alone, of anthologizing flamenco or other folkloric lyrics, or ballads, without any mention of their music at all. Stripping away the music makes them "literature" in a way. They are not really "literature," but "orature," but the literary tradition is what places value them. The elite canon includes popular lyrics that have the aesthetic qualities it happens to value, with the added ideological baggage of being "popular" and hence anti-elitist in spirit. I find myself thinking in this way too, so it must be a "thing." 

This kind of thinking in no way challenges the value of the canon itself or the prestige of the "literary."  You might have an anthology with scattered poems from the anonymous tradition but still have your canonical authors.      

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