Jane Austen and pornography

Now that I have captured your attention with the title, let me get a few boring bits out of the way before getting on to the meatier part of the story. (Is “meatier” really the word I want to use here? Never mind – let it stay.)

I’m afraid that the Times is behind a paywall, so this link possibly won’t be of much use to most readers. But in case you are a subscriber of the Times, do please have a look at this. For the rest, I’ll summarise as best I can.

Jenni Murray, presenter of the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman’s Hour, and author of the recently published book A History of Britain in 21 Women, speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, has advocated teaching children about pornography. She notes, quite rightly, that pornography is now all-pervasive in our society, and that we cannot get rid of it. Under the circumstances, she argues, it is better that children were to be educated on the matter, “so that at least those girls know and all those boys know that not all women are shaved, that not all women make that bloody noise”, and so on. In other words, to teach the children that what they see in pornographic films is but a fantasy.

This seems well-intentioned enough. Except that I don’t know that I would fancy being the teacher in one of these “analysis” classes.

For one thing, it is difficult to know how one can “analyse” pornography without being morally judgemental. Kant, I gather, had told us that each human being is an end in herself, or himself. I am no philosopher, but this does seem to me a splendid base on which to build our morality. Put simply, human beings are subjects, not objects, and are hence entitled to respect. In pornography, however, each human being is an object, and nothing more. Thus pornography is built upon a base that is inherently demeaning, and is, by definition, immoral. I am not sure how much more there can be to “analyse”.

Of course, it could be that Jenni Murray was quoted out of context, so I do not want to say much more here on this particular matter. But I do want to comment on her reference to Jane Austen, as that brings us close, I think, to one of the recurrent themes of this blog. Ms Murray is quoted as saying:

We give our kids Jane Austen to read and we say “OK, let’s analyse it, what is it saying and what does it mean?”

Why not put boys and girls together in a class, you show them a pornographic film and you analyse it in exactly the same way as you teach them to read the other cultures that are around.

Quite apart from the desirability or the morality of showing pornography to children, what strikes me here is the absurd notion that literary culture (of which Jane Austen is treated as a representative) and pornographic culture are merely two of many “cultures that are around”, and that, by implication, both are equally worthy of being taught, and that both can be analysed “in exactly the same way”.

But the works of Jane Austen should be taught not because they are representative of one of the many “cultures that are around”: they should be taught because they are amongst the finest products of our civilisation. That’s it. No other reason. If we do not believe that certain works of literature have inherent value that elevates them above certain other works of literature; and that the finest examples of literary culture civilise us and humanise us in a way that, say, the culture of pornography cannot; then there’s no point studying literature at all. We might as well just “study” pornography. In “exactly the same way”.

I’m afraid this is the kind of insulting nonsense one gets to when one embraces cultural relativism. What a wonderful future we envisage for our children! We cannot even communicate to them the peaks of our human civilisations, because we have stopped believing in such things ourselves.

Advertisements

31 responses to this post.

  1. Touche! Why not alter freedom of speech advocacy to push for openness in matters that maintain the dignity of life instead of matters that degrade it?

    Reply

    • Hello,
      I’m not sure I can quite see this as a free speech issue, but I do certainly agree with you that, when educating our children, that which ennobles and that which demeans should not be placed on the same rung, and regarded as as equivalents to be analysed “in exactly the same way”.

      Reply

      • By disallowung the teaching of pornography to children on groumds that pornography and literature are not equivalents, some may take it as a moral judgment that restricts freedom of speech.

      • Oh, I see what you mean.

        The issue of whether pornography should or shouldnt be legal is certainly a free speech issue, but determining what is or isn’t suitable for teaching at school level does seem to me a different matter. But then – what do I know? 🙂

        I guess there’s nothing that can be done about the pervasive nature of pornography, and the exposure of children to it. But the main thrust of my post above (once again, I possibly shouldn’t be using the word “thrust” here) is what I think is the genuinely dangerous concept of relativism. If we are already at a stage where it is seriously being proposed that we should be showing pornography to schoolchildren, and that, further, pornography merits analysis in “exactly the same way” as do the novels of Austen, we really have reason to be worried about the future. We really have lost all sense of values.

  2. Of course, D H Lawrence considered Austen to be pornography,

    Reply

  3. That title may not be as attention-getting as you think. Old hat, you know. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s paper is 25 years old this year. Now that got attention.

    Reply

  4. Posted by alan on October 12, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    “She notes, quite rightly, that pornography is now all-pervasive in our society, and that we cannot get rid of it.”
    There’s much less sex on broadcast TV and in the newspapers in the UK than there was in the 1970’s.
    It’s not all pervasive, you have to go looking for it. That’s where (shock horror) parenting comes in.
    Your Radio 4 “Woman’s Hour” (a sexist 1970’s relic) presenter is a nutter and you know she’s a nutter.
    She only gets away with it because she’s a woman – shock horror he said something sexist, call the thought police. No he didn’t, I said something critical about our society’s collective appetite for nonsense when it comes from the right kind of person. Our society is being sexist by not seeing it as a threat.

    Reply

    • “All pervasive” were the wrong words to use. “Easier to access” would have been closer the mark.I think you’re right in that there is far less sex now in our newspapers, or broadcast on television. This is because there is no need now: hardcore pornography is so easily accessed at the touch of a screen, that it doesn’t need to be broadcast on mainstream channels. Parenting, yes, should come into it, but you know as well as I do that a great many kids (I wouldn’t like to guess at numbers) have seen hardcore porn at a very young age, and that many watch it regularly. Far more than back in the 70s, when hardcore porn was illicit under-the-counter stuff, and not so easy to get at. I mean, people even found those Robin Askwith “Confessions” films titillating back then! Just about any teenager nowadays has seen far more explicit stuff than that.

      And yes, I do agree with you about “our society’s appetite for nonsense when it comes from the right kind of person”. I agree with you further that the nonsense Ms Murray is spouting here is indeed a “threat”, and that our society is being sexist in not seeing it as such. I have no illusions about my blog making any kind of difference to anything – my voice is hardly an important voice, after all – but, for what it’s worth, I just wanted to stand up to say “I object”. Because I do object.

      My use of the expression “all pervasive” was, I agree, ill-judged. Otherwise, I think I stand by what I said. This particular post was not intended as a broadside against pornography as such – we can save that for another day. My target here is our apparently inceasing inability to make value judgements, so that a prominent figure can say in public, without being challenged, that pornography can be “analysed” in “exactly the same way” that we analyse Austen. Such lack of judgement, such inability to distinguish in terms of value, is indeed, as you say, a “threat”.

      Reply

  5. Yes, I agree with your point about the intrinsic value of studying Austen.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Rachel on October 13, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Maybe they should just show the Monty Python Sex Education scene from The Meaning of Life.

    I am quite shocked by the hatred for Jenni Murray expressed here. Why is it a threat? Sometimes it is necessary to discuss objectionable and wrong things; to identify why they are objectionable and wrong to establish instead what is right. If half your class turns up to biology having been taught creationism, you have to address it. Likewise if half your class turn up to PSHE having abusive ideas about sex, you have to address it.

    I don’t think she was talking about teaching about pornography in the same way as about Austen (or about great artists – oh no sorry, the teaching of art history has been cancelled, thanks to Gove) but about bringing to PSHE (or whatever it’s called) lessons. the critical skills that are taught and used in English and Music, and used to be used in Art History. Children should be taught to wonder whether the images they see everywhere (I find the Sun and Vogue as pernicious as pornography) are realistic, and what the motivations are behind showing these things. You can use those skills to show that a thing is bad, and why, just as you can to show that another thing is good, and why.

    I think that she is right that schools should own up to the fact that most kids have seen what they believe to be realistic images of people having sex. I don’t agree with her about showing them porn but it certainly should be discussed. It is a real danger, especially to girls, that they are expected to look and behave a certain way because that is how women are portrayed in almost all media.

    Incidentally, to be honest, I find it very instructive from time to time to see a really badly made film or read a terrible book, just to see if I can put into words what makes it so bad.

    Reply

    • Hello Rachel, and welcome (I believe this is your first post here!)

      I don’t think I have ever heard Women’s Hour. I really do not know what kind of person Jenni Murray is. I have tried to focus on what she said. And I don’t think I am being unreasonable in seeing what she said as a “threat”. She said – and what I quoted are direct quotes – that children should be shown pornography in the classroom, and that this pornography they see is to be discussed “in exactly the same way” as we would a Jane Austen novel.

      There are, at the very least, two distinct points here that I do indeed see as “threats”. The first, obviously, is that children should be shown pornography in schools. I’m sure I don’t need to argue the point that they shouldn’t. The second is the implicit point that literary culture and the culture of pornography are merely two cultures amongst many, and that both may be analysed “in exactly the same way”. Jenni Murray’s words, not mine. She may not have expressed herself well; she may indeed think something quite different from what she actually said. But since I am not privy to her private thoughts, I can only judge her by her public statements.

      At the moment she is (I hope) a lone voice. And for that reason, and only for that reason, what she says is not a threat. By any other criterion, “threat” is not an unreasonable word to use. Children need actually to see pornography in class to judge it is bad? Really? For she is not just talking about discussing porn in the classroom: she is, quite explicitly, talking about showing porn to children.

      Right now, I don’t think I am too worried, to be fair, about the possibility of children seeing porn in the schools: that is an unlikely scenario (for the moment, at least – but who knows how quickly things will change). What concerns me more right now is the concept, by no means restricted to Jenni Murray, of cultural relativism – the idea that literature is to be taught because literary culture, like porn culture, is simply one culture amongst many, and may hence be approached in the same way (“in exactly the same way”). This I strongly object to. Literary culture is not to be taught because it is simply one culture amongst many: it is to be taught because the best that literary culture has to offer represents some of the highest points of our civilisation; and because it is, or should be, one of the objectives of education to propagate to future generations the finest achievements of our civilisation – the best that has been thought and said … and written and painted and composed. We seem too embarrassed to say this. We seem unable, or unwilling, or both, to make value judgements – to say “This should be taught because it is GOOD.” And this cultural relativism I do indeed see as a threat.

      If Jenni Murray’s proposals ever enter into the mainstream, then heaven help us all. As for the concept of cultural relativism, that has already entered the mainstream, I fear. No-one bats an eyelid any more. Everything has become mere commodities.

      Reply

  7. Himdari,
    This is Jenni being cynical to promote a womany book. Why 21 only? This is a move so old it’s lying at the back of the fridge about to be an independent life form. Pathetic and shameless and at a certain point in her life at the hour of the wolf between 3 and 5 A.M she will break into a prickly sweat at its recollection. For now her agent is happy with her.

    Go away Jenni and read a good book.

    From relativism we move to Nihilism and having exhausted that we move to strong leadership in search of an ethos.
    Futurist Manifesto: • We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.

    Reply

    • Hello Michael,

      I’m afraid I had to google your quote. I see it was by Futurist Italian poet Filippo Tomasso Marinetti. I guess there’s a joke somewhere in the thought that Futurism in now old hat …

      But the speed at which everything seems to be changing does worry me. It’s probably because I’m an old stick-in-the-mud cultural conservative. I don’t deny it. I’m an Arnoldian who believes it is important to read, and to pass on to future generations, “the best that has been thought and said”. And I am afraid that we are so addicted to speed merely for its own sake, that we no longer have the time even to consider what has been thought and said, let alone determine what is the best. And we make a virtue of this: we cannot determine the best, we say, because there is no best, and making value judgements is, almost axiomatically, a Bad Thing.

      I see that Jenni Murray’s proposal that we should be showing porn to children has attracted some criticism, but no-one has batted an eyelid at her contention that pornography and Austen’s novels may be analysed “in exactly the same way”.

      Of course, all this is most likely to be, as you say, an attempt to drum up some publicity for her new book. But that should not let her off the hook. What she has said needs to be challenged, for it is dangerous.

      Reply

  8. Posted by witwoud on October 14, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    She’s right about the hair, though. I worry that today’s boys will be as shocked as Ruskin on his wedding night when they encounter the real thing.

    Reply

    • Indeed, that John Ruskin story always seemed to me quite bizarre. I must admit I’ve never been able to take Ruskin too seriously after hearing that story – which, I suppose, is a bit unfair of me.

      Reply

  9. Hi, I found your blog via Babbling Books and just wanted to say that I appreciate the way you highlighted the cutural relevance issue. I was aghast that someone would actually suggest something like this but as you said, “…this is the kind of insulting nonsense one gets to when one embraces cultural relativism.” Just what you’d expect at the bottom of the slippery slope.

    Reply

    • Hello, and thank you got that. I too was fairly aghast by the suggestion, especially as Jenni Murray isn’t just anyone … she is Dame Jenni Murray, no less, a prominent and well respected figure in British broadcasting. This is an admittedly an extreme example, and I am pretty sure that the proposal won’t be taken up right yet, but yes, when we refuse to make value judgements, this really is, I think, the sort of thing we end up with.

      Cheers for now, Himadri

      Reply

  10. […] the Argumentative Old Git, is unsurprisingly critical of BBC presenter Jenni Murray’s proposal that children be taught about pornography to […]

    Reply

  11. Posted by dhruv_murty on December 12, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Hi, Just wanted to clarify your thoughts on a broader issue than the one you discussed in this post. Doesn’t cultural relativism help shape history for future generations and continue evolution of perspectives? Say for example, if Uncle Tom’s Cabin was seen as a text not possessing ‘inherent value’ at that time, wouldn’t it have been that much more difficult to view slavery for what it was? My last point is the culture of porn can and hopefully will be analysed to conclude with your point, that “certain works of literature have inherent value that elevates them above certain other works of literature; and that the finest examples of literary culture civilise us and humanise us in a way that, say, the culture of pornography cannot”. Plurality of options doesn’t necessary mean plurality of conclusions. Looking forward to hearing your views on this.

    Reply

    • Hello Dhruv, and thank you for your interesting comment.

      I hope you’ll excuse me if I don’t reply to you immediately: I am afraid I am a bit ill right now, and my mind isn’t quite working as well as I might wish. However, I am certainly on the mend, and would be very keen, once I am up to it, to discuss the points you raise – points which obviously call for further thought and analysis. Could we wait, perhaps, till the New Year?

      My best wishes,
      Himadri

      Reply

      • Posted by dhruv_murty on December 13, 2016 at 6:23 am

        Certainly, Himadri. We can take this up any time at your convenience. So sorry to hear that you’re not well. Do get well soon!

        My warm regards,
        Dhruv

    • Hello Dhruv,

      Apologies once again for the lateness of this reply.

      In my post, I had done something I often castigate others for doing: I used a term – in this case. “relativism” – without adequately defining it.

      As far as I understand it, relativism refers to the strain of thought that maintains that nothing is absolute, and therefore, no set of values may be deemed superior in absolute terms to any other set of values; and that, as a consequence, all sets of values, whether of literature or of pornography, are equally worthy of consideration, and that no comparative judgement can hold for all time, in all contexts.

      This is actually true. Emma is of greater value than Debbie Does Dallas in the context where one is seeking literary quality; but in the context where one is seeking mere sexual arousal, Debbie Does Dallas is certainly superior. But this is trivial. A less trivial issue is judging between the contexts: how important is literature to our mental and spiritual well-being? And, in comparison, how important is the sexual arousal we may derive from watching people performing sex acts?

      The relativist point of view would be, I think, that there are no absolute values, either moral or aesthetic, to prefer one over the other, and that the two are therefore equally important, albeit, possibly, in diffferent contexts. This I would take issue with. What the source is of moral or of aesthetic values is a complex and possibly unanswerable question, but I don’t think it does any of us any good to pretend that they don’t therefore exist.

      What you are saying, I think (and please do correct me if I have misunderstood you), is that the superiority of one over the other is not a given starting point (as I have been implying), but is, rather, a conclusion to be arrived at after careful thought and study. I think you are right. Such thought and study are, I’d still maintain, highly inappropriate ad even immoral in the context of a school; but in philosophy faculties beyond our school years, nothing, I think, should be taken for granted: and all premises must be questioned.

      What lit my admittedly short fuse here is not so much the proposal that pornography should be taught at school (such a proposal is too absurd to be taken seriously), but the casual assertion that it should be taught “in exactly the same way” that we would teach Jane Austen, thus implying that the culture of literature and the culture of pornography are equivalent, and occupy the same space. (And this proposal wasn’t made by just anybody – it was made by Dame Jenni Murray, among the best-known of British broadcasters, and one of the pillars of the British establishment.) This constant denigration of our literary heritage – of our cultural inheritance – is something I find profoundly dispiriting.

      Best wishes, Himadri

      Reply

      • Posted by dhruv_murty on January 10, 2017 at 6:35 pm

        Thank you for the reply, Himadri.

        I agree with your explanation of inherent value in when seeking to achieve a certain purpose. My only concern, and something which has become a threshold for testing the fairness of an argument for me, was whether restricting text based on content would create a dangerous precedent. The academic concern is whether this should translate into a sentiment of ignoring whatever doesn’t agree with your senses, which would lead to a self-sustaining bubble devoid of fresh perspective. However, you argument regarding the purpose of mental and literary development and how it would necessarily not include certain forms of expressions is definitely compelling.

        Happy New Year!
        Regards, Dhruv

  12. Hello Himadri,
    I do not know where else to share this on your blog. These are my views as a very amateur reader who is more likely to read what is disparagingly referred to as genre fiction. I felt the commentators and blogger are seasoned readers of literary writing but maybe a voice that is from the other side of the perceived divide might balance things out. More importantly, I just wanted to share my thoughts on my reading choices with you and your commentators. So here goes:

    An escape from the ugliness

    Recreational reading is something that has grown to have a great role in my days. It is also a pastime I was encouraged to adopt because it was held in great esteem in the my parents’ household as well as among my circle of teachers, friends and colleagues. As a result, I always thought of myself as a recreational reader with something akin to pride. It is only once I entered university and was surrounded by literary reading material that I became aware of the gradations and snobberies that recreational readers and even recreational writers were exposed to (by themselves and the writers they read or routinely avoided reading). As a result, my first response was to promptly adopt these snobberies and subject myself and my fellow recreational readers to them. I started to buy or rent only books that were classified as classics. I stopped devouring the Agatha Christies, Daphne De Mauriers, Robert Ludlums, etc. that I had read so lovingly over the years. Instead I sought refuge in the deeper and intellectually more challenging worlds of Crime and Punishment, Othello, and Bleakhouse.

    Initially this worked adequately for me. I was able to read at least some chapters of the said tomes and acquire at least some knowledge of these classics. I was also able to come across as better informed than I was in the past, and quite possibly the quality of my occasional scribblings might have improved. However, I was also spending less time reading, unwittingly devoting more of my free time to watching the escapist equivalent of the books I had forced myself to stop reading. This state of affairs continued for a while in my twenties until it became too unsatisfactory to endure any further. Reading was my love and my escape and I was starting to feel that fear of other people’s opinions (including those of writers and readers I admired for the skill and breadth of their reading and writing ability) was driving a wedge between me and my cherished route of escape. Meanwhile the need for this escape was becoming more pressing as life started to reveal some of its more challenging facets including infirmity, death and general vulnerability. As a result, after years of suppressing my instincts, my own self staged a coup and my beloved escapist, accessible fiction (often called genre fiction) was back on my reading list.

    I haven’t quit attempting to read the more literary works, of course, but I have come to accept that my reading of Bleakhouse will occur at a plodding pace and sporadically, much like my reading of War and Peace. Wilkie Collins,’ works on the other hand, could move a brisker pace because of the element of suspense in them which is vital to keep me baited. I have also made peace with the fact that there will be classics that will likely go unread (and unattempted) in my lifetime (I am thinking James Joyce, Faulkner). In other words, I will likely never be as well read and well informed about literature as more skilled readers are. But I will love recreational reading of my own choosing as my ultimate escape from life, and that is really the most vital reason why I was drawn to stories in the first place (whether in the realm of books, televised fiction, or the rest). Quite apart from concerns about literary merit and public opinion, reading to me was primarily about immersion into stories. I am glad that I have found my way back to that approach again, and I hope I never stray from this path.

    Thanks! I have been enjoying your blog for over a year now, and am somewhat envious of the deep knowledge of and devotion to the classics that you’ve developed.
    Cheers,
    Namrata Joshi

    Reply

    • Hello Namrata,
      Once again, my apologies for the delay in replying.

      There’s an awful lot of snobbery when it comes to reading. Snobbery in all directions. No matter what you read, there will be people who look down on you for reading it. I try to make a point never to criticise or to attack people for what they read. I reserve the right to criticise books if I think they are poor, but if I go from critcising the book to criticising the reader, then I have crossed a line I shouldn’t have crossed.

      There are, indeed, some books written purely to entertain; and there are some books written with more serious purpose. Murder on the Orient Express, say, belongs to the former category; Paradise Lost belongs to the latter. However, the boundary between these two categories is far from watertight, and we shouldn’t be too insistent about what is, after all, mere categorisation.

      Personally, I love old-fashioned ghost stories; I am a devotee of P. G. wodehouse, and of Sherlock Holmes stories; and the various adventure stories I loved reading as a child I still find very comforting. I also think that George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman novels are wonderful stuff. To look down on good entertainment is ridiculous snobbery.

      However, there are many – and I know this from years spent on book boards – who seem to think that looking down on anything that is popular is “snobbery”. There, I disagree. Once again, anyone is entitled to read whatever they want without being looked down upon: hat has never been in question; but unless we think literary quality is irrelevant (and many do), there is no reason why a shoddily written book should be exempt from criticism merely because it is popular. Indeed, if we are to value literary quality, we must be able to discriminate. To criticise a badly-written book for being badly-written is not snobbery – as long as one can put forward an argument for one’s case, of course.

      For I feel very strongly that all books, including those written specifically and purely to entertain, should be subject to the literary standards. The alternative is to say literary standardsdon’t matter. And if you love literature, that is self-evidently wrong.

      There are also many (as I found out from the years I spent cntributing to book boards) who think that the mere fact of reading a book that is difficult and challenging makes the reader a snob. There are those who cannot accept that readers may genuinely enjoy reading Ulysses by Joyce, or the Cantos of Pound, without any thought of impressing others, or of “showing off”. Sadly, there are an awful lot of inverted snobs around, and this sort of inverted snobbery really is not good for my blood pressure.

      I am a bit uncertain about the term “escapism”. Sometimes, yes, real life does become too much to bear, and a few hours’ escape into a fictional world that is more delightful than the real one can indeed be most welcome. But even when one does not necessarily want to escape the real world, one may still wish to enjoy certain fictional worlds simply because they are so delightful. I read the Jeeves & Woster novels of Wodehouse during one of the happiest periods of my life. I did not wish to escape my life: I simply enjoyed entering Wodehouse’s world. I fear the term “escapism” puts too great an emphasis on the repulsive qualities of the real world rather than on the attractive qualities of certain fictional worlds.

      And the over-liberal use of the term “escapism” appears to have convinced many that all fiction is, by nature, escapist, Quite the opposite is, I think, the case: the best fictions force one to confront one’s life, rather than to escape from it.

      So by all means, read what you want, read what you enjoy. The snobs who tell you that you shouldn’t enjoy reading Daphne du Maurier are as tiresome as those idiots who claim I read James Joyce only to “show off”, and that I can’t possibly be enjoying it. They’re both very wrong.

      Cheers for now,
      Himadri

      Reply

  13. Sorry for the continued scribbles. But here is what I thought was an excellent blogpost on the interpretive and escapist aspects of recreational reading materials:

    http://interpretiveliteature.blogspot.ca/2012/11/interpretive-fiction-vs-escapist-fiction.html

    Recently I purchased a second edition copy of the bestselling book Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense by Laurence Perrine. This guide to literature, poetry, and drama has made an invaluable addition to my collection of books.

    The first chapter begins with a question: why bother to read fiction? The author than responds to this question with two answers: enjoyment and understanding. Enjoyment is rather straightforward; we read for pleasure and in this, fiction needs no other justification. But Perrine observes that, “. . . unless fiction give something more than pleasure, it hardly justifies as a subject of college study. Unless it expands or refines our minds or quickens our sense of life, its value is not appreciably greater than that of miniature golf, bridge, or ping-pong. To have a compelling claim on our attention, it must yield not only enjoyment but understanding”–(Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, pg. 3)

    This leads us to two broad categories that Perrine calls “escape literature” and “interpretive literature”. He writes, “ESCAPE LITERATURE is that written purely for entertainment–to help us pass the time agreeably. INTERPRETIVE LITERATURE is written to broaden and deepen and sharpen our awareness of life. Escape literature takes us away from the real world: it enables us temporarily to forget our troubles. Interpretive literature takes us, through the imagination, deeper into the real world: it enables us to understand our troubles . . .” (pg. 4)

    However Laurence Perrine is clear in that these two ‘categories’ are two ends of a scale. Some books lean toward escapism and others toward interpretation. He goes on to elaborate on these two opposing ends of the scale:

    1. “The difference does not lie in the absence or presence of a ‘moral.'”
    2.”The difference does not lie in the absence or presence of ‘facts'”
    3.The difference does not lie in the presence or absence of an element of fantasy.'”

    I find this to be a helpful way of analyzing the stories I read. This perspective explains why we are drawn to writers like Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, etc.. The great works of literature (apart from perhaps, Alice in Wonderland and other such novels) tend to weigh in much closer to the interpretive end of the scale while much of today’s ‘fluff’ is escapist through and through.

    With this perspective in mind, what are some examples of interpretive fiction that you enjoy? Is reading for pure enjoyment (escapism) a good a use of our time?

    Reply

    • Hello Namrata, and thank you for your very interesting comments. they address several issues that interest me greatly.

      I’m afraid I don’t have time right now to give he issues you raise as much thought as they deserve, but I will certainly get back to you within the next day or two.

      Cheers for now,
      Himadri

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: