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[mythsoc] "High" and "low" lit

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  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
    ... From: tghsaw tgshaw@earthlink.net Date: Sat, 23 Nov 2002 12:32:43 -0600 To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Aragorn and kingship, and
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 26, 2002
      Original Message:
      From: tghsaw tgshaw@...
      Date: Sat, 23 Nov 2002 12:32:43 -0600
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Aragorn and kingship, and kingship elsewhere

      In a message dated 11/22/2002 11:11:53 AM Eastern Standard Time,
      dianejoy@... writes:


      >> But I believe there are objective standards for art. They take time
      > measure out and it doesn't work the way mathematics does: the best art
      > stands the test of time, and artists learned the rules, then broke them
      > when they felt it appropriate. There is a vast difference between the
      > art of Van Eyck (sp.?) and Andy Warhol. One is time-bound; the other
      > is not.
      > The same can be said for literature. ---djb >>

      >Oooh, so you are saying that Andy Warhol, and that guy who paints with
      splashes, are not Great Art?

      << Regarding math and art and the guy who paints with splashes: *Discover*
      magazine (not related to the Discovery Channel, BTW) had a full-length
      article on a study of Jackson Pollock's artwork that showed the degree of
      fractals appearing in it is very close to what's most appealing to us in
      nature (measured, IIRC, by showing research subjects photos of natural
      settings--tree branches and the like--displaying fractals in varying
      degrees). "Splash art" made randomly didn't have this quality. So there
      may be an actual reason that some people would pay good money for a
      Pollock, but look at my display of drips and shake their heads. >>

      I think I heard something about that, and thought it fascinating. I think
      fractals in and of themselves are lovely, and they amaze me even more
      because God has made something that is so intricate, seemingly chaotic, but
      underneath, having such wonderful order. It doesn't surprise me that
      Pollock did splashes in a fractal pattern, but did he do so consciously, or
      was it a kind of serendipity (or both?)

      << I'm afraid the whole process of determining the degree of fractals in
      something was a bit beyond me--while I'm fascinated by fractals (I've been
      known to take a great deal of time turning a head of cauliflower into
      crudités because I spend so much time just looking at the pieces and
      patterns), I've never understood them mathematically. -- I'm not meaning
      to take this into a discussion of Pollock's artwork, just giving it as an
      example that sometimes the appeal of art rests on something we might not be
      consciously aware of.>>

      Which makes it so much more fascinating; there is a point where we don't
      know enough, but if we knew too much about our unconscious mental responses
      and emotional make-ups, it would all become too predictible.

      << And, of course, with art that's being produced now, we can't give it
      "the test of time." Some non-representational art has been around for
      quite some time now, but none of it has had a chance to "age" as much as
      the old masters.>>

      True, but it's also true of representational art being produced today.
      Take even the small area of Tolkien-inspired art: which is "better?"
      Nasmith, Alan Lee, Hildebrandt, or someone else? My favorite is Nasmith,
      because he best represents what Middle Earth looked like *to me* as I read
      JRRT. I gasped when I first saw it, for there was a shock of recognition:
      somehow I had produced pictures like these in my own mind as I read LOTR.
      I continually find myself drawn into his work. The others have less appeal
      for me, but others might feel th same way about another artist's work as I
      feel about Nasmith. There is no way of knowing which will "last" or "stand
      the test of time."

      Non-representational art is harder to grasp.

      >But it is so true of literature also... Why did so much of what I read
      high school have to have lots of swear words and descriptive death
      scenes? Does that make Great Literature?

      As an outsider looking in (someone who works full-time with science but
      who also loves fiction so cares what happens to it), I wonder if there
      aren't two sets of standards--one academic and one non-academic.

      C. S. Lewis writes about "High" and Low" culture; some people like to
      think of themselves as part of the "elite," and promote high and serious
      culture; others appreciate "lower" forms, but love them passionately,
      re-reading those books again and again. Lewis says (in *Experiment in
      Criticism*) that the best books are those that are read again and again,
      irrespective of who they are written by. He also says that some people are
      capable of reading a book only once, but that others read them again and
      again. (He pities the first type.)

      As an aside, I recall I met a girl who could not read a book a second
      time---because she remembered it so well from the first reading.

      << IMHO, one of the best things about Tolkien's writing is that it's
      survived this long (LotR getting close to 50 years) without being
      considered "Great Literature" and being taught in school as such. >>

      People have taken it to their hearts despite academics; I think this is
      how a classic is born. I would hope that when teachers teach LOTR that
      they cast about themselves this idea: "If you've read this before, great!
      You'll learn all the more. If you haven't, you have a real treat ahead!"
      None of this "I have to teach this and you have to read it."

      << It's something the ragtag population has decided on its own to consider
      worth reading and re-reading and studying. There are other examples--I've
      never heard of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories being seriously
      studied as Great Literature (with the disclaimer that I'm sure someone,
      somewhere, has certainly done so), but they seem to have stood the test of
      time. (Rather interesting how many times I've found myself comparing
      Middle-earth to Baker Street in various discussions lately--but that's
      definitely a different topic!)>>

      Different worlds, yes, but the same process of discovery, and wonder, a
      different kind of wonder, more cerebral, but wonder, nonetheless. Great
      Literature produces wonder, I think. I have no interest in some forms of
      literature *labeled* as "great," but which has no conception of intrigue,
      heroism, or charm in the characters.

      << IMHO, it would be a very interesting study to look at the reasons people
      choose to read these books (and others that have kept their extra-academic
      popularity over time) on their own, as opposed to the ones they would
      probably never have opened if they weren't required reading. >>

      I certainly would not have picked up Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" on my
      own. OTOH, I've run across stories that I had to read and didn't enjoy at
      first, but they grew on me later: "By the Waters of Babylon" by Stephen
      Vincent Benet was one of these. *Some intellectuals* are downright
      contemptuous of stories that are easily accessible to the public. I am
      sure that no one here is of that ilk! ---djb

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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