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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

entry arrow12:59 AM | High-Brow, Low-Brow, and All That B.S.

Exie Abola gives the last say on the issue of "elitist/difficult literature," first started here, compiling reactions from a great cross-section of blogosphere. Ichi Batacan's comment is enlightening: "[There is] so much fear of 'elitism' in this country, when there should be a far, far greater fear of backwardness and parochialism and mediocrity. So much in our national life and culture encourages us, forces us, calls on us to settle for so much less than the best in ourselves, to aim for not even the barest minimum in our aspirations. It makes me ferociously angry too."

It makes me angry, too.

Connie Veneracion actually has a rejoinder to the whole issue, from which she has been kinda silent since the whole thing broke out. She tries to hold on to her old argument, and cites two things to aid her: (1) her daughter reading manga, and (2) her own experience beholding Dali's The Persistence of Memory. She begins with: "Encourage your kids to read... and never tell them that the only things worth reading are those labeled by the high-brows as profound." It's a battle-cry, all right.

Later in her blog post, she refines her thesis to this: "When academics insist that there are stringent standards on what constitutes literature, they set limitations on all of us. They stifle creativity and growth. They put our minds in cages" [emphasis mine].

Which gets me thinking: isn't she guilty of the same thing she admonishes? By holding a particular standard [hers] as the most apt to read literature by [get rid of Shakespeare and Joyce! Too difficult! From now on we only read Slamdunk!], she proceeded to ridicule a literary work long considered great, albeit "difficult" to those who don't do their homework. The standard, as far as she is concerned is (1) simplicity, and (2) evocativeness. 'Yun lang. As far as I'm concerned, her incompetency to read the work at hand is her limitation, and her wayward battle-cry is the new cage.

I can imagine a typical scene with her child, based on what she has just posted: "Don't read that book, hija. That's a Dostoevsky. It's considered a classic by all those high-brow critics, so it must be bad. It's not an easy read talaga -- you will have to consult the dictionary a thousand times, trust me on that -- punyeta naman 'tong Fyodor na 'to. Sino ba sya? And a real work of art does not need a specific set of rules to make it beautiful and understandable. Walang rules-rules! Forget form! Forget style! It simply has to evoke. Tingnan mo 'tong napakamurang Pinoy na romance paperback na binili ko sa newsstand -- title: Kung ang Langit ang Iiyak, Ang Lupa ang Tatawa -- evocative! Art sya!"

I just hope she doesn't compare me to poor Miss SantibaƱez, an old teacher of hers. I happen to teach comics in my literature classes, too, and can't be accused of being too "high-brow."

High-brow. Low-brow. A plague on all those silly labels. Utter b.s.! What an old, stupid argument! I thought the whole cultural war with regards that was settled in the 1980s. Aren't we living in the post-post-modern times now? And now here comes Sassy Lawyer thinking it's all new. Gah.

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