Monday, February 9, 2009

Contemporary Books Are Just as "Great"

I think there comes a time when many students become frustrated with the types of books they are reading. Considering the time we all live in this is understandable; why read crappy or uninteresting books when I could be doing something else worth my time? But the issue that I take with the article, “Where Did All of the Great Books Go?” is that the columnist needs the approval of literature heirarchs to tell him what the great books are. And there is something flawed with this reasoning: why would you have somebody tell you which books are “great” as opposed to books that are not “great?” It seems absurd to me that there has to be some authority that dictates which books are the great ones. In reality, I think the individual is the only authority that determines whether a book can be great or not, and the individual becomes an authority is if he/she actually reads the text. I find it humorous that the columnists willingly accepts the sagacious and authoritative views of “great books” but scoffs at the idea of Derek Walcott and Takashi Murakami when he probably didn’t read either author.
The columnist’s arguments seems even more flawed because his view is antithetical to the liberal arts education, which, in my mind, demands that the student observe, entertain, and respect the varying, different, and diverse opinions and texts of the world. And all of this is done so the student can grow and expand as a person and as an academic. Therefore it seems ridiculous that the columnist matches the literary cannon versus a class curriculum to determine if what is being studied is worth his time. It is very conceded to believe that contemporary works are not worth anyone’s time, and I think any person is doing themselves a disservice if they ardently follow the literary canon today. Canon is helpful in the fact that they provide us with classical texts that are enriching, but I don’t think we should obsessively consult them to make sure we know everything about the past. If we do that, then we fail to see what is right in front us. Canons suggest what we should take from the past, but the contemporary works shows us what we need to know today.

1 comment:

  1. I must refute the first argument in this post. Though the writer of this article makes a good point, I believe that he also makes an error in his reasoning. He states that the author of the Bachelor article "needs the approval of literature hierarchs to tell him what the great books are." Though the columnist may in fact need this approval, it doesn't necessarily refute his claims. The professors that are in charge of the Colloquium reading list are in fact "literature hierarchs". They decide what books are "great" and go into the class's syllabus. the reading list doesn't ask the students to read their own great book and discuss it in class. Instead, the reading list is given to the students, mandating what those professors decide as "great books" and the students must agree with these decisions if they are to pass the class successfully. The individual cannot create the canon for the class, so the student has the obligation to accept what he has to read as great books, regardless of whether or not he believes they are as great as the proctors for the class say they are. In this, it is up to the individual to decide whether or not he can gain something from these works and discern if he gives them merit or not. If the author of the Bachelor article believes that Walcott and Murakami aren't writers worth the merit they are given, he is entitled to that opinion, but he is still under the influence of "literature hierarchs."