13 September 2010

Literary power

As far as literary reputation is concerned, Karl Marx was right.  The ruling ideas in the literary community are the ideas of the ruling class.  Here is an early example of how literary quality is judged not by literary standards, but by political ones:

"Particularly after the 16th century foreign terms dominated written texts, in fact, some Turkish words disappeared altogether from the written language. In the field of literature, a great passion for creating art work of high quality persuaded the ruling elite to attribute higher value to literary works containing a high proportion of Arabic and Persian vocabulary, which resulted in the domination of foreign elements over Turkish. This development was at its extreme in the literary works originating in the palace. This trend of royal literature eventually had its impact on folk literature, and numerous foreign words and phrases were used by folk poets."

Literary critics have to be cautious of extra-literary pressures, such as the prejudices of many (most?) publishers, the narrow-mindedness of some (many?) academic administrators, the literary illiteracy of  many (a great many?) readers.  These pressures force critics to write only about "mainstream" (that really means, politically safe) literature, rather than texts that have high literary value in themselves.  (I can criticize publishers, administrators, and readers because I am a publisher, an administrator, and a reader!)

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