I think it has been a complex and variable day, but it went by so fast that I am not entirely sure of that statement. I am sure, however, that I did hear many wise words from three wise women; those risky, honest things that are so healthy to receive, even with stiffened posture.
While I am trying to research what the heck the State Personnel Act is and why it matters to the average UNC student, I wanted to stick up these few thoughts about art in the age of mechanical reproduction.
This post really ought to be titled, Why Blogs are Bad, Or, Hypocrisy.
For this is one of my many grievances against the 21st century:
In this lightning-fast, technologically fixated epoch, anyone (myself included) can write anything they please, publish it, and have a responsive audience. Instant authorship is gratifying—which explains the explosion of the blogosphere in the past decade—but it also inevitably and simultaneously degrades art and muddles its definition.
Walter Benjamin, a German literary theorist, had this figured out long before the Internet even came to be. He prophesied this phenomenon in 1936 in a great little piece called “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” (I am reading it this week for my Literary Criticism class.)
“With the increasing extension of the press, which kept placing new political, religious, scientific, professional, and local organs before the readers, an increasing number of readers became writers—at first, occasional ones. It began with the daily press opening to its readers space for ‘letters to the editor.’ And today there is hardly a gainfully employed European who could not, in principle, find an opportunity to publish somewhere or other comments on his work, grievances, documentary reports, or that sort of thing. Thus, the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character. … At any moment, the reader is ready to turn into a writer. … Literary license is now founded on polytechnic rather than specialized training and thus becomes common property.”
Two years earlier, Aldous Huxley wrote along the same lines in Beyond the Mexique:
“Now artistic talent is a very rare phenomenon; whence it follows… that, at every epoch and in all countries, most art has been bad. But the proportion of trash in the total artistic output is greater now than at any other period. That it must be so is a matter of simple arithmetic.”
All I wanted to say is, Yes, I agree. And yes, I am contributing to the proportion of trash. But it does irk me—to watch literary standards slip because anyone can publish whatever the heck they want on the World Wide Web.
And there’s your daily dose of irony.