lmjackson wrote:I've become quite jaded with the term "Great American Novel" as well as the American literary canon as a whole. As you'll find, the majority of authors on such lists are:
- Middle class
Additionally, the protagonists of such stories are usually:
- Middle class
While cultural diversity is underrepresented in the literary prize canon and within the widespread critical acclaim canon, the reasons are of greater significance. Why is a majority of top tier literature monocultural? At least because the publishing and literature cultures are monocultural. WASP male writers, editors, publishers, critics, and academics participate in the cultures at a disproportionate number and degree.
Another subtler reason is because any other character type should, as a best practice, represent that character's folkways—his or her normative behaviors, values, taboos, mores, etc., and cultural identity.
lmjackson wrote:Instead of capturing the everyman/woman, I rather think prominent parts of the literary canon represent what literary critics throughout the centuries have wanted to assert were/are critical values, lessons, and experiences for Americans; whether or not our culture actually reflects them.
This asks what functions or roles literature plays in a culture. Let alone asking how literature fulfills its roles. The term text
has come to mean any performance piece, be it a written word publication, a stage or screenplay, a spontaneous or polished oral transmission—radio, recording, or spoken in person— or a dimensional object that expresses a concept, like a painting or sculpture or craft object, including everyday features of daily living, like buildings, furniture, apparel, transport, food, beverage, etc.
The functions of texts, the roles they play in culture track back to the concept of publication—a first principle—they are for public consumption. They express what people make, say, do, believe, know that express shared esoteric cultural identity, even shared alienation and animosity toward exoteric cultures. They inform, instruct, correct, and control social behaviors. They function as social-cultural remediations.
I'm kind of put off by the outworn usage of "Great American Novel," too. My reasons, though, are disagreement with the culturally hegemonic hubris of using "American" to represent but one country's cultural identity out of many countries' identity cultures in the American hemisphere. And because the "Great Novel" in a global age should appeal across the globe—The Great Global Novel!
Spread the love of written word.