March 8th, 2011
|08:28 pm - Clay Shirkey on the death of culture|
This comment from Clay Shirkey (author of Here Comes Everybody among things) has caused consternation on Crooked Timber today.
Although the actual number of people reading Tolstoy (and similar writers) is probably not falling much (as documented elsewhere on CT, Humanities majors, as a precent of college graduates, fell to something like 8% some time ago, and is now actually pretty steady), it is increasingly less the case that the people not reading Tolstoy can be convinced that they should feel bad about not reading Tolstoy et al., or that they should be impressed with people who do.
Put another way, appreciation of High European culture is becoming something like Civil War re-enactment—it’s enjoyable for the people who do it, but does not seem to be creating much curiosity or envy in the people who prefer doing other things with their free time.
This doesn’t much bother me (and I’m a card-carrying member of the affected group, in a “My beach reading is Richard Rorty” kind of way), and if it bothers you, I’ve got a feeling you’re going to be in for a pretty big disappointment as the actual behaviors of American citizens becomes increasingly visible online.
I disagree with him. I'll give you an example: the title of his book (above) is from Finnegans Wake, as are the term 'quark' and the concept of monomyth which influenced the composition of Star Wars (for example).
I have said in a comment on Crooked Timber: Artefacts like Finnegan's Wake are the boiler-rooms. You don't have to go down to the boiler room to enjoy central heating. But some people have to go and service the boiler, and people would notice if the boiler went off.
Sheesh, and I just got told today that there's no such thing as the canon anymore. Yeah, right. It may not exist in the academic circles where my interlocutor hangs out, but it sure is functioning out there as an irregular verb.
I know what canon is: it's the episodes that actually got shown on TV.
Damnit, why didn't I think of that at the time? (Also: canon is what you remember.)
The canon in Doctor Who is that time itself has been erased (and recorded over by the 1969 FA cup final)
Someone on The Culture Show, I think, opined recently that a traditional university/academic education was increasingly being replaced in esteem by soundbite-depth material available by download, and that this was A Good Thing because it reduced the gated nature of academia.
I can remember at Uni people saying 'It's good if exams get easier because that will help girls'. Nope. Girls don't need that kind of help. Make the exams as tough as you like, and we will storm your barricades.