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effenheimer

Say it isn't so!

by effenheimer at 05:41 PM on February 21, 2003

Lately, I have given up on the strip club scene. I know, what is the world coming to. But health reasons and money reasons and social reasons and maybe even moral reasons have kept from indulging in the pleasures of the flesh.

What happened was I when to an all nude joint about an hour away where the girls were acutally cool and now I can't even think about hanging round some of the snooty, fully clothed ho-bags at my local strip club.

I get too bored too easily even where women are concerned. I need variety. I need conversation. I don't think it is too much to ask that when I go into a strip club that there be a sexually charged atmosphere. I don't need to be somebody's friend.

Now come to find out, the girls at my current club think I'm rich. Being bitches of the dim-witted variety, they assume that because I am a newspaper columnist that I must be rich. They think I make 65K a year and wonder why I dont tip more. I just got a raise today. 35 cents. They don't give 35 cent raises to people who make 65k. They give raises like that to puds like me who are barely scraping by and if they don't like it they can fuck off.

A friend of mine, well, a person I know, is involved in the swinging lifestyle. It is not as cool as it sounds. Mostly, it is people of very mundane appearance with sexual adictions have sex with strangers in public places and groups of acquantainces engaging in behavior, I think it is safe to say, the average person would find morally repugnant if they were being honest with themselves. I cannot see the satisfaction in a lifestyle like that. Sure, it has the thin patina of excitement on an othwise clean, boring little life, but is that really enough? It sounds like the male fantasy rightly enough, but in practical terms I can see it leaving me cold, unfulfilled and ashamed.

Eveyone has a hole inside of them. They fill it with whatever seems to work. Food, sex, shopping, alcohol. Doesnt really matter. Ultimately, I wonder if the hole is really a area of limited space or if it isnt really a doorway to an infinite space inside us. We just temporarily jam the doorway up with diversions. Eventually they fall through and we are hungry again. A deep and abiding love might be the only thing that can fill that space.

A few years back, a religious group advocated a diet plan that included prayer. At the time, I thought it was a joke until I realized they were right, at least partially. When they spoke of filling the void with Jesus, they could have been talking about filling the void with a hobby or some other kind of activity one can partcipate in religiously.

Makes you think.

What fills you up inside? Do you even know that you are empty? Are you filled? If so what worked for you? For me a combination of pizza, diet pop and anti depressants works for a short time.

comments (21)

A 35 cent raise? Hey, where are you located? Council Bluffs? That's like a $5.00 raise to a New Yorker.

by Eviltom at February 21, 2003 6:05 PM


Your reference to mundane-looking swingers boffing one another brings to mind the nude beach/nudist colony paradox. Go to one and behold all the naked flesh you wish were covered up.

by Anna at February 21, 2003 7:01 PM


I can't help but feel like a sucker everytime I step into a strip club (not that it stops me) and I absolutely understand that empty feeling. The more material shit I gather the more I find myself wishing I had less. I don't think I have ever purchased anything that filled that void for more than a day or two. But I can't help but wonder if there is a income threshold that magically changes everything. As far as my belief system goes, I know that it is the one aspect of my life that only requires my faith, and not my money, to remain intact. Eating pizza with diet soda, what's the point!

by Joseph at February 21, 2003 10:39 PM


Hey Eff, in honor of your constant stripper baiting, I'm thinking I'm going to have to create a whole "Stipper Chronicles" page. I had one quasi-stripper story, and I know Space had one too. If any of the other Bad Sam authors have a stripper story, now would be a good time to share it.

by mg at February 21, 2003 11:40 PM


Pizza and diet pop? plenty of good reason if you're a diabetic The pizza is not good for you either but the sheer volume of carbs in regular pop or juice is like poison.

stripper baiting? me? I just like to tell stories, can I help it if a few filthy whores get pissed off? I keed, I keed. I love streepers, they are great.... FOR ME TO POOP ON! unfortunately that costs extra.

by eff at February 22, 2003 4:45 PM


Joseph, if you feel like a sucker when you go into a strip bar, it's because the girls don't actually see you walk in, they only see your wallet. They're just doing their job, after all it's "show me yours and I'll show you mine"

by Crayzee at February 24, 2003 9:39 AM


there is only one real good reason to go to a strip club and that is because you enjoy paying women to make them do dirty stuff.

Now certain allowances can be made for art and I HAVE seen art in one or two places, but let's be honest, the vast majority of these places are not art houses.

if you are looking for conversation or companionship... good luck.

by eff at February 24, 2003 10:59 AM


Have you seen what some of those girls can do with those poles ? You could describe it as interpretive mime - and sometimes it's just as well that you can't converse with them.

by Crayzee at February 24, 2003 1:31 PM


Have _I_ seen what they can do with those poles? Have we MET? yeah, I've seen some pretty good pole work in my time and some of it was quite impressive. most of it isnt true art though, just basic training. if someone does the sameroutine night after night for a year, even if its impressive, it really isnt art, just a series of tricks.

by eff at February 24, 2003 2:55 PM


Yeah, Eff, I've called it quits with the whores of babylon scene. Why? Because they're fucked. My sisters of mercy, you fucking, and sucking, your brainless, is endless, your flower has soured, headbutt you all on broken glass(i'm talking about pussy bond traders and traders of all types, who are scared to take risk because some faggot oil war and family feud between WASPS and TowelHeads that are stagnating our economy, while they live in white houses and palaces, and throw in them ashkenazi/sephardic(you know where I've been) I'll spill your guts you warpigs? Or should I say warpussies? Do it or don't. Buy it or Sell it, don't run with your tail between your mutt legs, or waste time, while we who elected you suffer vile unemployment. I will not HIDE. I'm coming.... I'm coming.... I gave you the benefit of the doubt...shape up... last warning...

by LOCKHEED at February 24, 2003 5:21 PM


LOCKHEED, you make me smile.

by Joseph at February 25, 2003 9:30 AM


Me too Joseph. And to think that when this guy first arrived here there was controversy over his comments.

by Anna at February 27, 2003 9:58 PM


Anna, I cannot imagine why. I think we should all revel in the discovery of this medical miracle. LOCKHEED was born without the self-regulating, anti-non sequiter filter, most normal people have. I remember a book, something like "The Unquiet Mind". When I think LOCKHEED, I think of this book. I believe what we are witnessing is the undiluted stream of noise called LOCKHEED'S MIND.

by Joseph at February 28, 2003 1:49 PM


You're goddamn right, Joseph...what the hell was the problem in the first place? And to think: he's the only person ever banned from BadSam--there are a bunch of FUCKWADS in the Archives that have spewed far more venemous shit than Lockheed. Take it for what it is, folks--or just ignore it.

by douchenation at March 2, 2003 3:36 AM


'Diarrhoea City' oh fuck yes, terrible place. You don't even have to eat anything for that. It's the dust from the camel shit. Once of the worst places I've ever been.
The name, which means 'my joy' in Amharic, seems peculiarly inappropriate.
The less said about massawa the better. It was one of those dark patches that are best forgotten.
The desert of Danakil is part of the world that the Creator must have fashioned when He was in a bad mood.
It looks as if it has been dropped, piecemeal, from an aeroplane carrying rubbish..
If there is any place where love is dead, it is here.

by samiran paul at June 19, 2005 1:20 AM


Forget perfume, the keys to spicing up your sex life may already be in your kitchen.
Researchers say the smell, taste, and even appearance of certain foods can act as potent aphrodisiacs that not only get you in the mood for love, but also may even make you a better flirt and lover. And knowing what foods are appropriate at each stage of the sex and mating process can maximize these effects.
"Different foods have different nutrients and substances that affect the body physiologically in different ways, that's why different foods work for different stages," says clinical sexologist Ava Cadell, PhD. "Some foods lower inhibitions, some get the blood flowing directly to the genitalia, and some foods release happy hormones."
Cadell has grouped aphrodisiacs into three groups based on the physiological effects they have on the body and how those effects can enhance sexual performance at each stage of a person's sex life.

by samiran kumar paul at June 19, 2005 1:22 AM


When it comes to the final stage of exploration and orgasm, even the scent alone of some aphrodisiacs may be enough to increase sexual arousal and enhance performance. In a study that looked at what scents stimulated sexual arousal, Hirsch found every food aroma they tested triggered a sexual response in men, and some foods had more dramatic effects than others. seduction, aphrodisiacs can help trigger the release of sex hormones, such as testosterone, provide a quick energy boost, and increase blood flow to the genitals to get the body "in the mood" for love. For example, cheese pizza increased penile blood flow by 5%, buttered popcorn by 9%, and lavender and pumpkin pie by 40%," Hirsch tells WebMD. "So you may want to start with something like cheese pizza to begin with.
In comparison, floral perfume only prompted a 3% increase in blood flow to the penis among men. Among women, the smell of men's cologne actually lowered blood flow to the vagina.
The study also found that the scent of lavender and pumpkin pie was a powerful sexual stimulant for women, but the combination of Good and Plenty (licorice-flavored candy) and cucumber was the most potent sexual scent in increasing blood flow to the vaginal area.
Unlike with men, the study found that some food smells actually inhibited sexual desire in women, such as cherries and the odor of barbeque or roasting meat.

by samiran kumar paul at June 19, 2005 1:26 AM


Oral sex for women is called cunnilingus and most women find it very exciting. Cunnilingus is the fine art of making love to a vagina with your mouth and tongue. It is a delicate skill, requiring patience, practice and dedication. A strong slippery tongue can be used with precision on the clitoris without danger of causing any pain, unlike a finger. Whenever you touch a woman's vagina make sure your finger is wet. You can lick it or moisten it with juices from inside her. Be sure, by all means, to wet it before you touch her clitoris because it does not secrete any juices of its own and is extremely sensitive and it can hurt if the area is too dry.
Everyone must find how they like things done to them, and this is a very personal thing. You can start by:
• foreplay
• kissing your partner's face and mouth
• gradually working your way down her body
• kissing and stroking her breasts and belly
• kissing and stroking her inner thighs, the most tender spot.
• lick it and kiss it with the tip of your tongue
• flick your tongue in light kisses along the folds of the outer labia
• smooth away the pubic hair, parting the labia gently with your fingers
• move gradually inwards with your tongue, nuzzling, burrowing and thrusting your tongue into her vagina
Some women may like additional stimulation:
• a finger or two into the vagina
• a finger or two into the anus
• breasts fondled
• your finger inserted into her vagina while her clitoris is licked
• stimulate erogenous zone at the roof of her vagina while having oral sex

by Dr.samiran kumar paul at June 19, 2005 1:27 AM


Analingus is putting your tongue to your partner's anal opening. Absolute hygiene is required for this sexual practice. Make certain that your partner has just showered and is very clean. Place a piece of plastic wrap or a dam over the anus. At no time should your tongue come into contact with the anal surface itself.
Your partner should lie on his/her back with his/her legs in the air and his knees close to his/her shoulders as this spreads his/her buttocks apart, allowing you greater access to his anus. The nerve endings around the anus respond to licking around the area.
Analingus, combined with other activities such as vigorous penis stimulation with the hand is sometimes included in homosexual relationships.

by Dr.samiran kumar paul at June 19, 2005 1:29 AM


I will tell your name by different excuses
I will tell you in the shade of mind,
When we are together and alone.
I will tell you smilingly
I will tell in no language,
I will tell you without any hope,
I will tell you with tearful eyes
Someone calls without any purpose
I will call you by your name.
This call will only shape my desires,
As a child calls his mother by spontaneity of name,
He can tell about the pleasure in calling Mother.

by samiran paul at November 9, 2005 11:13 PM


WORLD LITERATURE OF A FEW SELECTED LANGUAGES
A body of written works. The name is often applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the excellence of their execution. Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language, national origin, historical period, genre, and subject matter.
Literature is treated in a number of articles. For the nature and scope of literature, major literary genres and techniques, and trends in literary criticism, see Literature, The Art of; Rhetoric. For a general history of the literary tradition of the West, see Literature, The History of Western. For surveys of the major literatures of the world, see American Literature; Australia and New Zealand, Literatures of; Belgian Literature; Canadian Literature; Celtic Literature; Chinese Literature; Dutch Literature; English Literature; French Literature; German Literature; Greek Literature; Hebrew Literature; Hungarian Literature; Italian Literature; Japanese Literature; Korean Literature; Latin-American Literature; Latin Literature; Polish Literature; Portuguese Literature; Russian Literature; Scandinavian Literature; Spanish Literature; Yiddish Literature. See also African Arts: Literature and theatre; Islamic Arts: Islamic literatures; Oceanic Arts: Literature; South Asian Arts: Literature ; Southeast Asian Arts: Literature .
For the literatures of still other nations and those written in a historically important language or dialect, see Anglo-Norman literature; Armenian literature; Bulgarian literature; Coptic literature; Estonian literature; Ethiopian literature; Finnish literature; Georgian literature; Indian literature; Latvian literature; Lithuanian literature; Provençal literature; Romanian literature; South African literature; Swiss literature; etc.
a body of written works. The name is often applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the excellence of their execution. Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language, national origin, historical period, genre, and subject matter.
For historical treatment of various literatures, see the article Western literature and the articles African arts: Literature and theatre, Native American arts: Literature , Central Asian arts: Literature, Islamic arts: Islamic literatures, Oceanic arts: Literature, South Asian arts: Literature , and Southeast Asian arts: Literature . Some literatures are treated separately by language, by nation, or by special subject (e.g., Celtic literature , Latin literature , French literature , Japanese literature , biblical literature ).
Definitions of the word literature tend to be circular. The Concise Oxford Dictionary says it is "writings whose value lies in the beauty of form or emotional effect." The 19th century critic Walter Pater referred to "the matter of imaginative or artistic literature" as a "transcript, not of mere fact, but of fact in its infinitely varied forms." But such definitions really assume that the reader already knows what literature is. And indeed its central meaning, at least, is clear enough. Deriving from the Latin littera, "a letter of the alphabet," literature is first and foremost mankind's entire body of writing; after that it is the body of writing belonging to a given language or people; then it is individual pieces of writing.
But already it is necessary to qualify these statements. To use the word writing when describing literature is itself misleading, for one may rightly speak of "oral literature" or "the literature of preliterate peoples." The art of literature is not reducible to the words on the page; they are there because of the craft of writing. As an art, literature is the organization of words to give pleasure; through them it elevates and transforms experience; through them it functions in society as a continuing symbolic criticism of values.
The scope of literature
Literature is a form of human expression. But not everything expressed in words--even when organized and written down--is counted as literature. Those writings that are primarily informative--technical, scholarly, journalistic--would be excluded from the rank of literature by most, though not all, critics. Certain forms of writing, however, are universally regarded as belonging to literature as an art. Individual attempts within these forms are said to succeed if they possess something called artistic merit and to fail if they do not. The nature of artistic merit is less easy to define than to recognize. The writer need not even pursue it to attain it. On the contrary, a scientific exposition might be of great literary value and a pedestrian poem of none at all.
The purest (or, at least, the most intense) literary form is the lyric poem, and after it comes elegiac, epic, dramatic, narrative, and expository verse. Most theories of literary criticism base themselves on an analysis of poetry, because the aesthetic problems of literature are there presented in their simplest and purest form. Poetry that fails as literature is not called poetry at all but verse. Many novels--certainly all the world's great novels--are literature, but there are thousands that are not so considered. Most great dramas are considered literature (although the Chinese, possessors of one of the world's greatest dramatic traditions, consider their plays, with few exceptions, to possess no literary merit whatsoever).
The Greeks thought of history as one of the seven arts, inspired by a goddess, the muse Clio. All of the world's classic surveys of history can stand as noble examples of the art of literature, but most historical works and studies today are not written primarily with literary excellence in mind, though they may possess it, as it were, by accident.
The essay was once written deliberately as a piece of literature: its subject matter was of comparatively minor importance. Today most essays are written as expository, informative journalism, although there are still essayists in the great tradition who think of themselves as artists. Now, as in the past, some of the greatest essayists are critics of literature, drama, and the arts.
Some personal documents (autobiographies, diaries, memoirs, and letters) rank among the world's greatest literature. Some examples of this biographical literature were written with posterity in mind, others with no thought of their being read by anyone but the writer. Some are in a highly polished literary style; others, couched in a privately evolved language, win their standing as literature because of their cogency, insight, depth, and scope.
Many works of philosophy are classed as literature. The Dialogues of Plato (4th century BC) are written with great narrative skill and in the finest prose; the Meditations of the 2nd-century Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius are a collection of apparently random thoughts, and the Greek in which they are written is eccentric. Yet both are classed as literature, while the speculations of other philosophers, ancient and modern, are not. Certain scientific works endure as literature long after their scientific content has become outdated. This is particularly true of books of natural history, where the element of personal observation is of special importance. An excellent example is Gilbert White's Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne (1789).
Oratory, the art of persuasion, was long considered a great literary art. The oratory of the American Indian, for instance, is famous, while in classical Greece, Polymnia was the muse sacred to poetry and oratory. Rome's great orator Cicero was to have a decisive influence on the development of English prose style. Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is known to every American schoolchild. Today, however, oratory is more usually thought of as a craft than as an art. Most critics would not admit advertising copywriting, purely commercial fiction, or cinema and television scripts as accepted forms of literary expression, although others would hotly dispute their exclusion. The test in individual cases would seem to be one of enduring satisfaction and, of course, truth. Indeed, it becomes more and more difficult to categorize literature, for in modern civilization words are everywhere. Man is subject to a continuous flood of communication. Most of it is fugitive, but here and there--in high-level journalism, in television, in the cinema, in commercial fiction, in westerns and detective stories, and in plain, expository prose--some writing, almost by accident, achieves an aesthetic satisfaction, a depth and relevance that entitle it to stand with other examples of the art of literature.
Literary composition
Critical theories
Western
If the early Egyptians or Sumerians had critical theories about the writing of literature, these have not survived. From the time of classical Greece until the present day, however, Western criticism has been dominated by two opposing theories of the literary art, which might conveniently be called the expressive and constructive theories of composition.
The Greek philosopher and scholar Aristotle (384-322 BC) is the first great representative of the constructive school of thought. His Poetics (the surviving fragment of which is limited to an analysis of tragedy and epic poetry) has sometimes been dismissed as a recipe book for the writing of potboilers. Certainly, Aristotle is primarily interested in the theoretical construction of tragedy, much as an architect might analyze the construction of a temple, but he is not exclusively objective and matter of fact. He does, however, regard the expressive elements in literature as of secondary importance, and the terms he uses to describe them have been open to interpretation and a matter of controversy ever since.
The 1st-century Greek treatise On the Sublime (conventionally attributed to the 3rd-century Longinus) deals with the question left unanswered by Aristotle--what makes great literature "great"? Its standards are almost entirely expressive. Where Aristotle is analytical and states general principles, the pseudo-Longinus is more specific and gives many quotations: even so, his critical theories are confined largely to impressionistic generalities.
Thus, at the beginning of Western literary criticism, the controversy already exists. Is the artist or writer a technician, like a cook or an engineer, who designs and constructs a sort of machine that will elicit an aesthetic response from his audience? Or is he a virtuoso who above all else expresses himself and, because he gives voice to the deepest realities of his own personality, generates a response from his readers because they admit some profound identification with him? This antithesis endures throughout western European history--Scholasticism versus Humanism, Classicism versus Romanticism, Cubism versus Expressionism--and survives to this day in the common judgment of our contemporary artists and writers. It is surprising how few critics have declared that the antithesis is unreal, that a work of literary or plastic art is at once constructive and expressive, and that it must in fact be both.
Eastern
Critical theories of literature in the Orient, however, have been more varied. There is an immense amount of highly technical, critical literature in India. Some works are recipe books, vast collections of tropes and stylistic devices; others are philosophical and general. In the best period of Indian literature, the cultural climax of Sanskrit (c. 320-490), it is assumed by writers that expressive and constructive factors are twin aspects of one reality. The same could be said of the Chinese, whose literary manuals and books on prosody and rhetoric are, as with the West, relegated to the class of technical handbooks, while their literary criticism is concerned rather with subjective, expressive factors--and so aligns itself with the pseudo-Longinus' "sublime." In Japan, technical, stylistic elements are certainly important (Japanese discrimination in these matters is perhaps the most refined in the world), but both writer and reader above all seek qualities of subtlety and poignancy and look for intimations of profundity often so evanescent as to escape entirely the uninitiated reader.
Broad and narrow conceptions of poetry
Far Eastern literary tradition has raised the question of the broad and narrow definitions of poetry (a question familiar in the West from Edgar Allan Poe's advocacy of the short poem in his "Poetic Principle" [1850]). There are no long epic poems in Chinese, no verse novels of the sort written in England by Robert Browning or Alfred Lord Tennyson in the 19th century. In Chinese drama, apart from a very few of the songs, the verse as such is considered doggerel. The versified treatises on astronomy, agriculture, or fishing, of the sort written in Greek and Roman times and during the 18th century in the West, are almost unknown in the Far East. Chinese poetry is almost exclusively lyric, meditative, and elegiac, and rarely does any poem exceed 100 lines--most are little longer than Western sonnets; many are only quatrains. In Japan this tendency to limit length was carried even further. The ballad survives in folk poetry, as it did in China, but the "long poem" of very moderate length disappeared early from literature. For the Japanese, the tanka is a "long poem": in its common form it has 31 syllables; the sedoka has 38; the dodoitsu, imitating folk song, has 26. From the 17th century and onward, the most popular poetic form was the haiku, which has only 17 syllables.
This development is relevant to the West because it spotlights the ever-increasing emphasis which has been laid on intensity of communication, a characteristic of Western poetry (and of literature generally) as it has evolved since the late 19th century. In the Far East all cultivated people were supposed to be able to write suitable occasional poetry, and so those qualities that distinguished a poem from the mass consequently came to be valued above all others. Similarly, as modern readers in the West struggle with a "communication avalanche" of words, they seek in literature those forms, ideas, values, vicarious experiences, and styles that transcend the verbiage to be had on every hand.
Literary language
In some literatures (notably classical Chinese, Old Norse, Old Irish), the language employed is quite different from that spoken or used in ordinary writing. This marks off the reading of literature as a special experience. In the Western tradition, it is only in comparatively modern times that literature has been written in the common speech of cultivated men. The Elizabethans did not talk like Shakespeare nor 18th-century people in the stately prose of Samuel Johnson or Edward Gibbon (the so-called Augustan plain style in literature became popular in the late 17th century and flourished throughout the 18th, but it was really a special form of rhetoric with antecedent models in Greek and Latin). The first person to write major works of literature in the ordinary English language of the educated man was Daniel Defoe (1660?-1731), and it is remarkable how little the language has changed since. Robinson Crusoe (1719) is much more contemporary in tone than the elaborate prose of 19th-century writers like Thomas De Quincey or Walter Pater. (Defoe's language is not, in fact, so very simple: simplicity is itself one form of artifice.)
Ambiguity
Other writers have sought to use language for its most subtle and complex effects and have deliberately cultivated the ambiguity inherent in the multiple or shaded meanings of words. Between the two world wars, "ambiguity" became very fashionable in English and American poetry and the ferreting out of ambiguities--from even the simplest poem--was a favourite critical sport. T.S. Eliot in his literary essays is usually considered the founder of this movement. Actually, the platform of his critical attitudes is largely moral, but his two disciples, I.A. Richards in Principles of Literary Criticism (1924) and William Empson in Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), carried his method to extreme lengths. The basic document of the movement is C.K. Ogden and I.A. Richards' The Meaning of Meaning (1923), a work of enormous importance in its time. Only a generation later, however, their ideas were somewhat at a discount.
Translation
Certainly, William Blake or Thomas Campion, when they were writing their simple lyrics, were unaware of the ambiguities and multiple meanings that future critics would find in them. Nevertheless, language is complex. Words do have overtones; they do stir up complicated reverberations in the mind that are ignored in their dictionary definitions. Great stylists, and most especially great poets, work with at least a half-conscious, or subliminal, awareness of the infinite potentialities of language. This is one reason why the essence of most poetry and great prose is so resistant to translation (quite apart from the radically different sound patterns that are created in other-language versions). The translator must project himself into the mind of the original author; he must transport himself into an entirely different world of relationships between sounds and meanings, and at the same time he must establish an equivalence between one infinitely complex system and another. Since no two languages are truly equivalent in anything except the simplest terms, this is a most difficult accomplishment. Certain writers are exceptionally difficult to translate. There are no satisfactory English versions, for example, of the Latin of Catullus, the French of Baudelaire, the Russian of Pushkin, or of the majority of Persian and Arabic poetry. The splendour of Sophocles' Greek, of Plato at his best, is barely suggested even in the finest English versions. On the other hand, the Germans insist that Shakespeare is better in German than he is in English, a humorous exaggeration perhaps. But again, Shakespeare is resistant to translation into French. His English seems to lack equivalents in that language.
The very greatest translations may become classics in their own right, of enduring literary excellence (the King James Version of the Bible, appearing in 1611, is an outstanding example), but on the whole the approximate equivalence of most translations to their originals seems to have a very short life. The original work remains the same, of lasting value to its own people, but the translation becomes out of date with each succeeding generation as the language and criteria of literary taste change. Nothing demonstrates the complexity of literary language more vividly. An analogous process takes place when a reader experiences a literary work in his own language; each generation gets a "new version" from its own classics.
Yet the values of great literature are more fundamental than complexity and subtleties of meaning arising from language alone. Works far removed from contemporary man in time and in cultural background, composed in a variety of languages utterly different from one another in structure, have nevertheless been translated successfully enough to be deeply moving. The 20th century has seen an immense mass of the oral literature of preliterate peoples and of the writings of all the great civilizations translated into modern languages. Understanding the growth of literature and its forms in other civilizations has greatly enriched the understanding of our own.
Craftsmanship
Prosody
Literature, like music, is an art of time, or "tempo": it takes time to read or listen to, and it usually presents events or the development of ideas or the succession of images or all these together in time. The craft of literature, indeed, can be said to be in part the manipulation of a structure in time, and so the simplest element of marking time, rhythm, is therefore of basic importance in both poetry and prose. Prosody, which is the science of versification, has for its subject the materials of poetry and is concerned almost entirely with the laws of metre, or rhythm in the narrowest sense. It deals with the patterning of sound in time; the number, length, accent, and pitch of syllables; and the modifications of rhythm by vowels and consonants. In most poetry, certain basic rhythms are repeated with modifications (that is to say, the poem rhymes or scans or both) but not in all. It most obviously does neither in the case of the "free forms" of modern poetry; but neither does it in the entire poetry of whole cultures. Since lyric poetry is either the actual text of song or else is immediately derived from song, it is regular in structure nearly everywhere in the world, although the elements of patterning that go into producing its rhythm may vary. The most important of these elements in English poetry, for example, have been accent, grouping of syllables (called feet), number of syllables in the line, and rhyme at the end of a line (and sometimes within it). Other elements such as pitch, resonance, repetition of vowels (assonance), repetition of consonants (alliteration), and breath pauses (cadence) have also been of great importance in distinguishing successful poetry from doggerel verse, but on the whole they are not as important as the former, and poets have not always been fully conscious of their use of them. Greek and Latin poetry was consciously patterned on the length of syllables (long or short) rather than on their accent; but all the considerations of "sound" (such as assonance and alliteration) entered into the aesthetically satisfactory structure of a poem. Similarly, both the French and Japanese were content simply to count the syllables in a line--but again, they also looked to all the "sound" elements.
The rhythms of prose are more complicated, though not necessarily more complex, than those of poetry. The rules of prose patterning are less fixed; patterns evolve and shift indefinitely and are seldom repeated except for special emphasis. So the analysis of prose rhythm is more difficult to make than, at least, the superficial analysis of poetry.
Structure
The craft of writing involves more than mere rules of prosody. The work's structure must be manipulated to attract the reader. First, the literary situation has to be established. The reader must be directly related to the work, placed in it--given enough information on who, what, when, or why--so that his attention is caught and held (or, on the other hand, he must be deliberately mystified, to the same end).
Aristotle gave a formula for dramatic structure that can be generalized to apply to most literature: presentation, development, complication, crisis, and resolution. Even lyric poems can possess plot in this sense, but by no means are all literary works so structured, nor does such structure ensure their merit--it can be safely said that westerns, detective stories, and cheap melodramas are more likely to follow strictly the rules of Aristotle's Poetics than are great novels. Nevertheless, the scheme does provide a norm from which there is infinite variation. Neoclassical dramatists and critics, especially in 17th-century France, derived from Aristotle what they called the unities of time, action, and place. This meant that the action of a play should not spread beyond the events of one day and, best of all, should be confined within the actual time of performance. Nor should the action move about too much from place to place--best only to go from indoors to outdoors and back. There should be only one plot line, which might be relieved by a subplot, usually comic. These three unities--of time, place, and action--do not occur in Aristotle and are certainly not observed in Classical Greek tragedy. They are an invention of Renaissance critics, some of whom went even further, insisting also on what might be called a unity of mood. To this day there are those who, working on this principle, object to Shakespeare's use of comic relief within the tragic action of his plays--to the porter in Macbeth, for instance, or the gravediggers in Hamlet.
Assiduous critics have found elaborate architectural structures in quite diffuse works--including Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605-15), Sterne's Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Casanova's Icosameron (1788; 1928). But their "discoveries" are too often put there after the event. Great early novels such as the Chinese Dream of the Red Chamber (1754; first published in English 1929) and the Japanese Tale of Genji (early 11th century) usually develop organically rather than according to geometrical formulas, one incident or image spinning off another. Probably the most tightly structured work, in the Neoclassicists' sense, is the Icelandic Njál's saga.
The 19th century was the golden age of the novel, and most of the more famous examples of the form were systematically plotted, even where the plot structure simply traced the growth in personality of an individual hero or heroine. This kind of novel, of which in their very diverse ways Stendhal's The Red and the Black (1830) and Dickens' David Copperfield (1850) are great examples, is known as Bildungsroman. Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1857) is as rigorously classicist in form as the 17th-century plays of Racine and Corneille, which were the high point of the French classical theatre, although Flaubert obeys laws more complex than those of the Aristotelians. Novels such as Tolstoy's War and Peace (1865-69), Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov (1880), and the works of Balzac owe much of their power to their ability to overwhelm the reader with a massive sense of reality. The latter 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed an attack on old forms, but what the new writers evolved was simply a new architecture. A novel like James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), which takes place in a day and an evening, is one of the most highly structured ever written. Novelists such as Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf, and, to a lesser extent, Henry James developed a multiple-aspect narrative, sometimes by using time shifts and flashbacks and by writing from different points of view, sometimes by using the device (dating back to Classical Greek romances) of having one or more narrators as characters within the story. (This technique, which was first perfected in the verse novels of Robert Browning, in fact reached its most extreme development in the English language in poetry: in Ezra Pound's Cantos, T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, William Carlos Williams' Paterson, and the many long poems influenced by them.)
Content of literature
The word as symbol
The content of literature is as limitless as the desire of human beings to communicate with one another. The thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of thousands, since the human species first developed speech have seen built up the almost infinite systems of relationships called languages. A language is not just a collection of words in an unabridged dictionary but the individual and social possession of living human beings, an inexhaustible system of equivalents, of sounds to objects and to one another. Its most primitive elements are those words that express direct experiences of objective reality, and its most sophisticated are concepts on a high level of abstraction. Words are not only equivalent to things, they have varying degrees of equivalence to one another. A symbol, says the dictionary, is something that stands for something else or a sign used to represent something, "as the lion is the symbol of courage, the cross the symbol of Christianity." In this sense all words can be called symbols, but the examples given--the lion and the cross--are really metaphors: that is, symbols that represent a complex of other symbols, and which are generally negotiable in a given society (just as money is a symbol for goods or labour). Eventually a language comes to be, among other things, a huge sea of implicit metaphors, an endless web of interrelated symbols. As literature, especially poetry, grows more and more sophisticated, it begins to manipulate this field of suspended metaphors as a material in itself, often as an end in itself. Thus, there emerge forms of poetry (and prose, too) with endless ramifications of reference, as in Japanese waka and haiku, some ancient Irish and Norse verse, and much of the poetry written in western Europe since the time of Baudelaire that is called modernist. It might be supposed that, at its most extreme, this development would be objective, constructive--aligning it with the critical theories stemming from Aristotle's Poetics. On the contrary, it is romantic, subjective art, primarily because the writer handles such material instinctively and subjectively, approaches it as the "collective unconscious," to use the term of the psychologist Carl Jung, rather than with deliberate rationality.
Themes and their sources
By the time literature appears in the development of a culture, the society has already come to share a whole system of stereotypes and archetypes: major symbols standing for the fundamental realities of the human condition, including the kind of symbolic realities that are enshrined in religion and myth. Literature may use such symbols directly, but all great works of literary art are, as it were, original and unique myths. The world's great classics evoke and organize the archetypes of universal human experience. This does not mean, however, that all literature is an endless repetition of a few myths and motives, endlessly retelling the first stories of civilized man, repeating the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh or Sophocles' Oedipus the King. The subject matter of literature is as wide as human experience itself. Myths, legends, and folktales lie at the beginning of literature, and their plots, situations, and allegorical (metaphorical narrative) judgments of life represent a constant source of literary inspiration that never fails. This is so because mankind is constant--people share a common physiology. Even social structures, after the development of cities, remain much alike. Whole civilizations have a life pattern that repeats itself through history. Jung's term "collective unconscious" really means that mankind is one species, with a common fund of general experience. Egyptian scribes, Japanese bureaucrats, and junior executives in New York City live and respond to life in the same ways; the lives of farmers or miners or hunters vary only within narrow limits. Love is love and death is death, for a South African Bushman and a French Surrealist alike. So the themes of literature have at once an infinite variety and an abiding constancy. They can be taken from myth, from history, or from contemporary occurrence, or they can be pure invention (but even if they are invented, they are nonetheless constructed from the constant materials of real experience, no matter how fantastic the invention).
The writer's personal involvement
As time goes on, literature tends to concern itself more and more with the interior meanings of its narrative, with problems of human personality and human relationships. Many novels are fictional, psychological biographies which tell of the slowly achieved integration of the hero's personality or of his disintegration, of the conflict between self-realization and the flow of events and the demands of other people. This can be presented explicitly, where the characters talk about what is going on in their heads, either ambiguously and with reserve, as in the novels of Henry James, or overtly, as in those of Dostoyevsky. Alternatively, it can be presented by a careful arrangement of objective facts, where psychological development is described purely in terms of behaviour and where the reader's subjective response is elicited by the minute descriptions of physical reality, as in the novels of Stendhal and the greatest Chinese novels like the Dream of the Red Chamber, which convince the reader that through the novel he is seeing reality itself, rather than an artfully contrived semblance of reality.
Literature, however, is not solely concerned with the concrete, with objective reality, with individual psychology, or with subjective emotion. Some deal with abstract ideas or philosophical conceptions. Much purely abstract writing is considered literature only in the widest sense of the term, and the philosophical works that are ranked as great literature are usually presented with more or less of a sensuous garment. Thus, Plato's Dialogues rank as great literature because the philosophical material is presented in dramatic form, as the dialectical outcome of the interchange of ideas between clearly drawn, vital personalities, and because the descriptive passages are of great lyric beauty. Karl Marx's Das Kapital (1867-95) approaches great literature in certain passages in which he expresses the social passion he shares with the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament. Euclid's Elements and St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa theologica give literary, aesthetic satisfaction to some people because of their purity of style and beauty of architectonic construction. In short, most philosophical works that rank as great literature do so because they are intensely human. The reader responds to Pascal's Pensées, to Montaigne's Essays, and to Marcus Aurelius' Meditations as he would to living men. Sometimes the pretense of purely abstract intellectual rigour is in fact a literary device. The writings of the 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, for example, owed much of their impact to this approach, while the poetry of Paul Valéry borrows the language of philosophy and science for its rhetorical and evocative power.
Relation of form to content
Throughout literary history, many great critics have pointed out that it is artificial to make a distinction between form and content, except for purposes of analytical discussion. Form determines content. Content determines form. The issue is, indeed, usually only raised at all by those critics who are more interested in politics, religion, or ideology than in literature; thus, they object to writers who they feel sacrifice ideological orthodoxy for formal perfection, message for style.
Style
But style cannot really be said to exist on paper at all; it is the way the mind of the author expresses itself in words. Since words represent ideas, there cannot be abstract literature unless a collection of nonsense syllables can be admitted as literature. Even the most avant-garde writers associated with the Cubist or nonobjective painters used language, and language is meaning, though the meaning may be incomprehensible. Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater, the great 19th-century exponents of "art for art's sake," were in fact tireless propagandists for their views, which dominate their most flowery prose. It is true that great style depends on the perfect matching of content and form, so that the literary expression perfectly reflects the writer's intention; "poor style" reveals the inability of a writer to match the two--in other words, reveals his inability to express himself. This is why we say that "style expresses the man." The veiled style of Henry James, with its subtleties, equivocations, and qualifications, perfectly reflects his complicated and subtle mind and his abiding awareness of ambiguity in human motives. At the other extreme, the style of the early 20th-century American novelist Theodore Dreiser--bumbling, clumsy, dogged, troubled--perfectly embodies his own attitudes toward life and is, in fact, his constant judgment of his subject matter. Sometimes an author, under the impression that he is simply polishing his style, may completely alter his content. As Flaubert worked over the drafts of Madame Bovary, seeking always the apposite word that would precisely convey his meaning, he lifted his novel from a level of sentimental romance to make it one of the great ironic tragedies of literature. Yet, to judge from his correspondence, he seems never to have been completely aware of what he had done, of the severity of his own irony.
Literature may be an art, but writing is a craft, and a craft must be learned. Talent, special ability in the arts, may appear at an early age; the special personality called genius may indeed be born, not made. But skill in matching intention and expression comes with practice. Naïve writers, "naturals" like the 17th-century English diarist Samuel Pepys, the late 18th-century French naïf Restif de la Bretonne, the 20th-century American novelist Henry Miller, are all deservedly called stylists, although their styles are far removed from the deliberate, painstaking practice of a Flaubert or a Turgenev. They wrote spontaneously whatever came into their heads; but they wrote constantly, voluminously, and were, by their own standards, skilled practitioners.
Content of literature
The word as symbol
The content of literature is as limitless as the desire of human beings to communicate with one another. The thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of thousands, since the human species first developed speech have seen built up the almost infinite systems of relationships called languages. A language is not just a collection of words in an unabridged dictionary but the individual and social possession of living human beings, an inexhaustible system of equivalents, of sounds to objects and to one another. Its most primitive elements are those words that express direct experiences of objective reality, and its most sophisticated are concepts on a high level of abstraction. Words are not only equivalent to things, they have varying degrees of equivalence to one another. A symbol, says the dictionary, is something that stands for something else or a sign used to represent something, "as the lion is the symbol of courage, the cross the symbol of Christianity." In this sense all words can be called symbols, but the examples given--the lion and the cross--are really metaphors: that is, symbols that represent a complex of other symbols, and which are generally negotiable in a given society (just as money is a symbol for goods or labour). Eventually a language comes to be, among other things, a huge sea of implicit metaphors, an endless web of interrelated symbols. As literature, especially poetry, grows more and more sophisticated, it begins to manipulate this field of suspended metaphors as a material in itself, often as an end in itself. Thus, there emerge forms of poetry (and prose, too) with endless ramifications of reference, as in Japanese waka and haiku, some ancient Irish and Norse verse, and much of the poetry written in western Europe since the time of Baudelaire that is called modernist. It might be supposed that, at its most extreme, this development would be objective, constructive--aligning it with the critical theories stemming from Aristotle's Poetics. On the contrary, it is romantic, subjective art, primarily because the writer handles such material instinctively and subjectively, approaches it as the "collective unconscious," to use the term of the psychologist Carl Jung, rather than with deliberate rationality.
Themes and their sources
By the time literature appears in the development of a culture, the society has already come to share a whole system of stereotypes and archetypes: major symbols standing for the fundamental realities of the human condition, including the kind of symbolic realities that are enshrined in religion and myth. Literature may use such symbols directly, but all great works of literary art are, as it were, original and unique myths. The world's great classics evoke and organize the archetypes of universal human experience. This does not mean, however, that all literature is an endless repetition of a few myths and motives, endlessly retelling the first stories of civilized man, repeating the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh or Sophocles' Oedipus the King. The subject matter of literature is as wide as human experience itself. Myths, legends, and folktales lie at the beginning of literature, and their plots, situations, and allegorical (metaphorical narrative) judgments of life represent a constant source of literary inspiration that never fails. This is so because mankind is constant--people share a common physiology. Even social structures, after the development of cities, remain much alike. Whole civilizations have a life pattern that repeats itself through history. Jung's term "collective unconscious" really means that mankind is one species, with a common fund of general experience. Egyptian scribes, Japanese bureaucrats, and junior executives in New York City live and respond to life in the same ways; the lives of farmers or miners or hunters vary only within narrow limits. Love is love and death is death, for a South African Bushman and a French Surrealist alike. So the themes of literature have at once an infinite variety and an abiding constancy. They can be taken from myth, from history, or from contemporary occurrence, or they can be pure invention (but even if they are invented, they are nonetheless constructed from the constant materials of real experience, no matter how fantastic the invention).
The writer's personal involvement
As time goes on, literature tends to concern itself more and more with the interior meanings of its narrative, with problems of human personality and human relationships. Many novels are fictional, psychological biographies which tell of the slowly achieved integration of the hero's personality or of his disintegration, of the conflict between self-realization and the flow of events and the demands of other people. This can be presented explicitly, where the characters talk about what is going on in their heads, either ambiguously and with reserve, as in the novels of Henry James, or overtly, as in those of Dostoyevsky. Alternatively, it can be presented by a careful arrangement of objective facts, where psychological development is described purely in terms of behaviour and where the reader's subjective response is elicited by the minute descriptions of physical reality, as in the novels of Stendhal and the greatest Chinese novels like the Dream of the Red Chamber, which convince the reader that through the novel he is seeing reality itself, rather than an artfully contrived semblance of reality.
Literature, however, is not solely concerned with the concrete, with objective reality, with individual psychology, or with subjective emotion. Some deal with abstract ideas or philosophical conceptions. Much purely abstract writing is considered literature only in the widest sense of the term, and the philosophical works that are ranked as great literature are usually presented with more or less of a sensuous garment. Thus, Plato's Dialogues rank as great literature because the philosophical material is presented in dramatic form, as the dialectical outcome of the interchange of ideas between clearly drawn, vital personalities, and because the descriptive passages are of great lyric beauty. Karl Marx's Das Kapital (1867-95) approaches great literature in certain passages in which he expresses the social passion he shares with the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament. Euclid's Elements and St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa theologica give literary, aesthetic satisfaction to some people because of their purity of style and beauty of architectonic construction. In short, most philosophical works that rank as great literature do so because they are intensely human. The reader responds to Pascal's Pensées, to Montaigne's Essays, and to Marcus Aurelius' Meditations as he would to living men. Sometimes the pretense of purely abstract intellectual rigour is in fact a literary device. The writings of the 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, for example, owed much of their impact to this approach, while the poetry of Paul Valéry borrows the language of philosophy and science for its rhetorical and evocative power.
Relation of form to content
Throughout literary history, many great critics have pointed out that it is artificial to make a distinction between form and content, except for purposes of analytical discussion. Form determines content. Content determines form. The issue is, indeed, usually only raised at all by those critics who are more interested in politics, religion, or ideology than in literature; thus, they object to writers who they feel sacrifice ideological orthodoxy for formal perfection, message for style.
Style
But style cannot really be said to exist on paper at all; it is the way the mind of the author expresses itself in words. Since words represent ideas, there cannot be abstract literature unless a collection of nonsense syllables can be admitted as literature. Even the most avant-garde writers associated with the Cubist or nonobjective painters used language, and language is meaning, though the meaning may be incomprehensible. Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater, the great 19th-century exponents of "art for art's sake," were in fact tireless propagandists for their views, which dominate their most flowery prose. It is true that great style depends on the perfect matching of content and form, so that the literary expression perfectly reflects the writer's intention; "poor style" reveals the inability of a writer to match the two--in other words, reveals his inability to express himself. This is why we say that "style expresses the man." The veiled style of Henry James, with its subtleties, equivocations, and qualifications, perfectly reflects his complicated and subtle mind and his abiding awareness of ambiguity in human motives. At the other extreme, the style of the early 20th-century American novelist Theodore Dreiser--bumbling, clumsy, dogged, troubled--perfectly embodies his own attitudes toward life and is, in fact, his constant judgment of his subject matter. Sometimes an author, under the impression that he is simply polishing his style, may completely alter his content. As Flaubert worked over the drafts of Madame Bovary, seeking always the apposite word that would precisely convey his meaning, he lifted his novel from a level of sentimental romance to make it one of the great ironic tragedies of literature. Yet, to judge from his correspondence, he seems never to have been completely aware of what he had done, of the severity of his own irony.
Literature may be an art, but writing is a craft, and a craft must be learned. Talent, special ability in the arts, may appear at an early age; the special personality called genius may indeed be born, not made. But skill in matching intention and expression comes with practice. Naïve writers, "naturals" like the 17th-century English diarist Samuel Pepys, the late 18th-century French naïf Restif de la Bretonne, the 20th-century American novelist Henry Miller, are all deservedly called stylists, although their styles are far removed from the deliberate, painstaking practice of a Flaubert or a Turgenev. They wrote spontaneously whatever came into their heads; but they wrote constantly, voluminously, and were, by their own standards, skilled practitioners.
Objective-subjective expression
There are certain forms of literature that do not permit such highly personal behaviour--for instance, formal lyric poetry and classic drama. In these cases the word "form" is used to mean a predetermined structure within whose mold the content must be fitted. These structures are, however, quite simple and so cannot be said to determine the content. Racine and Corneille were contemporaries; both were Neoclassic French dramatists; both abided by all the artificial rules--usually observing the "unities" and following the same strict rules of prosody. Yet their plays, and the poetry in which they are written, differ completely. Corneille is intellectually and emotionally a Neoclassicist--clear and hard, a true objectivist, sure of both his verse and the motivations of his characters. Racine was a great romantic long before the age of Romanticism. His characters are confused and tortured; his verse throbs like the heartbeats of his desperate heroines. He is a great sentimentalist in the best and deepest meaning of that word. His later influence on poets like Baudelaire and Paul Valéry is due to his mastery of sentimental expression, not, as they supposed, to his mastery of Neoclassic form.
Verse on any subject matter can of course be written purely according to formula. The 18th century in England saw all sorts of prose treatises cast in rhyme and metre, but this was simply applied patterning. (Works such as The Botanic Garden [2 vol., 1794-95] by Erasmus Darwin should be sharply distinguished from James Thomson's The Seasons [1726-30], which is true poetry, not versified natural history--just as Virgil's Georgics is not an agricultural handbook.) Neoclassicism, especially in its 18th-century developments, confused--for ordinary minds, at any rate--formula with form and so led to the revolt called Romanticism. The leading theorists of that revolt, the poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in the "Preface" (1800) to Lyrical Ballads urged the observance of a few simple rules basic to all great poetry and demanded a return to the integrity of expressive form. A similar revolution in taste was taking place all over Europe and also in China (where the narrow pursuit of formula had almost destroyed poetry). The Romantic taste could enjoy the "formlessness" of William Blake's prophetic books, or Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, or the loose imagination of Shelley--but careful study reveals that these writers were not formless at all. Each had his own personal form.
Time passes and the pendulum of taste swings. In the mid-20th century, Paul Valéry, T.S. Eliot, and Yvor Winters would attack what the latter called "the fallacy of expressive form," but this is itself a fallacy. All form in literature is expressive. All expression has its own form, even when the form is a deliberate quest of formlessness. (The automatic writing cultivated by the surrealists, for instance, suffers from the excessive formalism of the unconscious mind and is far more stereotyped than the poetry of the Neoclassicist Alexander Pope.) Form simply refers to organization, and critics who attack form do not seem always to remember that a writer organizes more than words. He organizes experience. Thus, his organization stretches far back in his mental process. Form is the other face of content, the outward, visible sign of inner spiritual reality.
Literature and its audience
Folk and elite literatures
In preliterate societies oral literature was widely shared; it saturated the society and was as much a part of living as food, clothing, shelter, or religion. In barbaric societies, the minstrel might be a courtier of the king or chieftain, and the poet who composed liturgies might be a priest. But the oral performance itself was accessible to the whole community. As society evolved its various social layers, or classes, an "elite" literature began to be distinguishable from the "folk" literature of the people. With the invention of writing this separation was accelerated until finally literature was being experienced individually by the elite (reading a book), while folklore and folk song were experienced orally and more or less collectively by the illiterate common people.
Elite literature continuously refreshes itself with materials drawn from the popular. Almost all poetic revivals, for instance, include in their programs a new appreciation of folk song, together with a demand for greater objectivity. On the other hand folk literature borrows themes and, very rarely, patterns from elite literature. Many of the English and Scottish ballads that date from the end of the Middle Ages and have been preserved by oral tradition share plots and even turns of phrase with written literature. A very large percentage of these ballads contain elements that are common to folk ballads from all over western Europe; central themes of folklore, indeed, are found all over the world. Whether these common elements are the result of diffusion is a matter for dispute. They do, however, represent great psychological constants, archetypes of experience common to the human species, and so these constants are used again and again by elite literature as it discovers them in folklore.
Modern popular literature
There is a marked difference between true popular literature, that of folklore and folk song, and the popular literature of modern times. Popular literature today is produced either to be read by a literate audience or to be enacted on television or in the cinema; it is produced by writers who are members, however lowly, of an elite corps of professional literates. Thus, popular literature no longer springs from the people; it is handed to them. Their role is passive. At the best they are permitted a limited selectivity as consumers.
Certain theorists once believed that folk songs and even long, narrative ballads were produced collectively, as has been said in mockery "by the tribe sitting around the fire and grunting in unison." This idea is very much out of date. Folk songs and folk tales began somewhere in one human mind. They were developed and shaped into the forms in which they are now found by hundreds of other minds as they were passed down through the centuries. Only in this sense were they "collectively" produced. During the 20th century, folklore and folk speech have had a great influence on elite literature--on writers as different as Franz Kafka and Carl Sandburg, Selma Lagerlöf and Kawabata Yasunari, Martin Buber and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Folk song has always been popular with bohemian intellectuals, especially political radicals (who certainly are an elite). Since World War II the influence of folk song upon popular song has not just been great; it has been determinative. Almost all "hit" songs since the mid-century have been imitation folk songs; and some authentic folk singers attract immense audiences.
Popular fiction and drama, westerns and detective stories, films and television serials, all deal with the same great archetypal themes as folktales and ballads, though this is seldom due to direct influence; these are simply the limits within which the human mind works. The number of people who have elevated the formulas of popular fiction to a higher literary level is surprisingly small. Examples are H.G. Wells's early science fiction, the western stories of Gordon Young and Ernest Haycox, the detective stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Georges Simenon, and Raymond Chandler.
The latter half of the 20th century has seen an even greater change in popular literature. Writing is a static medium: that is to say, a book is read by one person at a time; it permits recollection and anticipation; the reader can go back to check a point or move ahead to find out how the story ends. In radio, television, and the cinema the medium is fluent; the audience is a collectivity and is at the mercy of time. It cannot pause to reflect or to understand more fully without missing another part of the action, nor can it go back or forward. Marshall McLuhan in his book Understanding Media (1964) became famous for erecting a whole structure of aesthetic, sociological, and philosophical theory upon this fact. But it remains to be seen whether the new, fluent materials of communication are going to make so very many changes in civilization, let alone in the human mind--mankind has, after all, been influenced for thousands of years by the popular, fluent arts of music and drama. Even the most transitory television serial was written down before it was performed, and the script can be consulted in the files. Before the invention of writing, all literature was fluent because it was contained in people's memory. In a sense it was more fluent than music, because it was harder to remember. Man in mass society becomes increasingly a creature of the moment, but the reasons for this are undoubtedly more fundamental than his forms of entertainment.
Literature and its environment
Social and economic conditions
Literature, like all other human activities, necessarily reflects current social and economic conditions. Class stratification was reflected in literature as soon as it had appeared in life. Among the American Indians, for instance, the chants of the shaman, or medicine man, differ from the secret, personal songs of the individual, and these likewise differ from the group songs of ritual or entertainment sung in community. In the Heroic Age, the epic tales of kings and chiefs that were sung or told in their barbaric courts differed from the folktales that were told in peasant cottages.
The more cohesive a society, the more the elements--and even attitudes--evolved in the different class strata are interchangeable at all levels. In the tight clan organization that existed in late medieval times at the Scottish border, for example, heroic ballads telling of the deeds of lords and ladies were preserved in the songs of the common people. But where class divisions are unbridgeable, elite literature is liable to be totally separated from popular culture. An extreme example is the classic literature of the Roman Empire. Its forms and its sources were largely Greek--it even adopted its laws of verse patterning from Greek models, even though these were antagonistic to the natural patterns of the Latin language--and most of the sophisticated works of the major Latin authors were completely closed to the overwhelming majority of people of the Roman Empire.
Printing has made all the difference in the negotiability of ideas. The writings of the 18th-century French writers Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot were produced from and for almost as narrow a caste as the Roman elite, but they were printed. Within a generation they had penetrated the entire society and were of vital importance in revolutionizing it.
Class distinctions in the literature of modern times exist more in the works themselves than in their audience. Although Henry James wrote about the upper classes and Émile Zola about workingmen, both were, in fact, members of an elite and were read by members of an elite--moreover, in their day, those who read Zola certainly considered themselves more of an elite than did the readers of Henry James. The ordinary people, if they read at all, preferred sentimental romances and "penny dreadfuls." Popular literature had already become commercially produced entertainment literature, a type which today is also provided by television scripts.
The elite who read serious literature are not necessarily members of a social or economic upper class. It has been said of the most ethereal French poet, Stéphane Mallarmé, that in every French small town there was a youth who carried his poems in his heart. These poems are perhaps the most "elite" product of western European civilization, but the "youths" referred to were hardly the sons of dukes or millionaires. (It is a curious phenomenon that, since the middle of the 18th century in Europe and in the United States, the majority of readers of serious literature--as well as of entertainment literature--have been women. The extent of the influence that this audience has exerted on literature itself must be immense.)
National and group literature
Hippolyte Taine, the 19th-century French critic, evolved an ecological theory of literature. He looked first and foremost to the national characteristics of western European literatures, and he found the source of these characteristics in the climate and soil of each respective nation. His History of English Literature (5 vol., 1863-69) is an extensive elaboration of these ideas. It is doubtful that anyone today would agree with the simplistic terms in which Taine states his thesis. It is obvious that Russian literature differs from English or French from German. English books are written by Englishmen, their scenes are commonly laid in England, they are usually about Englishmen and they are designed to be read by Englishmen--at least in the first instance. But modern civilization becomes more and more a world civilization, wherein works of all peoples flow into a general fund of literature. It is not unusual to read a novel by a Japanese author one week and one by a black writer from West Africa the next. Writers are themselves affected by this cross-fertilization. Certainly, the work of the great 19th-century Russian novelists has had more influence on 20th-century American writers than has the work of their own literary ancestors. Poetry does not circulate so readily, because catching its true significance in translation is so very difficult to accomplish. Nevertheless, for the past 100 years or so, the influence of French poetry upon all the literatures of the civilized world has not just been important, it has been preeminent. The tendentious elements of literature--propaganda for race, nation, or religion--have been more and more eroded in this process of wholesale cultural exchange.
Popular literature on the other hand is habitually tendentious both deliberately and unconsciously. It reflects and stimulates the prejudices and parochialism of its audience. Most of the literary conflicts that have seized the totalitarian countries during the 20th century stem directly from relentless efforts by the state to reduce elite literature to the level of the popular. The great proletarian novels of our time have been produced, not by Russians, but by American blacks, Japanese, Germans, and--most proletarian of all--a German-American living in Mexico, B. Traven. Government control and censorship can inhibit literary development, perhaps deform it a little, and can destroy authors outright; but, whether in the France of Louis XIV or in the Soviet Union of the 20th century, it cannot be said to have a fundamental effect upon the course of literature.
The writer's position in society
A distinguishing characteristic of modern literature is the peculiar elite which it has itself evolved. In earlier cultures the artist, though he may have been neurotic at times, thought of himself as part of his society and shared its values and attitudes. Usually the clerkly caste played a personal, important role in society. In the modern industrial civilization, however, "scribes" became simply a category of skilled hired hands. The writer shared few of the values of the merchant or the entrepreneur or manager. And so the literary and artistic world came to have a subculture of its own. The antagonism between the two resultant sets of values is the source of what we call alienation--among the intellectuals at least (the alienation of the common man in urban, industrial civilization from his work, from himself, and from his fellows is another matter, although its results are reflected and intensified in the alienation of the elite). For about 200 years now, the artistic environment of the writer has not usually been shared with the general populace. The subculture known as bohemia and the literary and artistic movements generated in its little special society have often been more important--at least in the minds of many writers--than the historical, social, and economic movements of the culture as a whole. Even massive historical change is translated into these terms--the Russian Revolution, for instance, into Communist-Futurism, Constructivism, Socialist Realism. Western European literature could be viewed as a parade of movements--Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, Futurism, Structuralism, and so on indefinitely. Some of the more journalistic critics, indeed, have delighted to regard it in such a way. But after the manifestos have been swept away, the meetings adjourned, the literary cafés of the moment lost their popularity, the turmoil is seen not to have made so very much difference. The Romantic Théophile Gautier (1811-72) and the Naturalist Émile Zola (1840-1902) have more in common than they have differences, and their differences are rather because of changes in society as a whole than because of conflicting literary principles.
At first, changes in literary values are appreciated only at the upper levels of the literary elite itself, but often, within a generation, works once thought esoteric are being taught as part of a school syllabus. Most cultivated people once thought James Joyce's Ulysses incomprehensible or, where it was not, obscene. Today his methods and subject matter are commonplace in the commercial fiction of the mass culture. A few writers remain confined to the elite. Mallarmé is a good example--but he would have been just as ethereal had he written in the simplest French of direct communication. His subtleties are ultimately grounded in his personality.
Literature and the other arts
Literature has an obvious kinship with the other arts. Presented, a play is drama; read, a play is literature. Most important films have been based upon written literature, usually novels, although all the great epics and most of the great plays have been filmed at some time and thus have stimulated the younger

by Dr.Samiran Kumar Paul at March 5, 2006 1:03 AM



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