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Thread: An Offended Age: Literature and Political Correctness

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    An Offended Age: Literature and Political Correctness

    I posted this opinion (see below) on another site a few hours back but (of course /s) they deleted the entire thread. But I would like to know what others think about it, so, please, moderate that post if you feel the need but don't delete the entire thread. (I hope that forum has more mature members.) Thanks.

    Edit: removed urls.


    Warning! This is not a PC post!

    Continue on your own responsibility!

    The owner of my current flat warned me that this section is heavily moderated but I think sometimes we could discuss deeper themes. I try to stick with literature and leave politics out of this post/rant.

    "what have the Romans ever done for us except sanitation, medicine, education..."

    "The past is a far away country, they do things differently there."

    QuoteXiaolu Guo: American literature is massively overrated, our reading habit has totally been transformed by the mainstream, our reading habit has been stolen and changed, for example I think Asian literature is much less narrative … but our reading habit is more Anglo-Saxon, more American … Nowadays all this narrative [literature is] very similar, it's so realism, so story-telling driven … so all the poetry, all the alternative things, have been pushed away by mainstream society.

    "I love your work, Jonathan," she told Franzen, "but in a way you are smeared by English American literature … I think certain American literature is overrated, massively overrated, and I really hate to read them," she said.

    Jhumpa Lahiri: I was looking at [an Italian paper's] 10 best books of the year, and they chose seven books written in English. This was astonishing to me, I can't imagine the New York Times ever choosing seven books written in a language other than English as their choices.

    Anne Enrigh: The figures are shocking and incontrovertible. It's a moot point whether we 'need' a women's prize. Maybe women should have a prize, just because they can.


    Quality doesn't matter anymore, one has to be PC... (By the way, the typical Social Justice Warrior is just a hypocrite, nothing more.)

    QuotePrizes of any kind in any artistic endeavour are ridiculous. Serious writers should be ashamed of themselves being involved with that milieu. Unless it is for the money. Take their money and run. But be honest and open about it. It is all so terribly childish, like Sunday school prizes. The purpose there is "magical"...a ceremony the purpose of which is to arouse emotion, to ensure that the disciples return stronger to worship. Writers of any literary integrity should have realised by now that their work is not of this sort, unless it is, and therefore not literary, but a poor relation to that activity, the "manufacture of stories", and like myths, the purpose of which is the generation of useful emotion. Writers who now this and yet still participate in the prizegiving ceremonies know this, but their vanity prevails.


    Definition:

    Political correctness = you have to be a liar; plus, you have to hate white people (as you know whites are racistfascistracistfascist. And they are wondering that the (far-)right parties are getting more and more popular in Europe...)

    A humorous approching (ok, this is self-describing but right now the word 'fat' is not PC):

    One problem with internet dating is how women describe themselves:- Cuddly=fat. Voluptuous=fat. Bubbly=fat and talkative. Homebody-fat AND lazy. Loves dining out or eating at home-Fat and greedy. Men are no better:- Sporty-- atches football on TV Strong, silent type....inarticulate bum with tattoos Tall--medium height Stocky--short. Physically active--walks to the job centre Looking for a meaningful relationship---sex starved.

    Maybe this example is better:

    2014 is the current year. This is not PC in the Offended Age.

    This is more PC-y: wiki/Template:Year_in_other_calendars


    Contemporary 'literature' is very weak, or rather it does not exist. Poetry is dead, novels hit the end of the road 30-35 years ago. No one can achive anything new anymore. The new battle-cry: been there, done that.

    Like it or not, the greatest writers were white males. You can eliminate their work but then what's left? (Especially in philosophy...) (It must be hard to see/accept that Tolkien was not an Asian lesbian woman, or Martin is not an African writer but you know life is not fair - just ask Hermione Weasley -, deal with it. Elizabeth Bennet is not an Indian male? Austen, how dare you?)

    Ok, they don't want to read any works written by Mailer, Hasek, Zola, Canetti, Bulgakov, Joyce, Unamuno, Krasznahorkai, Pirandello, Melville, Pynchon, Kipling, Woolf etc. etc.

    Please, tell me, where is the Korean equivalent to Hasek? Where is the Chinese Zola? Bulgakov in Zimbabwe? Mailer in India?


    That reminds me:

    from the NYTIMES


    QuoteHaven’t we learned by now that removing books from the curriculum just deprives children of exposure to classic works of literature? Worse, it relieves teachers of the fundamental responsibility of putting such books in context — of helping students understand that “Huckleberry Finn” actually stands as a powerful indictment of slavery (with Nigger Jim its most noble character), of using its contested language as an opportunity to explore the painful complexities of race relations in this country. To censor or redact books on school reading lists is a form of denial: shutting the door on harsh historical realities — whitewashing them or pretending they do not exist.

    Mr. Gribben’s effort to update “Huckleberry Finn” (published in an edition with “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by NewSouth Books), like Mr. Foley’s assertion that it’s an old book and “we’re ready for new,” ratifies the narcissistic contemporary belief that art should be inoffensive and accessible; that books, plays and poetry from other times and places should somehow be made to conform to today’s democratic ideals. It’s like the politically correct efforts in the ’80s to exile great authors like Conrad and Melville from the canon because their work does not feature enough women or projects colonialist attitudes.

    Authors’ original texts should be sacrosanct intellectual property, whether a book is a classic or not. Tampering with a writer’s words underscores both editors’ extraordinary hubris and a cavalier attitude embraced by more and more people in this day of mash-ups, sampling and digital books — the attitude that all texts are fungible, that readers are entitled to alter as they please, that the very idea of authorship is old-fashioned.

  2. #2
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    You know nothing of world literature.

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    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    I haven't read enough non-European literature to know whether it is great or not.

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    The idea of authorial integrity is largely a product of the Victorian era and the rise of authorial copyright replacing publisher's copyright, probably reaching its peek with the confessional obsession of the 1950s-60s. There were three sequels to Pamela written "by the author of Pamela" following the immense success of Richardson's novel, and only one of them was actually written by Richardson (mostly because he was irked that other people were making money off of his idea). Editors changing texts are hardly new, after all we get the term bowdlerization from the Victorian editor Thomas Bowdler, who is perhaps the most infamous censor of Shakespearean texts. Tate's rewrite of King Lear had a much longer stage history than the original text has had to date (being performed in the USA up until the late 19th century), and anyone who actually knows anything about theatre knows that plays are rarely performed exactly as written every time, including in Shakespeare's day since it would have been impossible for Hamlet to have been performed without cuts in the 2 hour performances standard at the time.

    The value of editing a book like Huck Finn (which we've discussed before on this forum) depends on the contexts and the goals of such an action, how it is executed, and what the quality of the resulting text. I am largely convinced that Huck Finn makes for uncomfortable teaching material in a high school setting, especially if it is mishandled by the teacher.
    Last edited by OrphanPip; 02-09-2014 at 09:22 AM.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

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    What makes you think this age is any more offended than previous ages? Books and literature were censored up until the 1960's in both America & Britain - perhaps the reason people were not offended was because that books likely to cause offence were never published. Most literature depicting homosexuality, or even heterosexuality (in English) were not allowed until the late 50's/early 60's, so perhaps the reason why more people are being offended is because more books that will cause offence are being published. Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, D H Lawrence & Hunter S Thompson were causing offence years ago - so it's not like people being offended is new.

    That's part of a democratic society. People are allowed to complain if they read something they don't like - that's democracy. If people are offended they have the perfect right to complain about it (in a peaceful manner). Are you suggesting that folk are not allowed to have different opinions, or express them?

    There is a valid discussion about racism or anti-Semitism in literature, why should there not be? The fact that an author expresses an opinion in a Great Work of Literature does not mean that it is a universal truth or cannot be challenged or discussed. Part of literature is to provoke debate, we are not supposed to just accept it as received wisdom.

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    How would you know that there isn't equivalent or greater non- Eurocentric writers? What have been translated is a tip of a large iceberg. Even proven well known authors like Murakami have a significant amount of non translated works.

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    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wondra View Post
    How would you know that there isn't equivalent or greater non- Eurocentric writers? What have been translated is a tip of a large iceberg. Even proven well known authors like Murakami have a significant amount of non translated works.
    Indeed. And also, literature from our own culture is naturally more likely to speak to us than literature from outside it. You say that 'dead white men' have written the best literature as if any of those qualities actually contributed to the quality of their writing or as if we should only teach and experience grand literature as if it was the same as eating your vegetables. A variety of literature should be taught.

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    The relatively-recent desire to recognize authors who are not white males of European ancestry is not "p.c" but rather a well-intentioned gesture toward inclusion. We are beginning to listen to the voices of female writers, non-white writers, the poor, and the disadvantaged -- numbers of several groups who up until this point in history have never been allowed to speak. This does not in any way mean that recognizing these groups will diminish the contributions of the great writers of the past. Even so, the literary world has a lot of catching up to do.

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    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    The relatively-recent desire to recognize authors who are not white males of European ancestry is not "p.c" but rather a well-intentioned gesture toward inclusion. We are beginning to listen to the voices of female writers, non-white writers, the poor, and the disadvantaged -- numbers of several groups who up until this point in history have never been allowed to speak. This does not in any way mean that recognizing these groups will diminish the contributions of the great writers of the past. Even so, the literary world has a lot of catching up to do.
    Agreed. The worth of this literature is in its perspective,the voice it gives and the new experience it shares.

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    Am I the only one who thinks the fear of political correctness is overblown?

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    In terms of consistency, Japanese artwork seems to be the most perfect in terms of form. It surely is far more potent than American literature, or German literature, which are rather weak until the Romantic era.

    Chinese literature is also consistently interesting, especially before 1800 when it was still developing.

    Likewise the Indian tradition is quite vast and interesting, and pretty much overlooked in the American world (it fared better in Europe). Americans have more or less absorbed Japanese literature, but really are lacking in understanding the Indian subcontinent.

    As for Arabic, Persian and Eastern European literature even, the Western world (that is western Europe and the US and Canada) are virtually ignorant (as a reading public). Russian literature has been taken somewhat well from the 19th century, though our knowledge seems to end in the 60s or so, and very few Westerners will have read a contemporary Russian novel.
    less
    As a general rule, Western literature comes to fruition rather late in the sense of the world. Sure, Latin and Greek authors were quite good, as were Hebrew authors, but are they really Western? More or less all filtered through more dominant cultures, especially Arabic culture (which not only came to fruition before the West, pretty much helped preserve the "west") and Byzantine culture, which we really know little about.

    As it is, for those who like Chinese literature in translation (which is not many people), there is still this great feeling that it really does not translate well into English. Certainly the sound and delicacy of the words do not translate.

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.lucifer View Post
    Am I the only one who thinks the fear of political correctness is overblown?
    Political correctness is the catchall bogeyman of people who like to complain about society, rarely bothering to actually define what makes something politically correct, other than that it is something they disagree with.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    Political correctness is the catchall bogeyman of people who like to complain about society, rarely bothering to actually define what makes something politically correct, other than that it is something they disagree with.
    To an extent - though it is different in Canada and the US. What I find strange is actually just the number of minority activist groups protesting every such thing out there. For instance, I did not know there was an Italian-American Civil Rights League combating negative stereotypes of Italians until watching the Sopranos. It seems it doesn't matter what anybody does, somebody is going to go on complaining.

    Take the film Aladdin as an example - perhaps one of the most perfect Disney films created for audiences - somehow it became a political film accused of being racist toward Arabs. Now, if you see the portrayal of the white American protestant male in films it is often hardly flattering. But somehow there is no advocacy group saying you are being "racist" toward white males by having a villain who is white. It seems minorities have a hard time being cast as villains. Every time it happens someone gets pissed off. As if there are no vile minorities in the US.

    Now, if we were to take Aladdin again as an example - the film showcases both negative and positive characters, and therefore both positive and negative Arabs (as all characters are Arab in the film). The general morality tale of the film is one in which the lowly street rat demonstrates a sort of heroic vitality and cleverness and wins the prize. Now, there are some stereotypical things that are upsetting (such as accents to show vileness in the film) yet nothing really too extreme. If anything it shows more rounded characters, and the use of accent is more of a marker of evil than a stereotype.

    If we wanted to show a round, non-bigoted view of the world, we should feel comfortable having both vile and socially admirable characters from every race and creed. Every time there is a villain of any sort of minority background someone seems to be throwing around criticism - this just demonstrates a sort of inability of the minorities themselves to accept a sort of roundness of culture. The same way I know many awful, terrible, disgusting Jewish people, as well as many great, loving, and humane Jewish people. This sort of "you are an anti-semite" calling to anything with a negative Jewish character is completely defeatist. The same to anybody else.

    I have this suspicion that most people reading or watching films do not think so much about race. It's only the touchy people who really seem to care about every little thing. It's one thing to be loaded up with cliches and stereotypes, but it is another to merely just portray a specific minority character as a villain. I am looking for a sort of movement where we can have a minority as a villain, be they Jewish or Chinese, or Whatever, without having someone crying about how bigoted everyone is.

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    The relatively-recent desire to recognize authors who are not white males of European ancestry is not "p.c" but rather a well-intentioned gesture toward inclusion. We are beginning to listen to the voices of female writers, non-white writers, the poor, and the disadvantaged -- numbers of several groups who up until this point in history have never been allowed to speak. This does not in any way mean that recognizing these groups will diminish the contributions of the great writers of the past. Even so, the literary world has a lot of catching up to do.
    The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The 'politically correct' actually make up a small minority of self - righteous individuals but they know how to make a lot of noise.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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    I have seen people complaning Django Unchained made all "white be villains" (which is stupidy, the basic hero of the movie is the german dude), but you will see less because of course, white people is the people in power and more worried with political correctness.

    While, it may be right to an extent what Pip said about it, I know a guy who did a work about the effect of political correctness on children literature and the historic of the idea (who i disagreed with him, is old as power and literature) is linked with conservative (of course) ideas and is used to preserve the status quo. This leads to turning the "text" bland, erasing any element of stress. In the run time, the new reader is "narcotized" from sittuations as violence, differences, conflict and it is hard this reader will turn into a reader able to a critic reading. This is more PC used to clean stuff like violence from stories than "do not write the word nigger" kind of PC, of course.

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