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Thread: Changes in what's viewed as high or low in art?

  1. #1
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    Changes in what's viewed as high or low in art?

    The recent Pulitzer Prize win by a rapper got me thinking, does what is considered high and what is considered low in art change over time? I'm too young and underread to be able to answer this question.

    The thing that comes to mind is the fact that Duke Ellington was denied a Pulitzer Prize, IIRC, on the grounds that he was a jazz composer and not a classical composer. Ellington was quoted as saying: "I'm hardly surprised that my kind of music is still without, let us say, official honor at home. Most Americans still take it for granted that European-based music—classical music, if you will—is the only really respectable kind." Since then, AFAIK, Wynton Marsallis and Ornette Coleman have won the prize and there have been a few special citations awarded to jazz musicians.

    So my question is, are you aware of any examples (besides the one I mentioned, which may be arguable) of clear changes in terms of what is regarded high and low in art?

  2. #2
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    I'd say what's viewed as high or low in art absolutely changes. You already mentioned jazz, which is a great example. But I think the recent Pulitzer Prize win by Kendrick Lamar is a bad example of this and I don't think it'll lead to rap being considered high art. I may be wrong though.
    Hi!

  3. #3
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    C.S. Lewis wrote an essay entitled "High and Low Brows" in which he argues that the distinction between "high art" and "low art" is a faulty one. The notion of many is that "low art" aspires to be mere "entertainment", while "high art" aspires to more subtle aesthetic pleasures. But some of the greatest works of literature were conceived as popular entertainments. Lewis compares "She" (by Rider Haggard) to "The Odyssey". Both are quest stories -- but "She" (in Lewis's time) was dismissed as low art, while Homer is revered as a genius. Lewis argues (in some detail, which I will not repeat) that the difference is not one of kind, but of degree. "She" is not "good low art",it is simply a good book in many ways, and a mediocre book in others. It fails to be "high art" not because of its aspirations, or subject matter, but because of some failures in style, plot and execution of which "The Odyssey" is not guilty.

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