Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oh, what a literary century

Paul Fussell's well known observations on the importance of literature to the First World War experience of British soldiers (not only officers), got me thinking in somewhat elegiaic fashion. I suppose it really is true that the high point of the literary culture was the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century - then quite widespread literacy and even education (and self-education) was combined with the absence of electronic media. Now we have even more widespread literacy and education (and self-education) but books are getting increasingly peripheral to this, to our civilization. Information and education are more and more in the electronic form. Well, o tempora o mores, it's quite always been like this: tools change, our human inclinations and reflexes, not so hugely. So, caution surely is needed when contemplating this particular change. But still, I have to say, being so immersed in literature, being so shaped by it, that I do find this change alarming. I don't really think that there is anything to compare with a book when it comes to deep human understanding, the essential questions, whether philosophical, ethical, personal, being addressed. So, one wonders now, in AD 2009 that what will the new culture be like - how will literature, the literary tradition be replaced? Apart from lots of reality-tv. One does wonder.