Thursday, June 26, 2008

High Culture vs. Pop Culture

Ok, first I have a confession to make: I really don't like literature.  I don't mean that I don't like to read, I love to read.  I don't mean that my reading is simply stuck in the banality of the latest little paperback at the grocery checkout counter.  I just mean that I find most of the stuff that classifies as lit-ra-cha is very boring.  Dostoevsky's  The Brothers Karamazov  was rather painful.  Great Expectations should be in the same class as waterboarding.  I think that for something to be considered high-culture, and therefore literature, it has to be deficient in the area of entertainment value. 


I know I'm upsetting people even as I type these words.  There is a certain former English major out there right now shaking her head in disapointment.  But if you have any feelings about my confession one way or the other, you will probably enjoy this article that discusses the benefits of high culture and pop culture in a point/counter-point style. 


Personally I agree with Kevin Corcoran in this discussion.  I think that for every bit of deep philosophy that you could find in The Brothers Karamazov, there is an equally deep bit of philosophy in the films of the Brothers Wachowsky.  I think that depth doesn't have to be boring, and entertainment value is vastly underrated by those who save their approval for high culture.  But that's just me (and I do write for a blog that examines pop culture, so I might be biased), who do you side with?  Find out, read the article here .


Josh R


Anonymous said...

While certainly conceding that many "classics" (Citizen Kane, Great Expectations, etc) no longer fit the title, evaluating pop culture is the lazy man's way of absorbing the seen or heard & mostly imparting deeper truths that likely aren't there instead of studying & learning about a piece where depth exists.

How can we decry biblical illiteracy when we promote illiteracy through the academy & so many other areas?

chantell said...

Interesting article.

I feel, as with many things, that the key is balance. There's just as much fallacy in holding that pop culture by default is insipid and lacking depth as there is in assuming that "lit-ra-cha" by definition is boring.

There is value in evaluating pop culture to get a sense of the current because, as people who are charged to be salt and light, it's ineffective to be ignorant of the now and out of touch with people we are desperately trying to reach.

For the same reason, there is just as much value in exploring high culture to get a sense of the timeless. How can we argue that the Bible isn't really boring--an ancient specimen of "lit-ra-cha"? Because it's timeless. Because despite its distance from current culture, it's still relevant. That's what literature is.

Being culturally literate includes being well-versed in high as well as pop.