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Which is which?

I think, for the most part, there is a couple major difference between Academia and Popular Fiction. One of which is that Academia writings tend to make the reader word more as he/she is reading, whereas Popular Fiction writings are more straight forward. There are, of course, exceptions to this--as with anything else--but I've found this to be the case, generally.

I think another type of writing that makes it into the Academia category is something that is relevant historically. Take The Crucible by Arthur Miller, for example. This play was historically relevant on two levels. On the surface, it was about the Salem Witch Trials. At that particular time, however, there was also the matter of the Red Scare, which resulted in a situation similar to the Salem Witch Trials, though thankfully not as extreme.

Wicked, a popular modern musical, would most likely be considered by most to simply be Popular Fiction. This does contain issues of segregation and racism as well as the ever popular fear and hatred of the misunderstood--as seen all throughout history--but all of this is on the surface. Someone may disagree, but from my understanding, this seems to be one of the main determining factors, since the lines tend to be blurred.

Another huge factor, I believe, is the matter of time. I could be wrong, but I don't think I've ever come across any Academia writings that were recently published. It all depends on what the next generation values. For all we know, J. K. Rowling could be the new Chaucer a century from now. With how popular the Harry Potter series is now, that wouldn't surprise me. Besides, there is much that can be analyzed in those books. Anyways, my point is that there is no true way of knowing which current writings will eventually be considered Academia. What we think now has no relevance. It's all about what people think in the future.

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I did not expect to have reveleations about the novels we read for class. But through writing my thoughts on just one quote and commenting on others' blogs. I managed to have several epiphanies. Two in particular, one on Hamlet's... [Read More]

Comments (5)

Jen, I think the blogs are working properly again.

The line between high art and popular art has long been a subject of study. The difference between a Broadway musical and a classical opera is not just that they sing in English on Broadway and in Italian or German in the operas. There are a whole set of conventions that opera-goers understand and appreciate -- the dying opera heroine is so weak that she faints, but she can still shatter glass with her singing. And the Broadway musical has another set of conventions -- crowds can suddenly break into perfectly choreographed dance numbers.

The academic study of popular culture has been a booming field in the past few decades. At SHU, the English program has recently offered courses in the graphic novel, young adult literature, and film, and I'm offering a course on "Video Game Culture and Theory" during J-term. We have English facutly who write horror, science-fiction, romance, and young adult literature. And I would say that the graphic novel Maus (which we will look at later in the term) has so much cultural gravitas because of its subject matter (the Holocaust) that readers who wouldn't have otherwise looked at a graphic novel have found tremendous value in the form.

I think I may have mentioned that in the world of literature, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings are definitely considered popular culture, since they both created a subculture (like Star Wars or Star Trek), with conventions and fan fiction and all sorts of other social events that enlarge the world envisioned by the original author. But Jane Austen also has a huge following outside the literary world -- there's a whole subculture of "Janeites" who study Austen's novels on their own terms, interpreting them according to their own methods and values, and that subculture does not mesh entirely with the literature professors who want to study Jane Austen as literature, not pop culture.

The carnival cover entry is scheduled to post today at 7:00, so you will have time to put it in your portfolio before tomorrow's class.

I actually wrote my blog on the smae subject as your last paragraph. Who is not to say that our children and grandchildren will be studying Harry Potter in high school and college?

Time will tell. Books need to be analyzed over and over again. The argument over whether Hamlet is sane or insane did not stem from just one reading. Conflicting views lead to different interpretations, which lead to further research and study.

As for Harry Potter, it can be used as a useful learning tool. Think about it: Vodlemort believes in the advancement of the pureblood (he himself is a half-blood), not wanting them to mix with half our mudbloods. He brainwashes the purebloods into believing lies about the other races, such as they must have stolen their magic since it cannot have been in their blood. He uses the purebloods to exterminate the other races.

What other radical leader did basically the same things?

Hitler.

Harry Potter is a commentary on the Holocaust, disguised as a fantasy novel.

Hmm...interesting. I never thought of it quite like that, but I can see where you got that idea. It definitely does fit. It's kind of like the whole Crucible witch trials lined up with the Red Scare communist trials.

Matt Henderson:

Well, I don't know about whether Harry Potter is really a Holocaust allegory, or even commentary. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible while the Red Scare was actually happening, while friends like Elia Kazan were being called in to name names. He has even said in numerous places that The Crucible was written to show a parallel between the anti-communist investigations of the time.
However, J.K. Rowling, as far as I know, has no direct association to the Holocaust and was not even born yet when it happened. The Harry Potter books do contain a certain kind of racism, fueled by a man who eventually seizes power of the government and turns it into a dictatorship (albeit secretly). But what does this really say about our time? I'm not sure if the Harry Potter books say much more than racism and mass murder are bad and we should fight it, even if that sometimes means rebelling against the government. It just doesn't seem to address racism or fascism in a truly complex or original way. For instance, couldn't there have been moral ambiguity on the part of Harry? Why is he always so darn committed to "doing the right thing"? You can't even really say he's vengeful--when finally confronted with the person who betrayed his parents, he refuses to kill him. His killing Voldemort is more for the greater good, so he's selfless and perfect even there. We never see him do anything drastically bad. And what of Voldemort? Doesn't he care about anyone? No, he's evil, evil, evil! Even Hitler had Eva Braun. Bellatrix is hanging all over him, and he doesn't even give her a second glance. So...we have good, we have bad, all set out nice in black and white for us. Which is perfect for children's stories; that's what they ought to do. But I still don't know if Harry Potter has the complexity of, say, The Great Gatsby (in which none of the characters, even Nick, can strictly be labeled "good" or "evil"), or even To Kill a Mockingbird, a book that spoke in relatively simple terms about the evil of racism in a time when racism was very real and relatively culturally accepted. Harry Potter doesn't speak out as a radical new voice against racism; it doesn't appear to directly address any contemporary circumstances, nor does it have a lot of ambiguity as far as how to interpret events or characters' actions. You can say that it's a good-and-evil allegory of this or that; people have been saying the same thing about The Lord of the Rings for years, and it's still not regarded as "serious" literature. In my opinion, they're both 'too' universal, they don't introduce much that can be debated because they paint good and evil as so purely black-and-white. So I think it could very well be taught in elementary and middle schools (provided no one protests that it's a Satanic manifesto), but I'm not sure if it could really make the jump to "serious" literature that's taught in higher education, other than as an example of pop culture. Okay. Just thought I'd put my two cents in while I'm in between classes. Sorry it's kind of a long two cents, maybe more like $1.05, but whatever. Have a nice day!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 8, 2007 3:36 PM.

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