Thursday, November 08, 2018


English as a Dead Language

Sandra Kotta, "With Stories Like These, Who Needs Talent? Part II: English as a Dead Language," Quillette (March 20, 2018):
Poetry occupies a diminished status in 'high culture.' Very few educated people under seventy have been compelled to learn poems by heart at school; committing even stray lines of Shakespeare or Shelley to memory has become a rare, eccentric habit. This means that contemporary poets can rely on little or no shared poetic tradition with such readers as they have. There is little incentive for a public figure to quote 'famous' verses in a speech, because there are so few people, even with advanced academic degrees in literature, who would get what he is talking about or recognise the reference.


Over the past fifty years, pop music has come to replace most of the social functions of traditional poetry even among educated people. Nobody would think you strange if you could not recite lines from Milton's Paradise Lost; though you would seem an alien if you were unable to recognise and identify any of the pop songs which most people around you have passively absorbed, through mass media, widespread internet dissemination and use as background music in public places. If you refer to certain pop songs in public, you can take for granted that strangers will generally pick up the reference.
Related post: Wilderness Were Paradise Enow.

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