Okay, I was just wondering what to blog about today--my choices are limited by my pissy mood (it IS that time of the month, after all...) and my @#$%ing computer at work. My sutdents are so tired/amped by the impending spring break, that (and this is the weirdest thing) they are BEGGING for worksheets...I mean...ICK!!! But that's okay, because if I try to teach, they just mumble incoherencies to each other as though the exact shade of lipstick worn by so-and-so as she got chatted up by her two-thousandth guy were that magic force that causes the planet to revolve around them! Anyway, when I went to The Samurai's blog (after my computer got fixed, because I was too pissed off to grade!!!) she was talking about that book-list meme that's been going around--and she promised to go off on a rant about literature vs. entertainment and suddenly...
I WANTED TO RANT ABOUT THAT TOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!
I hope she doesn't mind--anything I can rant about, she can rant about better, but Julie I'm going to riff on your rant... (and if you do mind, sweetheart, let me know in the comments...if I'm violating a hard and fast blog-etiquette rule, I don't want to do that again...)
Okay, so the thing is...
People say Shakespeare is culture--everyone who is well-read has read Shakespeare. But what nobody understands is that SHAKESPEARE WAS THE STEPHEN SPIELBERG OF HIS DAY... back then, everybody thought "Oh yeah, Willy's good for a laugh or a good action show, but, really, if you want CULTURE, you want Ben Johnson--now that guy--he's gonna be around for a few." Now I've read a few of Johnson's plays--they were witty, they were satiric, they were on-point and intellectual...but they didn't MOVE me. Romeo & Juliet? I will weep over those dumb-ass teenagers for the rest of my life and thank the Goddess for it. Hamlet? God love his sweet, angst-filled, gender-confused soul... But Johnson? Quite honestly, don't remember any of his people, and am not getting all hot and horny to open that book on my shelf again either.
And that, right there, is the problem with branding what we read "Entertainment" or "Literature".
Does what you read move you? Does it make you laugh? Does it make you cry? Does it make you think? Does it stick around in your chest and keep time with your breathing for a few days?
If it does, then it is, absolutely, positively, unapologetically, LITERATURE!!!!
I don't care if it's a Silhouette Romance or a comic book or a knitting manual...it's LITERATURE!!!!
Orwell, Huxley, Ayn Rand? They wrote Science Fiction. Science Fiction is still often considered by the 'educated' to be some sort of red-headed bastard son of true literature--and romance is it's deformed twin. (The mix between the two, paranormal romance? Trust me--I work with predominantly male English teachers...as far as they're concerned, it's not even real words.) So Science-Fiction isn't legit, but my Sci-Fi class in college (where everybody I work with assumes I went to get high and study the stars...) was one of the hardest and most influential courses I've ever taken. And anyone whose ever read romance will tell you that women's history is more accurately seen through Harlequin's evolving nature than through any historian's eyes.
What we consider entertainment often resonates deeply in our hearts--anything that vibrates inside us with that intensity must truly reflect some sliver of the human experience accurately and beautifully--and that folks is literature.
(I don't know how I managed to italicize the whole post, but I hope Julie's still talking to me now.)