Can Literature Survive?
“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time.”
― Rabindranath Tagore
One of the greatest writers of all times, Tagore spoke a truth which we can only understand to an extent. Are we limiting our children when we perceive literature as dying? Dying — because of technology? Is it dying only because of technology?
In an essay in Paris Review, David L Ulin, an essayist and writer concluded: “Literature is dead.” And this was despite his earlier vindication that technology, like Gutenberg, brought books to us. His fifteen year old after reading Great Gatsby declared that the last few chapters “ featured the most beautiful writing he ever read” and yet he said none of his peers would read such lovely writing and therefore, literature was dead.
Another essay said, “Modern writers, unlike their predecessors, are more interested in making money than writing for the society and for spreading knowledge among readers.” Here the writers were held at ransom.
Edna O Brien, an Irish novelist wrote in an essay in The Guardian: “I think of George Steiner’s great essay, ‘The Retreat from the Word’, written in 1961, depicting those islands of privacy and silence, which the reading of a book entails. With a searing eye, he envisaged an altered world, a society in search of easier, bolder distractions and of pleasures less perplexing to the brain. Then I have to ask myself if, in 20 or 30 years, literature will be an essential branch of life. Will it seep into the fabric of social and political thought, will it have its faithful zealots, or will there be a falling away, which Steiner foresaw. In short, is it a dying animal?”
On the contrary, Rajesh Subramanian, the editor of Modern Literature, an online magazine, wrote: “Literature seems to be capable of holding itself against all threats of extinction and perhaps would never kick the bucket.”
Read his argument on why he thinks literature can survive in this essay in countercurrents.org.
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