Posted at 12.15.2018
"How far does conceding to the favorite mainstream strip a text of its literariness?"
(Explore the ways that your chosen essay texts negotiate fighting requirements of 'literary' and 'the popular')
William Faulkner said of Ernest Hemingway: 'He hasn't been known to use a phrase that may send a reader to the dictionary' (UOI, 1947) attempting to demean the literariness of his works. Hemingway responded; 'Low-quality Faulkner. Does indeed he think big emotions result from big words? I know them all right. But there are aged and simpler and better words, and the ones are the ones I take advantage of. ' (Ross, 1950) His response to Faulkner's elitism shows that a text does not have to stick to the implicit, often judgemental guidelines that define a piece of work as literary in order to be worthy of such a title. Using the poems of Linton Kwesi Johnson as well as the Hunger Game titles by Susanne Collins, I am going to analyse how both creators navigate the fine brand between what's popular and what is literary, and whether this influences the overall impact with their work or its integrity as literary fiction. I intend to argue a text does not have to present itself in a 'literary' fashion in order to be considered worthy of the word literary, and in the same way, literary texts can are present without conforming to the needs of mainstream culture whilst still being liked by modern society.
In its simplest meaning, literature is simply a written work; it is merely whenever we place the restrictions of what's considered intellectual, or 'skill', upon it that there becomes any type of speculation as to whether a writer's work is literary or not. In contrast, popular culture is a term associated with mainly Western entertainment, media, technology and activities. In its first conception, the thought of 'popular' was one associated with the uneducated working class, compared to the 'literary' culture of the upper classes. Pop culture was "the culture of those outside the vitality establishment; it was totally separate from - scorned and excluded by - those in power, who got their own "official culture" (Berrong, 1986). Because of this, there can be an ongoing elitism toward 'popular culture', with many labelling it trite or unintelligent, or suggesting that "low culture stress material, form and being totally subservient; there is absolutely no explicit concern with abstract ideas or even with fictional kinds of contemporary social issues and problems content to depict traditional working course ideals. " (Gans, 2008) As a result, creators and audiences of popular culture are by relationship regarded as superficial or without intellect.
'Popular' fiction is defined as 'plot-driven imaginary works, written with the purpose of fitting into a particular literary genre, ' (French, 2010) so as to appeal to mainstream viewers who buy into the pre-existing format because it is familiar, recognisable and easily digested. These so-called conventions of popular fiction are "specific configurations, roles, happenings and values that define individual genres and their subgenres" (McKee, 1997) and often, publishing residences are recognized to present obligatory suggestions for authors to check out in order to have their works considered for publication. Any books in fitting with these conventions is usually considered individual from 'literary' fiction by critics for being stereotypical and terribly written; those text messages are created entirely to provide escapism to its readership as opposed to meaningful, carefully built prose that might incite thought or action. Literary fiction identifies works that hold so-called 'literary merit', which here means that they comprise of political commentary, feedback on societal hegemonic ideologies and the human being condition. Like its popular counterpart, literary fiction is written purposely using its own group of conventions at heart, with the difference being that the concentrate of the works involved lingers more on themes or templates than on fast-paced plot progression or audience charm. It really is arguable that pop culture is the easiest way to appease the mainstream, an audience fundamentally composed of young people; technology has changed 'culture, especially popular culture, into the major educational site where youth learn about themselves and the larger world' (Giroux, 2000). There's always been contentious debate regarding the discrepancies between high fine art, a category into which literature comes, and popular culture. However, it is arguable that this debate is outdated; the distinction between the two is blurred - wish piece of work is easily accessible and attracts the masses, does not actually sacrifice its credibility or consider it an unintelligent piece of work that is without thought. A televised version of Austen's Delight and Prejudice, or Baz Luhrman's modern reimagining of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, for illustration, could be looked at literary in an intertextual manner, being as their origins hail from basic literature. For example, writer John Storey would argue that "the quantitative description of culture has the problem much 'high culture' is also popular" (Storey, 2014), making both difficult to separate into distinguishable categories. It also could be said that pop culture is more intrinsic to modern culture than so called "high art", because it wields much influence over everyone and which media they actually or do not ingest; 'in the have difficulties within the symbolic order that characterizes our times, popular culture - developed by name brands and various forms of multimedia, including the Hollywood film industry - is essential in creating the identities and representations that our junior embrace' (Reynolds 2006).
Linton Kwesi Johnson is a Jamaican copy writer based in the United Kingdom - the next living poet, and the one poet of coloring, to be immortalised in the Penguin Modern Classics collection. Johnson is a dub poet - a genre that is, corresponding to him, "overcompensation for deprecation" - and as a writer, won't conform to English requirements of poetry; he uses Creole patois as a political affirmation, defying the prospects society retains for poets. This phonetic, unstandardized transcription of his own vocabulary is obviously not that of great literary figures Jane Austen, George Orwell or Charles Dickens, yet, he has been honored the Golden Pencil honor in 2012 for "a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature". His notion of poetry has been approved through decades, and didn't simply consist of standard Received Pronunciation British or that which was considered publishable but included traditional slave songs. Johnson's poetry is seriously influenced by the Black Panther movement, an organization in which he became active during his school years; their notion being that assault when confronted with constant racism is essential, using militant revolutionary force contrary to the racist police force and segregation of 1960's London. He himself identifies his writing as "a political take action  poetry was a ethnic weapon" (Wroe, 2008). It had been during Johnson's youth that the SAS rules, or the 1824 vagrancy function, was reintroduced, which enabled the authorities to arrest someone they suspected got intentions of committing a crime, allowing law enforcement officials to exploit and arrest people of shade in London with no evidence. The subject subject of his poetry is usually politics, depicting his activities as an African-Carribean living in Britain, but in addition has focused on international policies and police brutality.
Johnson's poem 'If I woz a faucet natch poet' serves not only as an example of his subversion from the conventions of 'literary' work but together details his rejection of the canon, and his "interstitial position between musician and poet, between "high' art and popular culture, between politics and appearance" (McGill 2003). For instance, he begins "easily waz a tap-natch poet, like Chris Okigbo, Derek Walcot ar T. S Eliot" (Johnson, 2004); the beginning challenges any predispositions recommending that canons operate matching to transparent concepts of coherency or homogeneity. Chris Okigbo signs an alternative to the Traditional western Cannon advocated by critics. In contrast, Derek Walcott is a Nobel laureate, and his appearance advises a movement back again towards conservative tastes. However, the inclusion of T. S. Eliot demonstrates that the cannon Johnson is crafting is however one composed entirely of individuals of coloring. He remains by expressing if he were 'top-notch' himself, he would write a poem 'soh dyam profound/dat it bittah-sweet' (Johnson, 2004), implying that the works of Okigbo, Walcott and Eliot create work that is 'profound' or poses intellectual questions, a prerequisite of literariness. In addition, the poem appears to bring another irony when analysed more extensively in that T. S Eliot appears as a 'token' white poet, which is reflective of how right-wing organizations that anthologise the zeitgeist of the days, such as anthologies, are recognized for including hardly any people of coloring, sometimes just a single person, to show supposed diversity and avoid criticism or backlash from minorities.
On perhaps the other end of the literary spectrum to Johnson is Suzanne Collins, an American article writer, renowned for her young adult dystopian trilogy The Hunger Games. She was born in Harvard, Connecticut but being the little princess of a armed service officer, consistently moved across America. As a result, encouraged by her father's job in the Air Pressure, her work tackles styles of war and its effects on the planet, including poverty, starvation and innocent civilian fatality. The Hunger Games is defined in Panem, a post-apocalyptic America composed of the Capitol and 12 encircling districts; each year, two children from each district, male and female, are chosen to take part in an obligatory, televised deal with to the death, known as the Being hungry Games. The staggering recognition of her work led to her being known as one of your time magazine's "most important people of 2010" and by March 2012, became the best-selling Kindle author of all time. It is not unusual for creators of literature to work with so called 'pop culture' tropes and appropriate them into high culture works; with the blurred lines of literary and popular first identifiable in the Charming period where love fiction became a substantial impact on future books, despite having been recently disparaged. Newer for example Andy Warhol's use of the Campbell soup can in his pop art, as well as designer Jeff Koons conceptualising kitsch and pornography, subject matter concerns often vilified for without culture or finesse, to set-up new work which is supposedly worthier of the label 'high fine art'.
This same technique of intertextuality and the idea that any one piece of books is established by incorporating several others is probably evidenced in Collins' dystopian book; on the top, it is a young adult romance employing the normal formulaic conventions and persona archetypes evidenced in nearly all mainstream pop culture, probably encouraged by the critical success of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight saga. However, when talking about the origin of The Hunger Video games, Collins cites the misconception of Theseus and the Minotaur as the most significant inspiration for her book - a vintage Greek story wherein Minos forces the folks of Athens to sacrifice 14 women and children to be slaughtered by the Minotaur in the never-ending labyrinth. She also interweaved the idea of the Roman gladiator game titles; "an all-powerful and ruthless federal, people required to struggle to the fatality, and the game's role as a way to obtain popular information" (Scholastic, 2010) and in doing this, she efficiently brings renowned, common Greek literature to the mainstream people, albeit in a more easily digestible fashion, by reimagining the reports in a fashion that appeals to pop culture enthusiasts.
Contrastingly, Johnson's poetry concentrates not on fabled morality stories, but on real life issues of racism, segregation and police force brutality, particularly in London, where he grew up. It can be assumed that, as this is not a topic to which popular culture utilise for its audiences, he will not concern himself with the ideas of critics, or of his audience for that matter, on his work. It really is my knowing that it is more important for Johnson to market anti-racial messages and protest from the mistreatment of folks of shade. Johnson himself said that writing anti-establishment poetry during the Contest Riots could be looked at an take action of protest, an act that might have been to his great detriment as a result of the United Kingdom's fervent racism. This shows Johnson to have integrity - he is writing about what he believes is important and worthwhile saying; the best way to perform a " test of literary merit must be, first, the sincerity of the copy writer. I'd be willing, I believe, even to include the seriousness of reason for the copy writer" (Peters, 2006). From this, one can claim that Johnson's sincerity in his writing of his experience, and his persistence expressing anger and encourage reactions to politics issues makes his work literary. In 'If I waz a tap-natch poet', he purposely distinguishes himself from the other writers he mentions; he appears to exist in a liminal space, and it is difficult to discern where he sees himself within the hierarchy of literary and popular. It is arguable that he doesn't consider himself an integral part of either category, because neither of these provide any importance to him. However, whether a word is deemed literary or popular is very rarely a decision made by its own inventor; Johnson is simply distancing himself from the process, as he seems it is pointless. Although his work contains no proof popular culture referrals, it is certainly popular amongst a particular minority group; people of colour. They have observed many of the atrocities he writes of, and can relate with them in a manner that the white Western mainstream cannot. As a result, I would argue that Johnson's writing is obviously 'popular' amongst a niche audience, and this appealing to the mass market is not the one category that makes a text worth the name. Johnson first became mixed up in poet community in institution, but he was not publicized until 1974, in the journal Competition Today. Inside the same time, Harper Lee's questionable bildungsroman To Destroy a Mockingbird was also released. Both Johnson and Lee handle the subject subject of racism, albeit in various areas of the globe, and Lee's novel is undoubtedly one of the biggest of our era. The difference between Harper Lee and Linton Kwesi Johnson is the fact that an example may be a privileged white woman, and the other a Jamaican man of working-class qualifications, whose poetry is not isn't carefully pre-packaged in the standard Oxford Dictionary British, the mainstream being young white heterosexual young adults, who of course, choose to access literature in this way. Johnson is upset about his mistreatment, and that of so many other people of colour, at the hands of white policemen and politicians and civilians.
When declaring a content material worthy of literary merit, critics significantly consider the moral or information the story is trying to make, usually through the medium of symbolism or allegory. The metonymic idea of 'breads and circuses' becomes specifically apt when looking at The Hunger Game titles, as the Latin translation 'Panem et circenses' dished up as enthusiasm for the name of the novel's imaginary setting up, Panem. The word, first used by Juvenal, who was simply degrading the sheep-like aspect of common people, their selfishness and obliviousness to wider concerns and civic work, alludes with an appeasement with a lack of substance. It identifies the way in which supposedly democratic government authorities use superficial interruptions to meet the immediate, shallow requirements of any populace in order to continue to control them for hegemonic gain. Although this could make reference to the Capitol's attempts to placate the districts so they cannot overthrow their routine and dismantle their hierarchy, it could also be an allegory for the way in which popular culture works in real life. When going for a Marxist reading of the novel, it is arguable that Collins was encouraged by the Industrial Revolution, most noticeably the living conditions in 19th century European countries. Katniss illustrates this by expressing "What must it end up like, I think about, to stay in world where food looks at the press of a button? How would I spend the time I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were very easy to come across" (Collins, 2008). Collins' story coincides with Marx's socialist idea; Panem is made up of two groups, the proletariat, or the folks of the districts, and the bourgeoisie, or the Capitol. This shows exactly what is a fundamentally unfair system wherein the majority of wealth is performed by the minority whilst everyone battle to maintain a living. This is further evidenced by President Snow's hosting of the Food cravings Games, themselves, wherein his federal government hold complete vitality above the Districts and their people, who've absolutely no expectation of ascending to raised status. Katniss, the protagonist of the book, lives in the district that is most difficult struck by the Capitol's program. She represents the cheapest of the proletariat, whereas the better the districts are to the Capitol, the greater advantageous; "It's attractive, so tempting, as i start to see the bounty hanging around there before me. And I know that easily do not get it, someone else will. That the Career Tributes who endure the bloodbath will split up most of these life-sustaining spoils. " (Collins, 2008) Here, Katniss represents the 'Career tributes' are more likely to make it through, having received training for his or her entire lives to prepare for the game titles. Whilst Districts One and Two still have to provide children for the video games, this is a mere faade, loaf of bread and circuses; Snow makes the districts think everything is identical, but in actuality, the Profession tributes are much likelier to survive and gain the Game titles, thus maintaining the bourgeoisie whilst slowly and gradually killing off the poor. However, Katniss comes after the Marxist ideology and "seizes the method of production". Collins writes "Without a victor, the whole thing would blow up in the Gamemakers' encounters. They'd have failed the Capitol. Might potentially be executed little by little and painfully, while the cameras transmit it to every display in the country" (Collins, 2008) By refusing to conform, rejecting the role of victor and stimulating Peeta to do the same, this pushes the Gamemakers to improve the rules and invite both to gain. Katniss is still aware, though, that the Capitol would have the power to make a good example of the Gamemakers to revive order. These allusions to Marxism and communist theory imply that there is far more depth to Collins' work than it initially seems; by combining themes of true to life class issues, she is commenting on societal problems and posing a moral question regarding America's modern course system.
When asked how he would determine literariness, critic Walter Truck Tilburg Clark announced "the final test of literary merit, is the energy to endure definitely such a test cannot be applied to a fresh or recent work, and one cannot, I think, offer soundly an judgment on the probability of stamina" (Peters, 2006). Here, he is arguing that the most important criterion of the definition is that if a text can withstand, it could be considered worth literary merit. It isn't, then, necessary for a text to follow the other rules regarding context, connotations or conveying a higher meaning; in case a words is popular, it is likely to endure. The Hunger Games Trilogy spent 50 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated to the screen as a multi-million dollars film series. Such an extended stay at the top of a highly-regarded ranking system is suggestive of endurance, and therefore, whatever the issues the trilogy presents in terms of stereotypical pop-culture tropes and identity moulds, it could be thought as literary. In addition, the idea of literariness is the one which is inherently subjective; particularly because aesthetic value is completely located in personal preference. It is, regarding to critics, a "relic of an scholarly elite". Similarly, the predispositions regarding 'popular' texts and it's dismissal as uncultured also seem to be obsolete views stemming from old-fashioned beliefs. The examination and understanding of popular culture, therefore, is essential "to understanding ourselves, our identities and the world that surrounds us. " A word that is considered outstanding by one, will be awful to another; we each have different passions and likes, and there is never going to be unanimity when defining 'literary' and 'popular' and the difference between them. The analysis of popular culture permits us to consider books in a less judgemental, more open-minded fashion, voiding the natural laws of why is a text literary or fundamentally 'good'. Popular culture does not exclusively lend itself only to companies to churn out poorly-written prose without value and increase financial earnings, although it is manipulated by those in capacity to detract from real life issues; just because this is actually the case some of the time, it generally does not define all literature that falls in to the category of 'popular' as unworthy of also being literary. Both terms are not mutually exclusive, and a content material does not give up its right to being one by adhering to some characteristics of the other. The spectrum of defining literary and popular - categories, albeit arbitrary in dynamics, that are not binary opposites - in conditions of literature, is, in my opinion, one which is completely personal, and each individual will hold view on where any given wording falls; that does not make sure they are true, as there are no correct answers.
Word Count up: 3496
Johnson, L. K (2002) "If I Woz a Nap-Natch Poet', Mi Revalueshanary Fren: Selected Poems" London: Penguin
Collins, Suzanne (2008) 'The Craving for food Video games' New York, Scholastic
University of Iowa (1967) "An Interview With William Faulkner" The American Review: A Literary Quarterly, Size 15, Amount 4
Ross, Lillian (1950) "Information: How Do You ENJOY IT Now, Gentlemen?" The New Yorker, F. R. Posting Corporation, New York.
Berrong, R. M (1986) "Rabelais and Bakhtin: Popular Culture in Gargantua and Pantagruel" School of Nebraska Press
Gans, Herbert J (2008) "Popular culture and high culture" Basic Literature. pp. 8-10
Storey, J (2014) "From Popular Culture to Everyday Life" Routledge
French, C. T "Literary Fiction vs Genre Fiction"[online] http://www. authorsden. com/categories/article_top. asp?catid=10&id=18884 (accessed December 2016)
McKee, R (1997) "Story: Chemical, Structure, Style, and the Rules of Screenwriting" New York: HarperCollins. p. 87
Giroux, Henry (2000) "Stealing Innocence: Youngsters, Corporate Electric power and the Politics of Culture", NY, St. Martin's Press
Reynolds, W (2006) "Cultural curriculum studies, multiplicity and cinematic-machines" Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, Caddo Gap Press
Wroe, N (2008) "I did so my own thing" [online] https://www. theguardian. com/books/2008/mar/08/featuresreviews. guardianreview11 (reached December 2016)
McGill, R (2003) "Goon poets of the dark-colored Atlantic: Linton Kwesi Johnson's imagined canon" Textual Practice, Vol. 17, Concern 3
Scholastic (2010) "Video: Classical Motivation, The Hunger Game titles by Suzanne Collins" [online] http://ww(w. scholastic. com/thehungergames/videos/classical-inspiration. htm (seen December 2016)
Bill, M; Peters, N (2006) "Howl on Trial: The Fight for Free Expression" City Equipment and lighting Literature. p. 224.