What is at stake here?
At least two types of issues:
(1) Aesthetic (Why continue genuflecting to a tradition
of vehicles that are insufficient for exploring changing realities and/or
(2) Political (In a culture that principally or exclusively
values traditional approaches to writing, support, recognition and rewards
are bestowed upon writers who adhere to the prevailing mores. Those
artists who do not operate within traditional boundaries are typically
denied such opportunities.)
What is a reasonable objective?
Ultimately, the best thing that can happen is to broaden the exposure
to alternative viewpoints and approaches to perceiving and experiencing
the worlds that we encounter.
There is no civilized way to cleanse a given weltanschauung from someone’s psyche.
Each writer, each perceiver makes the choice of what elements to consider
when finding or assembling art. Many people alive today have been persuaded
that the figurative and literal noise of advertising, the horror of
deliberately manufactured destruction, and the blasphemy of unbridled
aggression, together constitute a reality that definitively replaces
its pastoral precedent.
Despite some suggestions that nature-based writing and pastoral reality
are outmoded, an argument can be made for their continued viability.
While impossible to declare the definitive reality, one can at least
espouse the viewpoint that at the very least, competing realities require
a delicate balance in perspective. No single viewpoint defines a universe,
an age, or a culture.
With that in mind, I certainly would NOT advocate the replacement of
one bully view with another. It is in no way desirable
that all writers shift mindlessly to a pseudo-innovative approach that
amounts de facto to a disguised unanimity of the sort that many people
pursue during their teenaged years. Rather, a widening of exposure and
(consequently) of choices is desirable.
What difference will change make?
At least the potential exists for equity in the distribution of funds
and attention, including alternative approaches and viewpoints in the
creation and appreciation of texts. Presently, the hegemony of a highly
personalized descriptive-narrative approach to writing prevails. It
seems unlikely that many young writers will even hear of some of the
most inventive thinkers and stylists until well beyond their own most
productive years. Of equal concern is the fact that practicing writers
and artists require the nourishment that other contributors to the art
provide. The greater the range of perspectives, approaches, and practices,
the more likely that the output of a given artistic age will be varied
and inventive. Being ensconced in old views, old forms, and old thinking
merely blunts the edge rather than sharpening it.
© Sheila E. Murphy