Tuesday, October 24, 2006

On Clockwork Hold, Agent Orange

Tonight while waiting on hold, I heard a classical composition with which I have familiarity. I don't know the composer, era or any of that jazz offhand. I could probably gather that information quickly enough if I consulted my Clockwork Orange soundtrack and the Internet.

Realizing that I had familiarity with this composition in this way struck me as interesting, especially after reading "Story Literacy & Shrinking Memory" at Dead Things on Sticks. I don't plan on summarizing the article, so please go read it before reading the rest of this entry.

I feel myself pretty much sitting on the top of a fence about cultural literacy and how we, as individuals, get it. For one, I'm victim to not having an incredible amount of cultural literacy, whether it be the Western canon, modernist literature or even any real canon of speculative fiction. A reader and I discussed the speculative fiction literacy a couple entries back.

I remember taking a literature class back at school, and the teacher, a sub-continental Indian transplant student to England then transplant teacher to the US, and he blasted our cultural literacy to no end while acting all surprised about it. Our cultural illiteracy apparently made it difficult to understand the literature.

Many times, I still feel left out on my understanding of all the cultures of the world, from street talk to T.S. Eliot. Irony really gives me trouble. A co-worker of mine ironically (har har) teases me that I'm an authentic, genuine man because I don't naturally understanding irony. Of course, plenty of cultural critics complain about the preponderance of irony in our culture while tons of other ones laud the irony and see it as the prime source of expanding meaning in cultural vehicles of meaning.

At the same time, all of our cultures has a huge amount of stuff to become literate about, even considering just the important stuff. A person would take at least one life time to read the 2 1/2 millenia worth of literature, listen to the music, etc. etc. We have tons of stuff just to browse, from India to the United States to England to South Africa. How does a person become familiar with all of it?

So. . .without ruminating much more, does anyone else have an opinion on cultural literacy in our culture?

Three opinions pop into my mind:

1. It's important to have cultural literacy to stay in touch with and mold our cultural tradition,

2. Since there's tons of it, I laud anyone who tries to learn as much as possible about it but

3. I don't see the point of blaming the illiterate except for their ignorance of culture's importance and that, at some point, they become responsible for the cycle of cultural illiteracy. . .similar in a way that the arch-conservatives blame the media of both reporting the news/views of the people while molding the news and views.

But I'd like to hear other people's open minded and constructive views on the topic.

1 comment:

Shaw Israel Izikson said...

how much culture must one person have before they can be deemed "culturally literate"?