5 abr. 2011


I used to be only interested in older literature (before 1900) to the extent that it anticipated literary modernity. So I was interested only in older works that seemed surprisingly modern. There are a lot of these, so I never ran out of texts to read, but my papers tended to emphasize the forward-looking aspect of the past. Perhaps I was influenced by some of my professors in Spain, who would praise an older text by calling it "muy moderno." Modern meant interesting.

Now this strikes me as the wrong way to approach things, and most probably a symptom of my earlier immaturity as a reader and scholar. The dichotomy between older and newer texts no longer makes sense to me, and I view any text as potentially interesting whatever its epoch. I still like those forward-looking texts I always liked, but I no longer have to find the modernity angle in order to make something interesting to myself. Now that I am myself ancient, newness seems less crucial.

2 comentarios:

Vance Maverick dijo...

Yes -- I'm more or less in your situation as a consumer of art, but I've long seen that to use "modern" as a term of praise in receiving older art is irrelevant, really expressing a kind of helplessness. I remember a friend commenting after hearing a Beethoven quartet how modern it was. On the contrary, I wanted to exclaim, isn't it in every bar clearly a work of its time? Would we literally mistake the Grosse Fuge for a work of even 25 years later? Those works do have many striking qualities, so let's talk about those -- "modern" is in this sense a mere stab in the dark.

Jonathan dijo...

Right, but I still do like those little anachronistic frissons when something momentarily seems out of place in the temporal continuum.