Cynthia's Blues Dept.


Cynthia Ozick Takes Up Arms Against Today’s Literary Scene - The New York Times

Ozick has always been a great guardian of distinctions — between the major and the minor, the high and the low. Her fear is that our ability to make such distinctions is rapidly eroding, that we are in danger of forgetting why Henry James is better than comic books, or why Austen’s novels do not belong in the same realm as chick lit.

The word that jumped out at me there is "better". It's something of a stacked-deck argument to say Henry James is better than comic books, because the former has the advantage of time and critical history on its side and the latter do not.

The real question is, can in time a comic book stand in the same realm as anything Henry James produced?

I'm sure it's possible; I'd argue it's already happened. What we've also needed, though, is for critical discussion about comics to be something of interest to more than just "comics fans" or folks in academia. Here and there, it happens — the New York Times Book Review touches on graphic novels intermittently, for instance — but I think the big shift is that we're only just now getting a generation of literate adults in English-speaking countries who don't automatically think of comics as kid stuff.

On the one hand, I completely understand why Ozick might be clutching her pearls (metaphorically). The back-scratching that goes on in literary circles is by and large bad for a healthy critical atmosphere around it in public. But the danger of being a guardian of distinctions is to not recognize when new distinctions are needed. There was a time when people didn't think the movies qualified as an art form; we're going through that now with video games, and who knows what we'll be struggling with in another ten years.

I suppose Ozick simply wants to defend the idea that the new should not automatically squeeze out the old, and I believe that myself. But I also believe it's a mistake to not want to approach the new on its own terms, and to recognize how it, too, deserves a seat at the table, in the context of all the things it was in turn a product of.


Tags: Cynthia Ozick comics criticism literature movies video games


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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2016/07/21 08:00.

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