[log in to unmask] wrote:
> "It is the function of a literary review to maintain the autnomy and disinterestedness of literature, and at the same time to exhibit the relations of literature -- not to 'life,' as something contrasted to literature, but to all the other activities, which, together with literature, are the components of life." (From The Function of a Literary Review (1923).
> This stikes me as simple, brilliant and true. But a counterpoint comes to mind: is "literature" a part of life for those who do not read it? Which in turn raises a narrower question: does literature play any part in the life of illiterate people? More specifically (to carve out communities with a rich oral tradition), what role, if any, does literature play in the lives of illiterate persons in socities where the large majority of persons are literate?
Your question is provocative. And I would think, following Eliot's reasoning, the question is applicable "to all the other activities, which, together with literature, are the components of life." Here's a bit of how W H Auden considered your field in relation to all other activities ... .
Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Others say, Law is our Fate,
And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is Me.
And always the soft idiot softly Me.
[From "Law Like Love"]
It is a beautiful poem, and characteristically for Auden, is compassionate in the face of knowledge that turns others towards contempt or despair.
Having changed the direction of the discussion, I'd like to change it again, back towards Ken's post to join him in praising Jennifer's essay.