Explain if you think american literature is getting better or worse, do you think your answer is more optimistic or pessimistic or neither?
There are some good points made above. My answer would have to be that in some ways, there is simply a lot more being published than, say, one hundred years ago. There are more people that are targeted when books are being published. While at the beginning of the last century perhaps only the best of the best were published in a form that survives now, today more of the good and bad show up in print. My main point is that the good is still out there, but the not-so-good is what gets the publicity. Twilight, for example, which my 14-year-old calls "annoying, because the main character has no personality." It is not well written; on the other hand, it has a big chunk of the adolescent population practicing reading. Keep your fingers crossed that this translates into adults who read.
Indeed, the previous post made some excellent points. The notion of "L"iterature has undergone some level of change and might have reached a point with its commercial appeal which is a challenge. I would like to suggest that American Literature might be getting better on one point in ensuring that more voices are heard in the discourse. Comparing American literature from fifty years ago to now would reveal that the canon has increased in its multivocality. Voices of people of color as well as women and divergent narratives of sexual orientation along with the experience of economics have increased. The sensitivity to these conditions make the Literature of America more reflective of its realities.
In my opinion, I think American literature is getting worse, because much of what is written is catered to an increasingly consumer oriented group. The bottom line is sales for many people. So, publishing companies are only producing what will sell and this is not necessarily good literature. So, while a book like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is fun to read, a person would hardly call this literature. In my opinion, American literature is getting to mixed with popular culture. So, I am more pessimistic. Also, the world is a big place and once we realize this, great literature can be recognized from all over the world.
In just focusing on American Literature, I can not say that it is getting worse. Literature like any of the arts is a reflection of a scoiety. It brings forth the emotional, physical, and social realm of the people. It is a voice cultivated by the thought processes around it. True, society in itself has become worse in many ways. Yet, there are those writers who are able to still capture the best of ideas and reach deeply into the human spirit.
We are a society that is able to speak its mind in books. Even in Shakespearethere are sexual references and episodes of cruelty. The language format has changed but literary concepts stay the same. The one concept that people in Shakespere's time did not have to face that has emerged in later literature is the theme of Man vs. Machine. I am referring to technology.
Our words may not always have the eloquence of our forefathers but the meanings are still there. We have commercialism in our selling of books and it determines what works are published, but we also have other ways to expose society to our literature such as the Internet.
Writing is a craft of its era and the writers of today chose their wording and circumstances to grab an audience of readers so that they can take them into the story. I still see American writing and writers as a fine craft/craftsmen. I am an optimistic person who believes that writers of every generation will bring forth their own gifts to the world through literature.
i think american literature is getting worse...
I agree with readerofbooks. The problem I see as a middle school teacher is that my students are not able to read and comprehend classic literature. Their brains simply are not mature enough to delve into the classics. Although high school and college level students should be required to read them.
Students come to me (in 8th grade) reading anywhere between a 1st grade level to 12th grade level. The majority of my students read between a 3-8th grade level.
My goal for students is simply to have them read and enjoy reading. Therefore I have "reading zone" days (Nancy Atwell The Reading Zone) where students read simply for enjoyment. They love the Twilight series, yet I would hardly call this literature. So, yes I am pessimestic about American Literature but it is fundemental for todays youth to first develop a love of reading, even if the books they are reading are driven by publishers and popular culture.