What is the purpose and the message of the essay "The Profane Art" written by Joyce Carol Oates

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marizi | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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“The Profane Art”, written by Joyce Carol Oates, is intended to criticize and praise the works of 20th century writers. Basically, the main purpose is to assess the content, the style (art and imagery), and hidden meanings (author’s traditional attitude or obsession).  By divulging her reflections on the selected literary works (15 collected essays and reviews), it is serves as an eye-opener through her canny criticism towards the works of fellow female writers and antifeminism for the works male writers.

Through her assessments, it acts a message to be conscious on the content and art of writing. In a way, she provided insights and personal perspective such as:

  1. “At Least I Have Made a Woman of Her” à She disapprove of the male writers’ archaic attitude/prejudice towards female’s worth primarily to their intellectual potential.

2. Women in Love (1920) and Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) à She perceive the possibility of author’s obsession of inflicting revenge on women of his acquaintance due to downgraded characterization of women.

3. William Faulkner’s Light in August (1932), Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940), and Norman Mailer’s An American Dream(1965)  àShe assessed them as primitive outlook since their contents portray a indecent women deserved whatever dreadful experience (like murder) that will come upon them.

4. “Imaginary Cities: America” à She depicts the imagery of writers form different century. Naturalistic writers (early 20th century) have a view of archetypal city while midcentury writers ponder on internal conflict. Despite of their contrasting imagery, it garners praise for the intelligence and knowledge imparted.

5. The Lower East Side à She approved of liberated women being portrayed.

6. C. G. Jung: Word and Image (1979) àShe is captivated for the lengthy and controversial biography but at the same time disappointed for the anti-Jungian perspective.

Source: http://www.enotes.com/topics/profane-art

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