- (no subject)
- December 5th, 2009
One thing I like about Camille Paglia, Slavoj Zizek, Chuck Klosterman, and David Foster Wallace is that they don't distinguish between high and low culture. (To a large extent I also think of Barb this way, since her aesthetic judgments are very often unconventional.) What's to like in low-brow? Well, one answer is simply that there is something novel and illuminating in being shown something interesting or beautiful in places where we are not accustomed to look. Everyday life seems a little richer when we can see as intelligent or illustrative music, movies and books which we would ordinarily write off as noise.
Speaking on a more personal level, though, I think that I experience a certain thrill when reading the aforementioned authors because of the way I relate to the idea of canon. Partly as a result of my education, I feel the pull of what Barb once called "academic materalism," or a preoccupation with the prestige and vain trappings of erudition (as opposed to a genuine, sincere intellectual engagement). I think that anyone who has at some point taken it upon herself to read predominantly "classic" books can appreciate this mindset, according to which there is a firm division between substantive art and literature on the one hand, and pop-culture detritus on the other.
I've heard that people who have had a puritanical upbringing often turn out, ironically enough, to be the kinkiest ones around. The idea is that when someones tries to repress what are in fact healthy, natural impulses, she may actually reproduce them in a more intense, perverse or otherwise maladjusted form; she may respond more strongly to sex precisely because it has been forbidden. In some ways I think that this phenomenon is analogous to my experience of high and low culture. That is, I find it exciting when cerebral, agile thinkers are able to give an analysis of Michael Jackson lyrics or the importance of "Twilight" precisely because I have internalized the notion that this is not done. There is something titillating in the fact that Paglia treats Madonna with the same intellectual seriousness (reverence, even) which she reserves also for Sophocles, Shakespeare and Dante. It seems at once subversive and liberating.