Melbourne Writers Festival: Democratizing literature

JWT Melbourne

The Cult of Literature

The Oxford English dictionary defines the word Literature as the 'knowledge of books' especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit. It is a term that over the years has been a marker of social status and scoped the kind of readings expected of the educated classes. It is this definition that has perhaps contributed greatly to creating distance between writers, their writings and mainstream society. When the common man/woman thinks of 'literary writers' and their patrons he/she thinks of men in beards wearing cravats and smoking pipes.

A Problem Called Intellectual Snobbery.

"The poems to come are for you and me and not for most people."

When the avant-garde U.S. poet, E.E.Cummings, wrote these words as an introduction to his collection of poems, he was reinforcing the elitist, supercilious view that writers and their writings have long held of Joe Blow. A view that maintains good literature is the domain of privileged knowledge and qualified sensibilities. What would the imbecile on the street know?