Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bringing up the rear garde

Is rejection of the past (which one may or may not like to call "tradition") not just a defense of ignorance? By the past (or by "tradition"), I don't mean Eliot's, particularly; he's handy to quote on the subject, and I've done it myself, but it shouldn't make the concept disreputable or indefensible if you don't like his particular formulation of the matter.

Anyway, why is knowing about what came before you "rear-gardism?" Can there not be liberation in what we learn of the past, ours and others'? Education is meaningless without action and forward thinking, but it is not doomed by its failures.

Another way of seeing this: “The main purpose of reading imaginative literature,” as Empson put it, “is to grasp a wide variety of experience, imagining people with codes and customs very unlike our own.”

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