The Theory Toolbox presented an intriguing concept. The “self” and the “subject” do not coexist. At first glance, it would have seemed appropriate to recognize the two as one; however, the discussion in class opened another door. The “self” truly illuminates how important uniqueness is, at least to our culture. I mean really, could you not imagine being you had you been born at a different time? I like to think of myself as having traits that are specifically reflective of me. The Theory Toolbox states “we tend to understand the ‘self’ as an inwardly generated phenomenon, a notion of personhood based on the particular qualities that make us who we are” (37). The “self” is primary whereas the “subject” is secondary. The “subject” responds to something while instead the “self” defines. Looking into one of the working questions posed by the chapter about how advertising interacts with “self” and “subject” triggered some mixed emotions. You of course can argue in opposition which would be typical, but here is another take on the situation. I think that advertising is striving to be the “self”. It doesn’t truly control, but it is playing upon what the individual specifically is interested in or is. So really advertising is subjected to the “selves” of the world because it is trying to convey something that people all innately may have. Advertising is the one who is trying to intrigue the individual, and therefore is the one who is subjected.
Our conversation today based on Bresslers “Defining Criticism, Theory, and Literature” got me thinking about modern days vast media, and how the meaning of literature has no doubt shifted greatly from what critics initially proposed as guidelines in the 1800’s. Bressler’s section on Defining Literature put forward several possibilities for the definition of literature, but overall, also left a lot of questions, room for negotiation, and general ambiguity.
I took the liberty of putting forth a few examples of what I consider, walking the modern-day line between art, literature, media and advertising. The truth is, as we progress as a society the meanings of all of these have fused. An advertisements success in targeting the educated literate class may rely on its ability to mimic established literary ideas, and thereby be accepted as more reliable. This is evident even in such minor things as the formatting of letters on commercials or billboards—if it is advertising something that is supposed to be serious, reliable, or have integrity, such as a law firm or an insurance company, you can bet they are using classic fonts—Times New Roman, Arial, Old Courier. This isn’t accidental. We ascribe certain moral values to these types of fonts, we are reminded of sturdy, classic novels, just like we subtlety ascribe values to writing styles. In this way, the question of ‘what is literature?’ is being compounded. Literature is everywhere something disguised as something else.
For example, I today I was reminded of something I think of often when I shop online at Anthropologie (hold on a second, don’t let me lose you on the way to this point, it’s valid, I swear.) Every time I look at an item its accompanied by a very catchy, enticingly well-worded description of the apparel that borders on poetry. There is no doubt that Anthropologie hires advertisers, or quite likely creative writers, to compose these vignettes for each article they put out. Besides wondering “how the hell does someone get that job?” I also found myself wondering: “could this be considered modern-day literature?”
Here are some amusing examples:
“With the help of a little magic, it seems, Leifsdottir has swirled a thousand colors into their chiffon-paneled silk charmeuse dress.”
“Slick, wine-hued patent pours over the platform, chunky heel and stylized origami bow of these embossed suede peep-toes, creating a heady contrast of textures.”
“These season-spanning slip-ons combine the sun-yellow hue of summer with the tassels and kilty fringe of autumn-evoking loafers.”
“Layered and lined with layers of lines, this silver-flecked dress is an achromatic success.”
You might think that this is clearly an instance of advertising, definitely NOT literature, but it more than plays with very much established literary tools. There is alliteration and imagery, even rhyme, characterization, and a conscientiousness of language. What if each of these descriptions was teased out into a short characterization? Each object featured as a small story, to further enhance the perception of ‘uniqueness’ and evoke desired associations?
What about blogs? They are becoming a definite source of employment for creative writing graduates. These days companies, stores, schools, and individuals are all looking to get in on the social mass media frenzy. Here is a blog of one of my friends who graduated from CofC, and who writes amusing daily anecdotes tinged with societal commentary, humor, and occasionally the profound poem. (She would probably kill me if she knew I was posting this, but its public domain : – ) http://sofiewrites.com/blog/
What about the transcript of Obama’s presidential inauguration speech, which was no doubt, VERY carefully crafted and composed?
And lastly, (in this authors opinion perhaps the farthest stretch for the application of the title Literature) what about the Twilight book series? Have you ever tried to read one of those things? Tell me the Anthropologie clothing descriptions are not better written than those. I mean where are the guidelines for this stuff, or is it just all one indecipherable mess of media, advertising, commercialism, and writing? Dare we refer to these things as ‘literature?’