Here’s an enthralling debate that my English lit teacher tried to rapacious jostle down our throats today. But what physically repulsed me more than my fellow peers lack of acknowledgement for any spectrum of the English speaking world (as well as their uses’ of poor satirical humour, grammar and spelling-No joke, this one girl who sits behind me asked me how to spell ‘because’; she’d obviously forgotten the elephant rhyme) is that without even a blind thought, every gullible, moronic, rash and senseless buffoon in my class immediately replied with ‘British’ before laughing as if they’d just pulled off an incredible stunt of heroic patriotism.
All except me, I have been branded the ‘awkward’ one (or as I like to call myself: The only logical human being in the entire class who actually perceives sense and understanding within everything I look at) purely because I refuse to partake in any preposterous notions that my class mates all seem fine to join in with.
Somebody across the room from me decided to defend themselves’ and shout at me:
‘What have the Americans got on US!? WE have Shakespeare! Austen, Bronte (x4) Dickens, Shelley, Milne, Tolkien, Joyce, Wilde errmmmmmmmm, ermmmmmmm, Wordsworth…..Orwell! Wait what was Virgina Woolf?’
To which I quite coolly responded:
‘So you and your uneducated, shriveled, illiterate mind are willing to allow this debate to be solved by listing a group of names, as if somehow the power of them juxtaposed alongside each other in a sentence quite poorly strung along by you, and your flagrant mouth, is enough to convince me that British literature is greater than American without the use of evidence or by the means of a vigorous discussion? Plus Virginia Woolf was English.’
Then this certain person just creased his lips at the sides and shook his head, as if I was the one who didn’t comprehend the topic and the subject of patriotism. So at this, before I was about to launch into a fully assembled assault on this petulant fool of a child, our teacher stopped us and told us to mull it over in our own time and then come back prepared next lesson for a ‘light, mellow’ discussion (she said this sentence with my specific interests at heart. I don’t think I’ve been involved in a single debate that didn’t end with the other candidate in tears) So, as I was preparing my notes before partaking in yet another mindless debate, I thought, where else to put my reasoning than here:
Firstly, I like to say that the quality of the written work of an author has nothing to do with the nationality of the author.
I’ve judged each individual novel for the content on which it contains and not on the authors race, sexuality, gender, etc. I have found though, that one divide between the two continents books’ are that American literature is wholly centered around politics, satire and cynicism. Whereas British literature I tend to find (especially in the 1800’s) to be centered around romance and ideals of men, differences in class and manners.
Lots of American novelists tend to write with their ‘head’ and ‘mouth’ whereas British authors write with their ‘heart’ (makes sense to my lit class). I do not see how the two are meant to be compared, how you (referring to my lit professor) expect us to calculate the difference between the two, then undoubtably slander the other countries’ works on how they are no ‘match’ for ours, how they have no ‘vigour’ and ‘valour’ Very well, I will amuse you for a short while.
American literature, in my opinion first came into its driving force with the religious and political influence in the late 1800’s, something Britain had some 400 years earlier and who’s whole status as a ‘great’ nation is built upon the backs of our predecessor’s. With this is in mind and if being superficial, I could easily conclude that Britain has produced the greatest amount of literature that there could be, due to its volumes and the incredulous of worldwide attention it receives. When people tend to look overseas for great literature, they tend turn to Britain before searching elsewhere, Americans especially. Yet, in turn Britain looks to America.
I feel we have to break down the walls of cynicism for our minds to stop being so parochial. We must stop looking at lists of authors names and which texts are easier to study and instead
we should consider the product rather than the conditions of its creation. What would it look like to be not-parochial in a literature? What, we should ask ourselves, would a corpus of writing need to do? It would need to look outwards towards the world. It would need to engage with modernity – not just the political conditions of our age but its technological and linguistic texture; its science and its religion; its mass-media and its consumer culture.
American literature seems to have the upper hand in these aspects, with world trade federations in fire, terrorism and racism lurking upon every street corner and 9/11 attacks. Through this, American authors seem to speak more through political driven campaigns, with (in regards to literature) higher emphasize on the characters and plots. British literature seems to concentrate on wit, and chooses themes, styles and significance over characters and plots.
I can’t simply pick on which literature is supposedly better, you may choose and pick and base your decisions upon nothingness as much as you wish but I simply will not. How is it for a class who make rash decisions based upon the country they’re born into decide how one aspect of literature is greater than another? How one country’s works parallel the greatness of another? I don’t believe even the greatest of philosophers’ can determine this. I’m even half tempted to say American literature just to silence your never-ending turbulence of idiotic and senseless questioning. Alas, I’ll close my speech here, before any more sour and unrelenting words are said about you or this class and before I give you reason to question my conclusion.
If anybody can give me a dignified response as to wish they perceive to be better and that your argument won’t be diminutive please do tell me, as I wish to silence this debate that still enrages within the few cubic centimeters inside my skull.
Some twat in my English class (Hardly even worth a second mention, but I find his remark to comical not to credit)