how to reject unfamiliar literature
AfsnitP.dk has published an interesting discussion by Anna Hallberg (in Danish) of the visual poem Al-Jazeera by Lars Mikael Raattamaa (a facsimile of the first page is to the left; bigger images are in Hallberg’s article). Hallberg’s greater aim is to find a new, more independent literary criticism, but in her exploration of this, she also discusses the resistance of critics to such a text as Raattamaa’s. She discusses specific ways in which critics have rejected this piece, among them these:
- It’s simply trying to provoke the reader, it’s nonsense, the reader is well-schooled and sees through this lack of meaning.
- It’s not literature. It may be charming and original, but the only way it is interesting in literary terms is as a demonstration of the limits of literature.
- Fear is a third response. The reader is frightened by the text, which baffles the reader and makes the reader feel stupid, and causes her/him to long instead for a cup of tea and a good book.
- The text lacks a clear voice, it lacks basic literary qualities. It shouldn’t pretend to be high literature, it should declare its status as part of some obscure little “ism”.
There’s a lot more in this article, but I’m hungry and will have to return to it later…. Let me simply note that these rejection strategies are often used about electronic literature too. And that I really don’t know how to read a poem like Al Jazeera – but I would love to find out. I wonder which category of reader that puts me in?