Sunday, November 13, 2011

Richards on popular culture

Researching attitudes to pop culture before the 1960s I came across this comment by I.A. Richards*
With the increase of population the problem presented by the gulf between what is preferred by the majority and what is accepted as excellent by the most qualified opinion has become infinitely more serious and appears likely to become threatening in the near future. For many reasons standards are much more in need of defence than they used to be.  It is perhaps premature to envisage a collapse of values, a transvaluation by which popular taste replaces trained discrimination. Yet commercialism has done stranger things: we have not yet fathomed the more sinister potentialities of the cinema and the loud-speaker, and there is some evidence uncertain and slight no doubt, that such things as 'best sellers' (compare Tarzan with She), magazine verses, mantelpiece pottery, Academy picture, Music Hall songs, County Council buildings, War Memorials ... are decreasing in merit.  Notable exceptions, in which the multitude are better advised than the experts, of course occur sometimes, but not often.
Note that the Wikipedia article on Richards provides more evidence for my theory that most of Wikipedia was written by 2007, and that it was written my a small number of people more in the manner of a conventional encyclopedia than by 'crowdsourcing'. The current article differs little from the version of July 2005 – subsequent changes are mere alterations to format, linking and 'wikifying', and it was entirely written someone editing from this IP address.

*Principles of Literary Criticism, 1924, republished by Routledge Classics 2001, p. 31.

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