in the Age of Media, Computers, and Internet
WRITTEN TEXT AND ELITE LITERARY CULTURE AT THE XXI CENTURY
In the near future we will become witnesses of the easiest access to the written texts of the civilization which the mankind has ever seen. It will become perfectly obvious, that the amount of written texts, produced by the humanity, exceeds infinitely the amount of the texts, which could be read for life. So every educated person will meet the question “what should I read?” On the other side, with the evolution of an over-national educational project in the West will appear the necessity for the establishment of a standard Western Literary Canon.
(When I say “literary canon”, I mean a body of written texts, the knowledge of which will be considered as almost obligatory for every educated person. Evidently, in this corpus will enter a given amount of books, which traditionally are labeled as “philosophical”, “historical” or “rhetorical”, and not only the ones, known as “fiction”).
A glance to the evolution of the Western literary culture for the last 25 centuries will assure us, that the production of written texts, with the well-known decline between the VI-th and the XI-th centuries, steadily grows. But along with that decreases the possibility for the later of them to enter permanently into the body of the traditional literary canon. In other words, if the Western literary culture preserves its identity, which from the time of the Renaissance to the present day is based on the Greco-Roman and the Biblical heritage, the Euro-American literary canon could be seen as nearly completed. Naturally, the whole of the concrete texts which a future humanitarian will consider as worth reading, will vary accordingly with the interests of the time, one’s immediate cultural environment and tradition, one’s mother tongue, the education and the discipline, in which he/she is best qualified. But, given that the unity and the continuity of culture always needs a common body of texts, he will agree, that there is a core of the culture in which one has grown up, and that this core is intimately connected with the uninterrupted and omnipresent literary tradition. There is no doubt, that in the immediate future a great attention will be paid to the computer treatment of these texts and of the special philological tradition, which is developed around them.
On the other hand, the production of written texts will keep increasing, but they will be addressed to the particular national and social spheres, which use them. They will be addressed also to the “common” reader, which will need, as in all times, some ‘fresh” texts, dealing with the actual situation and its notions and symbols.
At the same time the “elite” literary culture will increasingly deny the necessity of knowing “many” and “new” texts. It will pay attention in the first place to the canon, where will enter – as it is now – the oldest classical works of every literary genre. On the contrary, the humanitarians will use more and more the potentialities of the direct communication. This communication will be not necessarily oral: most likely it will use the resources of Internet and so will become more and more written. But this written communication will differ radically from the written communication of other times: it will be not a correspondence, but a conversation.