At present, we have thing thing called “literary taste”. It revolves around two descriptions: Good taste and Bad taste. The first part of the essay revolves around its origin.
BALTAZAR GRACIAN is a Spanish dude who made the term “hombre de buen gusto” popular. It was during the 17th century and it only actually meant tactful person.
JEAN DE LA BRUYERE is a French version of Baltazar Gracian who adapted the “hombre de buen gusto” term and turned it into a loose term for good taste and bad taste. About a century after, it became popular throughout Europe.
SPECTATOR is what you call yourself when you stare at some chick’s boobs for 10 minutes. But for ADDISON, Spectator is a magazine and it published one of his essays. Here, he defined literary taste as “what is fundamentally excellent in literature.” which is true and shit, yeah, but in ANOTHER essay, he described it as “a faculty which discerns the beauties of literature with pleasure and its imperfections with dislike.” According to COLERIDGE these two definitions make what we call “literary taste” a RATIONAL ACTIVITY yet a DISTINCTIVELY SUBJECTIVE BIAS.
Now what do those all mean? Basically, it means that Literary Taste is somewhat intellectual. There are standards for it BUUUUT at the same time, people have DIFFERENT standards. Therefore, Literary Taste can also be biased. This is why the term Literary Criticism is introduced. Okay so there was a long explanation for this but I’ll just cut the crap and tell you that Literary Criticism is just judging the mechanics of the literary piece. As in you look at it technically. Is the grammar correct? How about the sentence structure? The flow of the message? Literary Criticism is judging a literary piece based on UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED STANDARDS. Meanwhile, Literary Taste is personal. It’s what YOU like. Even if the grammar is shit and it has virtually no plot, it doesn’t fucking matter cause it’s what YOU like. It’s YOUR taste. It may be horrible for me and 6 billion other people but it’s good for YOU and that’s what makes it different from literary criticism.
But then. How will people look at you if you outwardly claim to love shitty literature? Obviously they’ll think you have shitty taste. And that’s not gonna work. WHICH IS WHY there is such a thing as educating the literary taste (as in the title of this essay lolz).
According to Paz Latorena, people can’t survive having this shit kind of taste because their LITERARY VALUES (this shall be further discussed later) will be at risk. If people grow up loving shitty literature, they won’t develop these certain values in them that’ll be able to separate brilliance from stupidity and right from wrong. Yeah it’s kind of exaggerated but it’s right, if you think about it.
Now for SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS and yes the “sir” was included, taste can be taught. So if you like shit, then there’s still hope for you. So, one way of learning literary taste is by going to school (ew). But then again, some teachers themselves have shit taste (admit it) which is why we have certain literary ideals. There are basically literary standards when it comes to teaching.
NUMBER ONE: INTELLECTUAL VALUE
No this isn’t really that similar to Literature of Knowledge from my previous post. Literature of Power must also exhibit intellectual value. But first off, what is it? Well it’s pretty obvious. This just means literature should make sense. It should make the reader THINK. So if you read something and you understand it immediately, and you don’t go like, “but what if” or “so that’s why ____ is like _____” or “but how is that connected to” or “that’s kind of like what happened when ______” then chances are, what you read has no intellectual value. See it doesn’t mean you have to learn something profound like the fact that weather control is possible (which is true). It just has to make you think or expand your mind. The piece has to have some truthful and relevant content. Shit like music and arts and dance and painting, even though they focus more on reaching out to you emotionally, they still have a point or message to convey, which is why they have intellectual value.
NUMBER TWO: EMOTIONAL VALUE
As stated, this value focuses on the emotionality (that’s not actually a word lol) of the piece. Cause when you read something, you won’t get satisfied with just your brain stimulated. The piece needs to reach out to your heart, also (naks). If you think about it, when you’re an amateur writer and you want to write a poem or essay about something that happened with your life, even if you suck balls at writing, your aim is still to arouse at least SOME emotion in the reader. That’s because we humans are emotional beings. We LIKE having #hugot moments. It’s our thing. But then Paz Latorena goes on and cuts emotional value to two.
(these can also be called moods)
If you notice, most of the poems or books or stories we love reading are the #dartsaheart ones. Why? Because it’s what reaches out to us the most. When we’re happy and then read a happy quote, we’re like “gaaaah i love this day omg :) :) :) :)” But when we’re sad or sawi and then Sir Ferdie makes us read a depressing poem, we’re like “PUTANGINA SHET AYOKO NA MABUHAY” yet we still keep reading. Why? Because the emotions reach out to us. It’s easy to get happier when you’re already happy, but it’s difficult to get happier when you’re in a depressing mood. That’s why we need literature. It helps us in deeper ways. It doesn’t just teach us and expand our minds, it helps us live and cope and understand ourselves. Thus, the emotional value of literature is just as important as its intellectual value.
NUMBER THREE: ETHICAL VALUE
This one is mostly just on morals but considered the MOST IMPORTANT value. It talks about stuff like how we’re rational human beings and not animals etc etc so we have to be moral and our literature must be fundamentally good blah blah shit BUT WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
Okay basically literature should have values. It should be focused on morality. Literature that tells you from start to finish “KILL EVERYONE AROUND YOU, COMMIT GENOCIDE THEN KILL YOURSELF” is not very good literature. But we have some successful books about immoral topics. This is only because these books are not immoral all throughout. In the end, you’re always taught a lesson and the lesson is always value-oriented. Shit like the Three Little Pigs? Yeah in the original story the two pigs got eaten and that’s not really something you wanna tell kids but in the end the third piggy OUTSMARTED the fox or wolf or whatever it was. That piggy didn’t duel with the fox/wolf with a lightsaber and chop off its paw. The piggy just used his brain. That’s why it’s not really an immoral story despite two innocent pigs dying.
See, Latorena’s definition of an immoral book is something evil for its own sake. The purpose is to promote evil because it’s evil. THE THREE LITTLE PIGS DOESN’T PROMOTE EVIL (just saying)
To conclude, literature ain’t supposed to be like that, immoral and shit. It should only involve evil in the plot to emphasize the GOODNESS in the end. It should appeal to us in a HOPEFUL way and not depress us or encourage us to commit crimes or evil acts. God damn it we have a conscience. And literature should always always help strengthen that.
Educating the Literary Taste
PAZ LATORENA (19 January 1908 = 19 October 1953) Born in Boac, Marinduque, Philippines in 1907, Paz Latorena was one of the accomplished female writers in English during the pre-war era. She spent her first three years of college at the University of the Philippines but transferred her senior year to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) where she completed an education degree in 1930. She continued her graduate studies thereafter, and was subsequently invited to teach at UST upon completion of a doctoral dissertation that received high honors/ Before her recognition as a short story writer, she had a writing stint at Philippines Herald upon the invitation of her mentor, Paz Marquez Benitez. She became a popular short story writer whose works steadily gained recognition over the years. In 2000, UST published her only collection of short fiction, Desired and Other Stories. This publication came 47 years after she died. Her most popular story “A Small Key” was deemed third best by a renowned poet and critic Jose Garcia Villa in his famous rankings.
It was a Spanish thinker and moralist, Baltazar Gracian, who first used and popularized the term, hombre de buen gusto, during the seventeenth century, although by it, he simply meant a tactful person. The adoption of the term in the aesthetic field took place in France, according to literary history, and La Biuyere affirms that during his time discussions centered on good taste and bad taste until the term grew into wide use, and, by the beginning of the following century had established itself in Europe.
Certainly Addison, in one of his essays published in the Spectator, defined literary taste as the discernment and appreciation of that which is fundamentally excellent in literature in another essay, he defined it as a faculty which discerns the beauties of literature with pleasure and its imperfections with dislike. These two definitions, according to Coleridge, make of literary taste a rational activity but with a distinctively subjective bias.
It remained for Ruskin, however to make the distinction, between literary raste and literary criticism with which it is being continuously confounded. He said that literary criticism is a formal action of the intellect, a deliberate search for perfections and imperfections by the application of universally accepted standards to a literary composition; on the other hand, taste is the instant, almost instinctive preferring of one literature to another, apparently for no other reason except that the first is more proper to human nature. To have literary taste, therefore, from the foregoing definition and distinctions, is to have a feeling and an inclination for what is fine and beautiful in literature, to savor and to appreciate it, and to dislike and reject what is vulgar and tawdry in it.
There comes a time in the life of every man when he discovers for himself or is led to discover the wide and varied world of literature, a world ass wide and varied as the life from which it draws its sustenance. It is a world of prose and poetry in which the interplay of human passions, the greatness and the misery of man, his heroism and his wickedness, his strength and his weakness, are portrayed with relentless analysis by those whose minds have probed human life to its deepest and most hidden springs of action. When he finds himself in that world, and eventually he will, man will stand in need of good literary taste. For unless he knows how to discriminate, how to separate truth from falsehood, good from bad, the specious from the true, the meretricious from the sincere; unless he knows how not to take the truth of the portrayal for the truth of the thing portrayed, unless he is convinced that aptness of expression and brilliance of diction do not turn falsehood into truth, his sense of literary values runs the risk of being falsified.
Fortunately, according to Sir Joshua Reynolds, taste can be taught. It can be acquired by determined intercourse with good models. And it is one of the more important functions of educations; that is, to train the student, the seeker of light, to distinguish between pleasures that are becoming to a man and pleasures that are unbecoming to him, to find delight in what ought to delight him, and to feel repulsion for what ought to repel him, especially in the field of literature.
The popularity of literature courses in high school and college augurs well for the development of a sound, wholesome, literary taste. A great deal of the works and the responsibility falls on the teacher whose attitude towards the teaching of literature should be, that the interpretation and the appreciation of the individual authors and their works are important nor so much in themselves, but as means to the refinement of a taste that will make of literature, when school days are over, a source of pure pleasure and spiritual adventure for the student.
What literary ideals, then, should the teacher emphasize? What literary standards should guide him in the selection of the literature, intercourse with which would develop good literary taste? In other words, what literary values make the literature that can serve that end?
First, there is the intellectual value of literature. By intellectual value we mean something in a literary composition which makes the reader think to some purpose so that his mental life is enriched and enlarged as a result.
The other arts do not place great emphasis on intellectual value, Music, painting, sculpture, the dance — all these appeal primarily through the sense and they convey beauty through ear and eye. The sound and sight in themselves enrich the senses. Yet all arts have some intellectual appeal. How much more must literature, appealing through the physical or the mind’s eye to the mind itself and setting up a train of ideas, consider intellectual content important?
This does not mean, however, that all literature must present a profound truth, solve a pressing intellectual problem, make its readers think a long and deeply. In intellectual value, as in other matters, there are degrees. We would be very reluctant to condemn a charming romance by Stevenson, a sparkling comedy of the Quinter brothers, the delightful society versus of the French, even the glamorous poetry of Swinburne from all of which we have had so much and so many kinds of pleasure even though the intellectual value be slight.
But all great literature, that of universal and enduring appeal, will, upon close scrutiny, be found to contain a high degree of intellectual value. No play of Shakespeare or Calderon de la Barca, no perm of Dante or Milton, no novel of Tolstol or Hardy is without the quality that appeals to the human mind and enlarges it.
And the high quality that appeals to the human mind and enlarges it is truth; better still the truth as presented by literature. Not the truth that is mere information or that is factual, but the truth that imagination and art transmute from merely dry bines put together into breath and life. Not the truth supplied by romanticism alone, or realism, or idealism or naturalism, but a truth that does not depend on such methods but on something more fundamental. The romantic may be as true as the realistic; the idealist may look at life as truly as naturalist. The point is that human life and human experience which is the stuff of literature os a complex thing; It is neither wholly material nor wholly spiritual; it is neither completely ascribed by the details of physical existence nor entirely given to dream. It is compounded experience, invariably the more sordid side – and this is our first brief against much of the literature of our own days – contains only part of the truth and falsifies values.
From literature sans intellectual value, and therefore not literature at all, from literature that contains half-truths and falsified human values, from literature that leaves the reader unsatisfied, food taste should be trained to shrink from.
Second, there is the emotional value of literature which is as significant as its intellectual value. An appeal to the emotions is the distinguishing mark of any literature worth its name. And even the dullness of novels, the flattest of dramatic failures, the worst poem show an endeavour to express and to arouse emotion.
For purposed of literature, the term “emotion” may be made largely inclusive. Under the shadows of the two main classes, pleasant and unpleasant emotions, there walk many experiences that we commonly call moods, feelings, attitudes.
Strangely enough, the so-called pleasant emotions have had very little appeal for writers. Fried, pathos, fear,, even horror have stirred the creative faculty more than happiness and serenity, from Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound to Sheriff’s Journey’s End. And the obvious explanation is that life is more of the material of tragedy and of pathos and thr writer takes what gives him most and uses it.
However, literature proves that it can take the unpleasant and the painful from life and so represent them that pleasure and not pain is the resulting emotion of the reader, Otherwise tragedy would repel and not attract. But in art, literature in particular, there is always, associated with the painful, even with the horrible, something which arouses desirable emotions. The desirable element may be closesly associated with the painful stimulus itself or it may be in the effect which the painful stimulus have upon the reader. The figure of a weak man might be contemptible, but in arouses pity. An act of cruelty and injustice may give painful emotions to the reader and at the same time stir moral indignation which in itself is healthy, the war poems of Siegfried Sasson would be almost unbearable because of the horrors they depict were it not for the suggestions of heroism and sacrifice and for the hope they carry, the eventual abolition of war. Here are emotions growing out of and involved with out contempt but they satisfy, enlarge, and ennoble. So in larger scenes of horror, tragedy or pathos, our pleasure in the nobility that withstands pain and evil, our sympathy with suffering lift us out of the realm of the merely unpleasant or painful. Thus almost any emotion may be represent in art, no matter how painful, no matter how unpleasant, if the imagination of the writer finds it in meanings and associations that arouse wholesome and pleasurable feelings.
The statement that literature should appeal to the noble and higher emotions invariably brings forth the question of what the nobles and higher emotions are. To which the answer is that they are those emotions and feelings and attitudes which are ours because we are human beings and not animals, those emotion which control our conduct as moral beings, those emotions that move us to right and happy living. And those are the emotions which a good literary taste instinctively looks for in literature and without which literature would have very little account for its being.
Third, there is the ethical value of literature which has more frequently been a storm center than either of the other content values. Emphasis on the ethical significance of literature has been derided as frequently as it has been demanded. Art of art’s sake has been a cry raised on and off, especially in modern times, but it has been countered by the works of great didactic writers, from Plato to Tolstol.
It is not for us here to take sides as to which the correct concept of the end of literature is, didactic, that is for instruction as Plato says, or aesthetic, that is for pleasure Aristotle holds. We have always favoured Horace who believes in literature that both teaches and delights. But this we know, that literature that is immoral does not and cannot delight man, much less instruct him.
Judgement as to what constitutes immorality in literature varies greatly. Let us, for one, consider the morality of expression. There are those who believe that frankness of speech does not consulate immorality. In fact, they hold, it is healthier to speak frankly of the normal facts of life than to veil in imperfectly, even maliciously. The use of concealing phrases which probably deceive nobody is often far more suggestive, far more over stimulating to the imagination that modern frankness.
We believe that there is a grain of truth in that contention. However, when language goes beyond the normal express of abnormality, and so gives the reader unhealthy information and stimulates the morbid imagination, then it is immoral. Its aim becomes not that expressing of truth but obscenity. The conclusion of this matter of morality or immorality in expression is that it is not so much a question of the words that are used as the purposes for which they are used.
Which brings us to the consideration of the morality of the theme. There are those who hold that a literary composition, the theme of which is immorality is not necessarily immoral. The history of literature, they contend, shows that there are a few books that deals with vice and crime of some sort. Were we therefore reject as immoral all the literature dealing with vice and crime we would have to banish creative writing as a whole. The Illiad, Oedipus Tyrannus, Macbeth, Faust are not immoral books.
That we admit. But there are books that deal with similar themes and are definitely immoral. What makes the difference?
Obviously, the answer lies in the purpose and aim of the writer and in his emphasis. If the aim of the writer is to focus this attention of the readers upon evil for evil’s own sake, his purpose is degrading; consequently his book is immoral.
The realist will say that the writer portraying life should present vice as attractive. True. But the attractiveness of vice is not the whole truth about it. Great writers have presented vice as attractive but they have also presented the ashes into which that attractiveness turns, if we yield to its lure. That is representing the whole of life, which usually includes reaction, and later, retribution.
An appeal to facts shows that all supreme literatures have a positive ethical value. Creative writing, emanating from and dealing with man’s experience, must have some reference to his conduct. And since we are men and not animals, since we are moral beings with a conscience, good literary taste demands that in all literature there should be found a positive influence that will bring us higher values, both as individuals and as members of a social order.
There are witnesses in the world today a cult of the formless and the ugly in the various arts of human life, but in manifests itself more strongly and shamelessly in literature, particularly in the novel and the drama. And as for the motion picture, it fairly reeks with it. The effect on society and individual is distressing.
I conclude, education must erect barriers against rampant vulgarity. And good taste is not only a barrier but a means of devulgarization; a taste that is attuned to the fine and beautiful, a taste out of sympathy with the false and the ignoble, a taste that would be one of the instruments for richer living.