Storming the Ivory Bastille

by Megan Abbott

Oh, this piece bothers me for so many reasons….

Bad Expectations: Oprah’s Misguided View of Dickens–and Literature as a Whole

I quote, in part:

…the sad truth is that, with no real guidance, readers cannot grow into lovers of the canon. Instead, they can only mimic their high-school selves with calls of, ‘It’s too hard!’ Or, else, they can put aside any notions of reading to become a better reader and instead immerse themselves in the nonsense of ‘discovering their true selves’ in novels.

How dare “the  masses” think they can understand Dickens?

Better we not even try unless supervised, closely, by an appropriately qualified scholar who can ensure we are reading it correctly. For, of course, without a keen scholar leaning over our shoulder, Dickens’s “obscure dialectical styling and his long-lost euphemisms” will surely mystify us, perhaps ensuring we never read again (and certainly not correctly!).

6 Responses to “Storming the Ivory Bastille”

  1. I guess if one hasn’t read Dickens by the time one finishes (if one does) high school, then one is supposed to stick to reading cereal boxes. Grrr…

  2. Oh, this upset me for so many reasons! Another ridiculous thing was that later in the piece, when readers do look for help in understanding some of the 18thc references, they get sneered at again. So I guess those of us not “fortunate” enough to be born to a certain class are shit out of luck when it comes to reading!

    I love that I’m in a business where prominent spokespeople actually discourage people from participating. Go team!

  3. My tactic for avoiding this sort of article is a little thing I like to call “Never reading the New Republic.” “Never reading Slate” produces similar results….what’s hilarious is the high-cult pose from such a middlebrow enterprise. Join me in my avoidance!

  4. Scott, you are on point with my project of reviving the term “middlebrow!”


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