What’s the fate of literature and books? This is a topic that is being discussed more and more among publishers, educators and editors.
There’s the doomsday line that announces reading as a habit in wane thanks to the proliferation of images, texting and the general coarsening and cheapening of culture. Then there’s the more optimistic statement that says that things have always changed and evolved, and that literature is included in such processes.
But perhaps the truth is that we’re currently somewhere in the middle of these two scenarios. Why? It would be unwise to yield to total pessimism, and state that literature, and the arts in general, are in decline, and there’s nothing that can be done about it it. This position is deterministic and excessively gloomy. Likewise, it’s exceedingly optimistic to argue that “literature will just find a way”.
Action is necessary. It’s important to recognise and respect the pivotal role literature and reading have played in society throughout history, while acknowledging that it must move and evolve to survive. To paraphrase the great Polish philosopher, Leszek Kołakowski: To stay in the same place, one must run very fast.
Oral readings were popular in ancient societies as the writing technology did not exist to put pen to paper. When such a technology did come about, people denounced it, among whom was Plato, who believed that everyones’ memories would worsen as result of printed language.
And today we hear similar hysteria in relation to changing reading habits. We must try to adapt to shifting societal trends, but we must not give in to needless pessimism, nor think that everything will “just work out”. Action alongside larger changes should go hand in hand, working together to ensure that literature, in the future, still plays a central role in our society and culture.
iClassics Productions embraces the idea that the visual arts, technology and literature can join forces to create a new, immersive and engaging genre: Literature 3.0 (Lit3.0).
Stay tuned for further developments.