7 October 2012
The last few Salons in London and Paris have raised questions around the power of language: how language evokes power, how language may represent the struggle with power (Faulkner’s grappling with the structures—grammar, words—of language as he questions his culture’s systems of power) how language can evoke such responses through the portrayal of horror and violence. These issues are coalescing for me as I prepare the Paradise Lost study starting this week in London. Milton, as the image of literary authority, was also the figure of power resistance in his time: it is his writings that articulated the first (and in England, only) anti-monarchical rebellion resulting in the overturning of divine authority—only to see this reversed in his lifetime.
There are moments when I am reading the news or biking through the city streets when I wonder how relevant the study of literature is in a world facing epic challenges and gross inequalities—not somewhere else, but here, in my neighbourhood in the air I breathe, the water I relish and the education systems shaping our young people. I return again to the relevance of the word—the way that language determines relationships, the way language is employed for power. In our studies—in any engagement with a challenging and significant work of literature, our ability to use language is increased. The analysis and understanding of the characters in the literature increases our ability to be in relationship with others; reveals the limits of our own perception, widens our sense of how one lives in the world. The Salons in their structure also force us each to enter into the minds of other participants: to respond, to disagree with respect, to be inspired by, to learn from their ideas.
The dynamic nature of the Salons means that they are created in response to the needs and desires of participants. I WELCOME any requests, suggestions and feedback.