So, I can’t honestly say I’m new to blogging (although I definitely hate the term “blogging,” or “blogger,” for that matter – don’t ask why). However, I am “new” to actually using a blog as my own personal platform to, simply, write what I want. Divulge tidbits of information about myself to the many, or few, that choose to read. Divest myself of some of my innermost thoughts, hopes, and dreams. Well, maybe I won’t be going that far, but, coming from an English-major background, writing has always been an outlet through which I can fully and most accurately express myself. I can honestly say that I miss writing about the literature we read in some of my classes; I could only hope to capture my own society and express my views and beliefs in the ways that revolutionary writers such as Alexander Pope and Charles Dickens did, through so many of their works.
Though I probably wouldn’t be as critical or judgmental as Pope was regarding what constitutes proper literature and writing style and who upholds this “proper” style and who doesn’t (“The Dunciad” exemplary of Pope’s acerbic wit), I do believe that he, above many, had the license to be critical – simply based on his undeniable talent, which he somewhat sententiously displayed. And those that have the fortitude and confidence to shed light on societal indiscretion or their own personal beliefs, in an intelligent and tactful manner, should be lauded. Without the temerity and rawness of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or the morose lamentations of Oliver Goldsmith’s “The Deserted Village,” the allegory that is William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” or Elizabeth Gaskell’s illumination of the Industrial-era crisis of faith in North and South – I don’t know, I feel as though I’d be lost; I would have no sense of direction, no sense of where I came from or where and how I should direct myself going forward. People like me need those honest interpretations, those candid opinions deeply (or, sometimes, not so deeply) shrouded in an amalgam of similes, extended metaphors, and the many other literary techniques and allusions only the best know how to use appropriately to their advantage. As a writer, I need inspirations (plus, some of these works actually tell us something about history). And, sifting through the lines and pages to uncover the thesis really hones my own skills, enables me to grow and develop new skills.
So, it isn’t just a matter of style or the techniques one chooses to employ, but rather the content, its purpose, and the writer’s intention. Pope criticized many writers for their “lack” of style, their inane “ramblings,” but he also criticized them for their revolutionary ideas and their bravery to break the norm (but of course, he didn’t see this as revolutionary or brave). Haywood serves as a memorable example, as I wrote a mid-term paper on Pope’s criticism of her gender-norm/societal-norm-breaking “Fantomina.” I won’t bore you with the specifics, but, essentially, Haywood portrayed a woman in a way that was unheard of during that time, as the character, in a sense, acted like, well, a man, and her persona (or multiple personas, if you know the story) was entirely opposite to what the gender norm for women was back then. So, you can see why Pope, a staunch advocate of upholding the “norm,” would be averse to Haywood’s musings. But, hearkening back to what I was saying much earlier – before I digressed – I completely admire the way that all of these writers, including Pope, and the many others whose works I’ve read have utilized their knowledge and talents and combined everything they know and believe to create the work of art that is the novel. They know just what to say and just how to say it, in most cases. They use guile and wit and a host of clever tactics to conceal the actual meat and grit underneath the story, the facade, if you will, to “say it” without actually “saying it.” They take the facts and put them on display, while not literally putting them on display – the facts are there, you just have to know where, and how, to look.
This is something worth admiring. They really know how to use language in all of its fluidity.
I had a professor who used to say that she didn’t necessarily like the phrase “reading between the lines,” and although I agree that it’s a bit simplistic, it does capture, in a nutshell, what we did as English majors, at least to some degree and in some situations. Trust me, “reading between the lines” is not all we did. Placing the story within a larger context and deriving further meaning from it through that paradigm is a tad closer to what our jobs were.
All of that said, this is where I feel that Pope went wrong: Diversity of opinion and perception shapes our world, whether we are keenly aware of this or not. It did so then (though these “breaking the norms” were desperately curbed), and it does so now – and it will continue to do so. And, most importantly, diversity of opinion changes the world. That’s what’s so powerful about literature; a single book, poem, stanza, paragraph, what-have-you, can change a reader’s mind or alter his or her perception in an instant. Or, at the very least, cause him or her to ruminate on something he or she has never thought of before, or knew how to put into words. This small spark can incite a riot. Induce change. For this reason, writers are amazing, and they do just that – put into words what others cannot find words for and, thus, plant the seed of change. And I am in love with every writer for that.
Pope, apparently, did not like change. But, look what happened? Society has changed. It’s unrelenting. You can’t stop progression.
Maybe I’m being a little hard on Pope. Honestly, my literary mind is a little rusty, and I didn’t really read that many of his works to know about every single one of his beliefs. But I read enough.
I, for one, believe writing should be used for good. For changing and shaping the world, for uncovering secrets and illuminating injustices. For shedding light on cultures we know little about and customs and rituals we’ve never heard of. Though I love literature, I think my main passion is travel. Combining writing and travel is a dream of mine, and if I could achieve the goal of writing about beautiful, scary, familiar, unfamiliar, exciting, awe-inspiring places, then I will have won the lottery. Travel writing, I believe, is extremely valuable, as it gives readers a taste of culture, insight into rituals that differ from their own, and a reminder that the world extends beyond their front porch, or stoop, or steps. I’m not sure what Pope’s views would have been on travel writing (I guess he would have been cool with it so long as it adhered to societal norms…?), but just as the writers I have mentioned, and many others, had illuminated various aspects (mostly negative) of their society, travel writers do just the same, except they shed light on societies other than the ones we are used to; they illuminate the rituals and changes in places some of us could only dream of. They underscore the challenges that others outside of our borders are facing, and of course, those inside our borders, as well. Sometimes I feel as though I glorify travel writing, as I know sometimes it isn’t as glamorous as it may appear, but it is something I yearn to accomplish one day and, I guess, find out for myself.
I guess, all in all, what I am trying to say is, going forward (should you choose to read further, had this post not tired you out), travel and literature, collectively, is a great premise for a blog, mine specifically. There is so much room for reflection and differing opinions; I want to write about these topics, of course, because they are things I’m passionate about, but also because, as I’ve stated, I feel they are important. I’m sure there are many, many other similar blogs out there, but I shall be joining the sector. I’m not even going to attempt to describe specifically what I plan on posting because, who knows…I’ll probably end up posting about food also (let’s be real, food is everything). But, mainly, literature and travel are the primary focus (food can totally fit into the travel category).
So, my writing will be used for good.
I wonder if Pope would have approved of my writing…eh, probably not…