Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Book Blogging VS Literary Critcism: Why Must They Go to War?

The other day I was trying to Google how Article 13 would affect book bloggers, but I got the number wrong and all the results that came up were about how book blogs were bad for the literary criticism industry. Now, as I'm sure most of you know, I've just recieved the final results of my English Literature and Creative Writing degree. I've read literary criticism, I've technically written it too, and I don't understand how the two could ever be argued to be at odds.

Literary criticism is about analysis. It's about getting digging deep into the text, mining its social and political meaning. It's using sources and responding to and building on the ideas of other critics.

Book blogging can be about analysis, of course it can, but if that makes book bloggers a threat then so are the fan theorists. So are the people who write character meta. So is everyone who's ever had a headcanon derived from something that has happened within a show or book. I'm not putting value judgements on either literary criticism or book blogging here, I'm just saying that I don't see how doing one harms the other. If I can write a theory about what will happen next in a TV show and not be attacking literary critics, then why am I attacking them simply because I wrote a piece of character analysis about a character from a book? I'm not going to say book bloggers never analyse, because it wouldn't be true and it would do all of us a great disservice, but I see book blogging as more about opinion. Don't get me wrong here, literary criticism is about opinion too - not everyone reads Romeo and Juliet and interprets Mercutio as gay or bisexual, for example - but when I blog I don't have to justify why I liked or disliked a book. I can say that Joanne Harris writes the best Loki out there without writing six paragraphs on why Riordan's Loki and Marvel's Loki pale in comparison. 

(And she does. Frequently.)

One thing I can say for certain is that book bloggers, by and large, don't reference each other's opinions every time they write a discussion post. Maybe sometimes, to give credit for an idea, or to quote someone who's already put what they wish to say into words better than they feel they ever could. They write responses too, from time to time, to articles or pieces that have struck a nerve. It's not the same though, because if I want to write a blog post, I don't have to research. All the opinions I need are already in my head, unless I so choose to think otherwise. I don't think I've ever read a piece of literary criticism that didn't reference a book or an article by another critic, because research is mandatory in that field.

Of course, we can't forget that book reviews are a form of literary criticism too. With that said, I think part of the issue could be elitism. After all, when the only book reviews people have access to are written by highly educated people and published in the newspapers it gives them the power to somewhat dictate the trends. If I'm living in the 1930s and I've read a glowing review on Agatha Christie's latest novel, I'm more likely to buy that than a novel by an unknown writer. The fact that anyone can give their opinion with a few clicks on their laptop means that there are more varied voices in the mix. More people having their say. On Goodreads, you can get an overview as to what thousands of readers thought of a novel simply by glancing at a star rating. Book blogging lets anyone regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, class, or education give their opinion. All they have to do is be able to read. I don't know about you, but I don't think that's a bad thing.

Do you think book blogging is in any way a danger to literary criticism?