I had a discussion with a friend that spurred this. The word literally has evolved to the point where its secondary meaning also incorporates hyperbole. My friend was upset. He critiqued that words and language shouldn’t evolve based on the “ignorant” public’s interpretation or usage. I argued that this was how language evolves. The word artificial connotatively means fake; its original meaning is more along the lines of skillfully crafted.
Who is right and who is wrong? The pubic? Or the “linguists?”
The same can be said about literature. Every literature course that I have ever taken focuses solely on the works that are literary in nature. Yet, many novels and works that were popular in their time are often passed over. Popularity, believe it or not, is a great determiner of the time period in which the work heavily circulated. Justin Bieber’s music or Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight are considered terrible by a lot of critiques; however, they are hugely successful. It can only be guessed that hundreds of years from now a book that is literary in nature might be passed on or forgotten in lieu of something along the lines of Twilight. That this type of story will be used in classrooms to heavily gather a sense of the current culture.
It’s with this mindset that She is a fantastic reprieve from the Frankenstein’s and Romeo and Juliet’s. The text itself is fast paced. It’s out there. It’s not afraid to mix adventure, supernatural elements, dynamic characters, and a heavily plot-based story. The hyper-sexualized women that are shown underneath the reign of She-who-must-be-obeyed is more relatable to causal readers of today’s world rather than the philosophical musings of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. There is a saying in the writer world that sex and violence sells. The truth is that conflict sells. Violence and sex are simply the easiest way to show conflict, and sometimes to the normal public that is the only way to grab the reader’s attention.
It is things like these that demonstrate the Victorian Era. For a time period that is self conscious and highly nationalistic, it’s no surprise that this overdramatic tale would appeal to the masses. Instead of settling with the title of transition period – a period of relative stability, a period of routine life – authors created fantastical stories about cutting deep into the heart of the unknown.
Popular stories tell the better story about the time period. They capture that essence better than anything else. And it’s on that note that I switch tracks to talk about how author is just as important as the basis of a text.