Friday, August 10, 2007

Weekend Readings

So what are you reading this weekend?

Or whenever your spare time happens to be?

Since summer school let out, I've been on a bit of a bender. Reading for leisure, what a joy! Sigh. And with only three weeks left for me to soak up all that is non-required reading...

Anyway, right now I've just begun reading Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse. I'd previously read Mrs Dalloway, which I enjoyed enough to start picking up her other work. I'm finding that Woolf's writing does this really fine balance of hitting emotional cores within broader social concerns.

However, in doing some light research on Woolf herself (and I emphasise light), I've come across some criticisms that suggest some anti-semitism on her behalf. I thought this odd considering that her husband was Jewish, but I'm still interested in finding out about the validity of this accusation.

Virginia Woolf is an amazing figurehead not just in literature but for feminism, for artists, and for people suffering with mental illness as well. What becomes of her work if it is tinged with a form of racism? I haven't found her novels thus far to be particularly reflective of this alleged attitude but this criticism of hers must still beg the question of how we read or accept one's work, or if we should, when the artist betrays a negative ideology. Do we brush it under the table for all the important things she brought to in the first place? How do we critically engage with an artist's work when certain attitudes come to the table?

Perhaps the first real question I should be asking is if this is even true about Woolf. I only did a flimsy little Wikipedia search; I'm definitely going to be scouring some more trustyworthy and indepth resources.

This reminds me of the whole Roman Polanski debate. He raped a thirteen year old girl and escaped to Europe to avoid jail time. Still making award-winning movies in exile, how does he remain uncriticized? How do the actors and producers that work with him forget about this enough to make with him what are apparently critically acclaimed movies? Why doesn't Polanski own up to his actions and address them? Maybe I could take him more seriously if he had at least faced some serious consequences for his crime. Exile in Europe hardly seems on par with jail time.

People are complex and certainly we cannot expect anyone to be flawless in their thinking and belief systems. But I think it may be a tad flippant to dismiss all such criticisms in this way.

So seriously, how do we critically think about the work that artists (and politicians and anyone else who makes history)offer to the world, when they have shady attitudes and actions lurking in their backgrounds?


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