Snooty Art Majors and Locking Away Arts from the Masses

Recently I attended an awards ceremony for the students majoring in literature at my sister’s college. She won an award for her senior thesis, my parents were quite proud. She and I are the first generation in our family to graduate from college.

Well, the ceremony dragged on and on, and when my parents asked my sister if she wanted to go to the “after event” my sister replied, “I don’t want to watch them sit around, drink tea, stick out their pinky fingers and brag about their interpretation of ‘Ulysses’ and the other big books they’ve read!” So long story short — we all went out and had Mexican food.

I was rather surprised at what she said; it felt like something she’d perhaps held in for a while, wanting to say?

I guess I can see people in the artsy departments of colleges being a little…”snooty?” I didn’t experience much of that in the computer science department when I went to college. I do distinctly recall attending a philosophy lecture and a guy in the back of the room wanted to comment quite frequently, and would preface everything he said with, “I submit to you professor that…” Needless to say that got some giggles and turned some heads.

I think it’s a shame those types exist; they’re very off-putting to other people who may have a genuine interest in the subject at hand, but are intimidated by this sort of person.

I’ve always felt that the arts, literature, philosophy, classical music, all of them have too much “institution” built up around them. It shuts them off from the masses, when it need not.

An example of this in my own life is when I discovered a few years ago that I really enjoyed reading classic novels. Dickens, Flaubert, Dumas, Zola, Elliot, Melville, Dostoevsky, Hardy, Tolstoy. I couldn’t wait to jump into another novel; I found these great novels not only to be profound and life-enhancing, but just downright fun as well.

But I’m convinced that the reason I put off reading such books for so many years was this institution built up around them. People don’t need to pick up on every last nuance within an 800 page book to enjoy it and take something away from it.

The same goes for classical music, which I didn’t grow up around, yet I came to have a love for it as well. I wrote about this extensively in another post.

But I had to find a love for these things all on my own. None if these institutions which wall-in these precious jewels introduced me to them. Much the opposite — they made them seem foreign.

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