Last week, I attended a lecture given by a scholar from NYU in which he discussed the so-called Enlightenment Period. His approach to the subject was quite unique: instead of depicting the Enlightenment as a period when many a brilliant human being happened to be alive, he shed light on some of the basic things, such as infrastructure, coffee houses and the mail, which allowed the Enlightenment to happen. This draws striking parallels to the time in which we find ourselves. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in two hundred years, scholarship looks at the co-called oughts in the same light: shall we call it an echo-enlightenment?
Modern mass communication is breaking down barriers at a disarming, sometimes uncomfortable, rate. We regularly chat with people across Town, Province, Country and World, in real time (chat-lines, or, more recently, Skype) free of charge. Cultures, however resilient and isolationist, are blending… cross-cultural sharing is free and easy. Surely greatness will descend upon us… or will it?
I have recently become Blog-Obsessed. I know, I jumped on that train rather late, but I am on it now… sometimes, I even get to wear the Engineers cap! I have even applied to the University of Victoria’s English Department for Graduate studies, in hopes of studying such literatures academically. I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a couple of weeks now. This is what I have come up with so far.
First and foremost, blogs enable folk-writer types, who are generally ignored by publishers and, especially, by the academy (speaking broadly here, I am sure this is changing), to circumvent traditional power structures and to, quite simply, write! This is the best thing since the printing press, as far as I am concerned, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t meet the same fate.
The audience for these blogs is almost limitless. Anyone with a PC and an Internet connection can read and subscribe to such blogs… the world is the bloggers audience. Surprisingly, however, there is a very strong local component to blogging as well. For example, the blog sites I regularly visit are definitively local. Prominent among these is Carey Mercers http://cloudofevil.blogspot.com/2009/05/roughing-it-in-bush.html , which I hope to study, in depth, academically. It is a definitively Canadian, and more specifically, a West Coast, literature: it deserves to take rest, at home in the echoing halls of the English department.
It remains to be seen as to whether or not the English Department will rise to the challenge of not simply casting off people interested in the study of literary blogs to the Communications Department. Let us hope they do.