Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fragment 9

I think of Oscar Wilde in America down a mine dressed in velvet and lace lecturing the miners on the Ethics of Art and reading to them from Benvenuto Cellini. This image has many meanings: a) a total commitment to art and aesthetics in the face of working class culture, a refusal to compromise to one’s audience, to sell-out to the masses; b) evidence of the openness of 19C American culture, where anything was possible; c) a fabulous example of a queen’s assertion of his right to be a queen in an overwhelmingly masculine and heterosexual environment, and thus an example of courage; d) an aspect of performance, both in Oscar’s initial lecture to the miners, and his retelling of the story to his London audience.


Eric said...

Johanna's father, a welder, has told how in the far off days of his misspent youth the older workers would speak over their lunchboxes of Strinberg and Sarte. Working class culture was indeed open and responsive to an enormous range of influences. The problem today is not, I think, with working class culture; it is that working class culture is dead, and has been replaced by consumer culture. Listen over the lunchboxes today and hear the workers come and go, speaking of the latest installment of Survivor.

Murr said...

I think you have put your finger on one of the huge differences between the European working class, and the Anglo Saxon working class, perhaps even European and Anglo Saxon attitudes towards culture generally.