That is soooo 489 years ago.

Ah, the digital age. I have almost every conceivable medium of entertainment available from the comfort of my laptop. I could download a 70-hour long RPG, if I choose. A movie, maybe? Weeks worth of music might suit my mood, instead. And, of course, I could also read a book online, provided that it’s been uploaded. An IT professional like Prof. Hall is, of course, familiar with this flexibility of engaging media. So, then, what value could the most antiquated of all these experiences possibly hold? In a time when we are greeted by immediacy in the form of audiovisual engagement, can a poem over 450 years old still enrapture us as it did audiences of the Renaissance period? Spenser’s The Faerie Queene provides a strong case for the affirmative.

The Faerie Queene is a tough read, make no mistake. However, this primarily arises from the nonstandardized spelling of Spenser’s time which can easily throw off modern readers. But, if a reader delves deep enough into the work, they will find that it contains infinitely more meaning and significance than even the most complex games and movies. Allegories abound, and the poem overflows with symbolism. Whereas a movie or video game can be breezed through without interruption, a reader quickly glancing over a stanza of The Faerie Queene could easily lose every bit of meaning jam-packed in that passage. References to the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, and other classic works would be marred by a patience-desensitized mindset.

Of course, this last bit more or less summarizes the underlying cause behind the relative unpopularity of literature in modern culture. While the newer forms of media require less effort to fully understand, classic literature still remains open to interpretation. Simply put, many people (IT professionals included) have been, in a sense, pampered by the relative “easiness” of movies, video games, and music. Of course, Professor Hall is on the more intelligent end of this spectrum; he is not a good case study for the average IT professional. I personally have known many IT workers (as I have, in fact, almost worked in an IT department myself as a part-time job), and I can tell you that many of them far prefer a great game to The Great Gatsby. This obviously does not mean that tech-savvy people are not as intelligent as literature junkies; it merely comes down to a learned preference.

In The Faerie Queene, Professor Hall will find a much less immediately accessible experience than that of, say, Lord of the Rings Online. However, coming from someone with the same basic preference of media, I believe that there is just as much, if not more, value in this excellent work of classic literature. While it may require more effort to properly interpret than modern culture has taught us to use on almost anything (we live in an age of convenience and instant gratification, directly brought about by technology), there is easily much more to be gained from it than most other forms of media. The journey is arduous, but the destination is a treasure trove of depth and meaning.

-Billy Bunce

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~ by togedude on November 5, 2009.

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