Will literary eloquence soon be only a distant memory?

Roaming around campus earlier last week an old friend and I stumbled upon a used book sale occurring on Hayden Lawn.

She, the literature major, went straight for the philosophy and poetry section.

I followed.

Used book sales have always held bittersweet significance to me — on one hand encouraging the passing of literature from one hand to the next, on the other serving as a phlegmatic reminder that the age of the written word is behind us.

The libraries that once served to provide boundless wellsprings of information now sit as silent mausoleums, their book-lined shelves valued for their studious refuge rather than their scriptures.

Glancing half-heartedly through the cardboard bins’ contents my eyes landed upon a large, amber-bound collection of the complete writings of Aristotle for five dollars.

I nudged my friend, who picked up the book and began flipping through its pages.

She laughed. “Heck, even I wouldn’t be caught reading this for recreation.”

Some say the days of high literature are over, that declining book sales met with stagnant publication fees have led publishers to encourage writers to churn out garbage rather than something new and innovative.

And perhaps it is true. Novels such as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” which contains prose of such sophistication that Shakespeare himself would have had to keep an Oxford Dictionary handy, are seldom read by anyone outside of the classroom setting.

Instead Stephenie Meyer adorns our shelves.

It does not take a sociologist to account for America’s decline of scholarly literature.

For, while assuredly not the only suspect, it is clear that technology’s advancement deserves much of the blame.

After all, we live in the Information Age.

We are a generation of the 160-character text message and the 140-character tweet — a generation so beset in its own thirst for compressed knowledge that it invented an abbreviation, “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read), to denote content of an unsatisfactorily excessive textual length.

There is no arguing that this movement towards rapid information absorption has helped us network and explore our world more efficiently than ever, but at what cost?

Waterloo University, an acclaimed higher learning institution in Canada, has found that 30 percent of incoming freshman cannot pass a “simple” English test, according to The Canadian Press, citing cell phone texting and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as the primary cause.

Yet other teachers have chosen to embrace their students’ shift to mini-feed communication, according to PBS.

Some are going as far as teaching SMS text messaging as part of their middle-school language arts curriculum, claiming that it allows students to get their thoughts and ideas down on paper more quickly.

The “Gr8 Deb8” between literary eloquence and efficiency has caused significant contention amidst the teaching community, but it is a struggle that only serves as the swansong for an archaic and dying language of verbose, flowery prose.

Welcm 2 the wrld of 2morro.

Send Hal your abridged thoughts at hscohen@asu.edu


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