Why are we literary Anglophiles?


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Why are we literary Anglophiles?

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Abr 6, 2007, 4:38 pm

A thread for true confessions.

Why? I'm not sure how it happened. I suspect I was seduced by the 19th century stuff. All of my ancestors came from the UK hundreds of years ago (and the few that didn't come voluntarily were "conscripted") - is it because somewhere, deep down, I recognize the mother ship? It's not like I have separation issues, I think that tea-dumping and little revolution managed to take care of that...And it's not like there isn't plenty of fine American writing... What would Freud say? (whatever he would say would probably involve sex, tables and tree trunks). Sigh. I suppose I just fell in love. "There was no possibility of talking a walk that day..."

So what's your excuse?

Abr 6, 2007, 4:54 pm

Actually, and I kid you not, the first sentence I ever said was 'read book please'. My brother's, on the other hand, was 'Jennifer did it' :-)
Today I read alot, and he doesn't.

Editado: Abr 6, 2007, 5:40 pm

Sorry, LT has had a gremlin in it this afternoon. I posted a message to someone and it only posted half of one sentence, and I see the topic above is missing the last word.

It should say "Why are we literary Anglophiles?"

ok, I noticed it's missing the word in the thread but it appears ok on the group list. It's been a weird afternoon here on LT...

Editado: Abr 6, 2007, 10:36 pm

Este mensaje fue borrado por su autor.

Abr 7, 2007, 12:38 am

>I completely romanticize their "raj' in Indian and Africa

I'm from India, so I can't help offering a tangential token of social advice here: when in public, try to pick something better to romanticize than regimes known for massacres, brutality and exploitation.

Abr 7, 2007, 1:52 am

No offence intended.

Editado: Abr 7, 2007, 2:39 am

I didn't think you intended to give offense, but that is the nature of such politically sensitive comments - they can offend regardless of intention. I wish you hadn't deleted your comment. What you said was quite understandable, even if an unconscious faux-pas, and there is indeed a great deal of literature by the 'colonizers' which is not only worth reading but which can be, has been and should be loved by people of all backgrounds.

Editado: Abr 7, 2007, 6:51 am

Perhaps I was too hasty in deleting my comment.

I was innocently referring to the cinematic trio of Ishmael Merchant, Ruth Prower Jhabavla and James Ivory who have brought to film with great sensitivity and beauty, the relations between the English and the people of India.

As for Richard Burton, John Speke, David Livingston & Henry Stanley and their travels in Africa, I believe they had the utmost respect for the people of Africa.

Editado: Abr 7, 2007, 4:07 pm

Ah, I can see why you 'romanticize the Raj' then! Whatever their aesthetic qualities, those films indeed offer a very genteel, very tinted picture of colonial life, which was at once much more complex, more brutal in certain quarters, and more refined in others, than what your average novel or big-budget film can come up with. Of course, there is only so much one can do with films in general.

I didn't mean to make this discussion devolve into a thread for apologetics. So, to answer the original question, although almost everything that I read is in English, I didn't actually have much of a fondness for English writers for a long time - I often preferred the Americans (Thoreau, Hemingway, Eliot etc.) to the English. But my time in London, and my fondness for Borges and various European writers, actually turned me back towards certain English writers and aspects of English literature that I'd previously assumed weren't very interesting - a very roundabout but unique way of discovering what is special about your own tongue.

Abr 7, 2007, 4:22 pm

Like avaland, perhaps it's the Anglo-Scot forbears, reasserting themselves. :) Mine came to the U.S. quite early (1650s-70s, to start), but are none the less potent for that.

Also, I find not only specific eras of British history, but continuity and time, themselves, very attractive qualities. American literature has far less to fall back on, and often a very different tone. The range of English tones - the apparent palate - is more appealing to my literary 'ear', varied as it is.

My Anglophile leanings seem to have burgeoned in the last two or three years, beginning with a discovery of 18th century literature, and running further into both the 20th century and up to the Civil War-era past. All I can say is: long may it last!

Abr 7, 2007, 6:11 pm

Unlike most of you, I have no British ancestors. My passion for British - and, subsequently, American - literature began at an early age, when I was exposed (alas, in translation) to the beauty of Dickens' prose. After that, it was just a crescendo, due also to the fact that I chose to study English at the university. To my utter bliss, this passion has never waned, and literature in English is still my favourite.

Abr 8, 2007, 8:43 am

>9 Existanai: For many of us, I suppose, our introduction to India was through the eyes of the British but, for myself, as I have gotten older and become a more globally conscious reader I have sought out other viewpoints. There seems to have been an veritable explosion of post-colonial literature in the last few decades; it's wonderful.

>10 Eurydice: Surely, we are probably related in some distant way! And I agree wholeheartedly with your idea of palate. There have been eras in my reading when I have adored American literature, but for the last two decades my anglo-preferences has been with the UK.

Abr 17, 2007, 8:52 am

Well, I'm Australian. When I was a child this country was still, in our consciousness, part of England. In infants school we learned to sing "God Save the Queen" and "There'll Always Be an England." So, all that was superior was from England and honestly I don't think American authors even had a market out here. (1960s) I do believe, however, that I was introduced to some of the best literature in English and have loved it ever since.

Abr 17, 2007, 3:39 pm

When I think of British Literature I think of two totally disconnected things, but still bound to one another by a long cord.

Imagine, if you will, a high meadow somewhere in the borderlands. Situated in the meadow, at the edge of a wood, a temporary encampment of men, men dressed in short skirts made of red cloth with leather armor protecting head, shoulders and torso. It is early in the morning and the camp is completely enshrouded in fog, only a few are up and about, preparing for the general alarm which will wake the camp in a few minutes. There is an atmosphere of surreal quiet as the dawn is about to break when all at once, from several different places in the wood and the meadow a loud, hideous sound, the skirl of pipes, shatters the peace, and hundreds of men, naked, blue, blood-curdling in both appearance and voice come charging into the camp from the wood creating panic and confusion everywhere.

Now, fast forward a few hundred years to a room in a lodging house, poorly lit, a single occupant humming to himself as, with pen in hand, he sets out to describe in blank verse, the human condition once again.

That's what makes me love British literature.

Sep 30, 2007, 6:13 pm

I think that there is an inate cultural link that we feel and recognize when we read. It is that connectivity that makes me read (and mostly prefer) to read UK literature (and watch UK TV).

Born English and raised by English parents, I connect better with the language, the nuance, the context, the humour, the sarcasm, ....... I don't know if it the same for US readers, Aussie readers, Canadians etc,. with their literature.

Having said that, there are some authors that transcend their cultural roots, and have the true universality - that thing I look for in reading; (connectivity, recognizability, verbal genius, whatever). Therefore, I try to judge a book by its content rather than its origin.

Sep 30, 2007, 10:13 pm

It's the same with me, karenwardill: language, nuance, context, humour, sarcasm, the works. I get it all, with no pause between myself and the story. If I'm reading in translation and the story is also in an unfamiliar cultural context, I might be fascinated but I'm absorbing it differently because I'm also learning the culture as I go along. It's like having an extra step in there, a ruffling of the comfort zone, if that makes any sense. Whereas with English or Scottish lit., it's bred along the bone.

Amandameale, it was the same for us in Canada. Canadian lit has developed its own voice in recent years, as I'm sure Australian lit has as well. But my formative reading years were spent with the glorious writers who came mostly from England and I have loved them ever since.

Oct 4, 2007, 7:33 am

I'm British and grew up listening to my mother's stories about her and her 10 siblings during WWII. For that reason, I'm drawn to books about the homefront during the war - Elizabeth Jane Howard and others. Like bleuroses and her romanticizing of The Raj, I think I see the war years in an equally rosy way - upper class families having very minor rationing difficulties, problems with "Cook," hosting refugee children from London, etc.

Oct 17, 2007, 3:06 am

This is an interesting topic for me, one I've given up trying to explain to myself. I'm German, I learnt English at school and when I was 20 I went to England for the first time. When I got there it was an instant feeling of coming home, I felt as if I belonged there. It was really weird... I then spent a year in England teaching German at a school and the feeling persisted. It was just everything - the people, their homes, the pubs, the language the newspapers and very much the literature.
I wanted to live in England then after I had finished my studies at university in Germany. It never came to that, other things happened and I live in Munich and I'm very happy. But this very special feeling about England and English literature is still there. I've tried to rationalize the whole thing, telling myself that I idealize things - and maybe this is so... But it still doesn't explain anything, I've never had a similar experience with any other country or place. And nowadays when I meet somebody who talks with an English accent I still get "homesick" and I read almost only English books and my German friends think of me as a bit of a freak in that respect... I've decided to just accept it the way it is...

Oct 17, 2007, 11:55 am

#18> charmian, I have always had the same feeling for England, and for Australia too.
Strangely, not for the US, where I live and where, to tell you the truth, I would have never even thought of moving had it not been for my marriage.
In England and Australia I felt at home immediately.

Oct 18, 2007, 1:32 pm

I'm Desi-American. I fell in love with British literature when I was quite young, devouring whatever was in my path. Although my tastes are more for non-fiction, Subcontinental, and American fare now, I am glad I had my phase in that I am very well-informed in terms of literature, since a lot of colonial (and I include American in that word) literature refers to British works. I still am a huge King Arthur fan.

Oct 19, 2007, 8:31 am

> 19
hi aluvalibri, nice to know that there are people with similar feelings... hmm, maybe I should go to Australia and see what it's like. Is as good an excuse as any... :-)

Oct 19, 2007, 11:41 pm

#18 - it's funny what pulls us, isn't it. Those who believe in reincarnation would say that you must have lived there in a past lifetime. I felt a powerful sense of "home" in Scotland but my heritage is there, so I put it down to that.

Oct 20, 2007, 11:18 am

#22> Tiffin, I am positive I lived there in one, or more, past lives. It/they must have been very pleasant life/lives, though, because the feelings in both England and Australia are extremely positive and they both evoke a powerful sense of home, like you say.
In Australia I had a strong experience of deja vu. I was walking, in Melbourne, when I looked up and saw a building on the opposite side of the street. I knew that building, I had been there already, the only spooky thing was that I did not know when. I do believe in reincarnation.

Oct 20, 2007, 3:04 pm

I can't say I believe in reincarnation, but maybe an "ancestral memory", for lack of another term? Maybe something of our experiences is passed on in our DNA??

Feb 10, 2008, 7:19 pm

True confession:

The 19th century stuff didn't seduce me, rather I connected very deeply with some characters. I have learned about the unchanging traits of human nature. The fact that situations that occurred hundreds of years ago reoccur today always brings me back for more.