Remark on elitism

As someone with elitist tendencies (if such a mild word as ‘tendencies’ is not a self-flattering understatement), it is always useful to be reminded of the instability of elitism. Virgil’s Eclogues provide such. For suppose one would praise high art and condemn low art, as I have seen many do and as I sometimes wish to do myself. Virgil, surely, counts as high art. Yet his Eclogues are a celebration of shepherds’ songs, low art, art of the people, beautiful perhaps but not of the aristocratic tenor of high art. With this the elitist is caught, not exactly in, but near a contradiction. Not in a contradiction, for it is possible to believe that all the beauty of the shepherds’ songs lies in their elite context. But near a contradiction, because this sells Virgil short, makes of his poem an elaborate ruse, an inherently dishonest work. High art can never afford the elitism of its defenders.

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Parry

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