Отклонения, лирически и прозаически
Essays
Literary Moralism
(An essay on the didactic role of the literature of Medieval England)

(Art is the means of communication between artists.)

Literature, being a part of Art, employs the manner of the written word as to establish a communicative bond between people and ages. And just as everything else art is developing, i.e. evolving, for otherwise it would have been long forgotten and out of existence.

Some major principles are there to be observed in the development of reason, i.e. the essence of Homo Sapiens, which, Art being a product of its development, apply to all Art, in all its stages. Tracing the cornerstones of Literature, one will easily discover those stages and their characteristics, which are similar to those of human reasoning. Out of what is preserved of the works of art of the past one can build a diagram of how, and why, it all went with Art, and Literature, as to reach its contemporary state.

One common to reason trait, when young, is the way it acquires new information - without too much questioning, doubting what it has been presented. Belief. "Once you grow up your fears tend to be... only the logical ones. Misery. Sickness. Disguise. At least you don't go crazy with restless fear of something lurking under the staircase. And your world is no longer full of shadows and light that most doubtingly melt into one another. The wonderful world of childhood!... No, it is not the shortened version of the world of adults. Yes, it does, to some extent, resemble theirs, but it is written in bold capital letters. Everything there is... exceeding." (Terry Pratchett, Hogfather)

The now growing up mind of the masses, of the people of the Middle Ages accepted Art as a heavenly inspiration, which it is, and few were those to beget it. People used to believe what they were told and thus what they had was a simple, but calm way of life, where they could, from time to time, enjoy living.

European civilization was then a young one. All it had - fights, warring conflicts, new, amazing discoveries, the Inquisition - it is all to us as if extracts from a movie. People find it hard to believe that events of the kind could have ever happened to human beings. People find it hard to believe anything, but the more their restlessly questioning mind rushes into the search for peace, the more restless it becomes. Education is the means acknowledged worldwide to bring comfort, i.e. peace, into life. Security.

(Art is the means of communication between artists.)

Literature has always been there as to educate people, form them as moral beings, develop their senses, humanize them - instruct them in being more human than they tend to be in their everyday life. And, religion being the only means powerful enough as to still maintain control over human behavior, it came to occupy a highest position in literature, this way presenting an endless source for metaphorical images of mankind.

Society is a hierarchic structure the existence of which depends solely on the inequality of human beings - there are those who write laws, and those who obey them, the first to gain their well being, the rest - where the well being is gained. It is common people who make society exist.

It is common people who consume, and artists who create. There is a type of people whose existence lies somewhere in between - belonging not to the latter, desiring not to belong to the former. These accept information as their only wealth, their capacity to store information being what differs them from the common people. These tend to be the "translators" of Art, explaining it to the common.

The didactic role of literature.

The literature and other arts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance were almost entirely didactic in nature. That is, they were made with the intent to educate their audience in some manner. Plays, poetry, treatises, pageants, sculpture, and painting were all meant to convey a message. Literature almost always had an introduction, which indicated a desire to perpetuate the lives and deeds of the great exemplars of chivalry, both real and fictional. Many plays had a prologue to indicate the direction of the action and introduce the themes that were about to be presented. The authors of critical studies rarely failed to explain why and for whom the piece was being written. Poetry was meant to convey society norms through elevated sentiments and specially structured presentation. Church depicted the lives of the saints and stories from the Bible. Portraiture was meant to display wealth and social position, as well as personal interests and traits. The production of any art was sufficiently expensive and burdensome that it was rarely wasted on entirely frivolous projects. Whether serious or light in subject matter, the arts were meant to inform and educate.

Man was, at that age, illiterate - so all messages contained within artworks had to be clear and simple - such as to provoke obedience and faith, than to provoke mental exercise. This is where religion finds its place.

The majority of written texts was structured poem-like - as to be easier to comprehend - the average man being illiterate, literature was READ TO him, not READ BY him (and as to obey tradition - for tradition was not questioned then - the idea of development was unknown - and how would otherwise be the average man made to obey tradition if not by a higher-instance example of obeying tradition).

What the average man was taught in was the moral values - which tend not to change - for the average man has not the intelligence to discover moral values for himself, explain them and obey them - which is a process common to what I refer to as Homo Artisticus.

Ingenuity was not that precious a trait for the age, for it was an age of tradition, not of change. And in literature it was the same - ingenuity was not obligatory, it wasn't even considered necessary. So plots of old and of the Bible of course, tended to be the source for "new" writing. Thus it is that today we find resemblance between different pieces of written word.

Rewriting was, of course, not the whole of the process of creating Literature - for most of the time the story plot did not exist in written form, but was later recorded (BEOWULF), or it was assigned to another time and place, and it had to suffer change as to fit the contemporary reader (SIR ORFEO); or needed minor adjustments as to be able to have a life of its own, thus becoming a "work of art", instead of what it really was - a copied fragment of The Old Testament (PATIENCE).

However, it is not possible to develop one's reasoning device without observing the numerous possibilities it offers, as it was the case with the literature of Medieval England. Soon it was that plots preserved from the times of old were all exhausted, and new ones had to be designed - the old ones, as it happened, failed to moralize the people - and those same moral values, necessary for a man to become Man, had to be inserted into new, and "fresher", for the time, structures. A classical invention of the Greek was rediscovered - the play - for "developing" a structure means it is brought to a higher, and a more complex level - the meter-song grew up to become a play.

And, of course, development lead to popularization, which its main purpose actually is - one never develops anything if not willing to make it a better one, and making it a better one means it is popularity that is sought after. Here it is where Art started to differentiate in itself. Differences there are marked by the purpose it is assigned to - purely moralizing or entertaining and moralizing. Here lie the roots of Art and Pop Art. Though the age commented does not present a perfect chance of making strict differentiation between literary works then, due to the early stage of development and the small number of writing preserved, it is intelligible that SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT and EVERYMAN each fall to the categories mentioned.

(Art is the means of communication between artists.)