Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fiction with an Agenda

Last week we started drawing out what aspects of the writer come out in the writing. How much of ourselves to we reveal. Jenna reminded us that though the artist will not be able to keep from revealing any passionately held beliefs, agendas should be avoided; that is, if the author is aware of himself. Mr. Pond encourages us to remember that the author is not always aware of what he is doing in many aspects of his writing. But what of agenda? What of the writer who knowingly whores his talent for a cause?What are we to think of him?

"art is wholly concerned with the good of that which is made; it has no utilitarian end. If you do manage to use it successfully for social, religious, or other purposes, it is because you made it art first..."
  ~Flannery O' Connor

There is a goodness in writing wrapped up in an idea, in the story concieved within a theme. But the good writer takes the theme and submits it to beauty, to the living art he creates. The idea can move freely, be seen and unseen as it flitters throught the pages. It is not tied down, not forced to be still and stagnant. It belongs to the story, the story doesn't belong to it.

I've been reading a it of Michael O' Brien's book against most modern fairy stories (A Landscape with Dragons). It's a hard book to read, and reading it, he seems a hard person to like. The book assumes all authors have hidden motives, either to lead the reader to Christ, or to Satan. That all fiction is propoganda, either for good or evil.  I reject the idea entirely, but as Jenna writes in her previous post, "it can perhaps be hard to tell the difference" especially if a writer who generally writes with an agenda, as Mr. O'Brien's books seem to indicate, reads one who writes with no agenda at all, but with a vision that is "organically grown from the author's own devotion." (Jenna).

“Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.”  
   ~Flannery O Connor

Perhaps this is the real trouble with so much of Christian fiction, music, and painting. It fails to be art because the maker put his beliefs so completely in his line of vision that he cannot see by the light they give.

Mr. Pond tells us that the writer must understand "the potential of the art, not merely the words on the page" if he is to create at all. But the writer of propaganda sees only the obvious. He uses for utilitarian ends what ought to be art, and in the process, what should be beautiful withers and dies.


  1. man, "A Landscape with Dragons" is an awesome title. Why is he (apparently) ruining it? SOME PEOPLE.

    Plenty of people set out to prove a point with their art and end up transcending it like woah. True strength of invention repels propaganda. Our friend Tolstoy is an excellent example, I think.

  2. "strength of invention" is infelicitous; I mean sympathetic invention, or some such thing. That Thing Tolstoy Does.

  3. I know! Seth wanted it to be a really fun book, and then was so annoyed at him for wasting the title!