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Separation of Artist/Art  

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graceirla
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February 7, 2020 5:36 pm  

Today in class we were talking about if a racist book could likely have a racist author, or if a seemingly non-racist book could be written by a racist author. This quickly led to the conversation of cancel culture, and how difficult it can be to separate art from the artist. While we were having this conversation, I began to think about if an author or artist's specific personal views could affect the ultimate meaning of their work. If a non-racist book has a racist author, will the views of the author inevitably interact with their work? This question leads back to how we interpret writing as well. If we go from an approach where the author's intent and context of their life is considered, the work would easily be influenced by their own personal thoughts- even if it's unintended. If we look at it completely detaching the art from the artist, we could be reading it from sort of a deconstruction theory but possibly missing a bigger theme that would exist if we considered the author. Is it smart to detach the artist from the art? Or are there situations where we shouldn't?


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Meredith Prevo
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February 7, 2020 10:54 pm  

Something I hear a lot when writing is that "you can only write yourself": for example, someone who's a woman can only genuinely write a woman character, or someone that's a man can only genuinely write a male character. With this in mind, it might be feasibly extendable that only a racist can write a racist, and that only a non-racist can write a non-racist. While this might mean nothing to the meaning of the author's intent, knowing, or theorizing that the author, or their favorite character is actually a racist is probably a bit... altering. But, without the author, there would be no art. Perhaps there is no one way someone could go about this?


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royemmis25
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February 10, 2020 2:43 pm  

@mereprevo

This response kind of blew my mind. I never connected those dots before and I think that that is very interesting and is definitely a reasonable bit of evidence/commentary for the argument that Conrad may be racist. This also links back to our thoughts of Turn of the Screw and wondering if the way the author wrote the governess is sexist. Many girls in this class may say so because of how she is portrayed. This also asks a question of who gets to decide if something is racist. Can a man say something is sexist even though he may not know what it’s like to face sexism as a woman (specifically)? Can we, as a mainly white group of people decide if Marlo or Conrad are being racist? There seems to be a line, only where this novel is, it’s closer to it so we have a harder time telling.


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royzieglerh70
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February 11, 2020 9:30 am  

I don't think that this topic of conversation necessarily relates to the artist writing about themselves as much as it relates to the artist writing what they know. Oftentimes writers are taught that the most impactful and resounding effect that their work can have on others comes from their ability to write exclusively about the things that they know better than anything else. Therefore, I argue that just because an author has been witness to racism or any number of behaviors does not necessarily make that author intrinsically tied to the behavior itself. However, it can sometimes be assumed that many authors opt to know themselves better than anything else. If this is the case, then I believe that even their subconscious thoughts pertaining to race and other topics can be tossed in at a moments notice in less calculated literature. However, I have a hard time believing that Conrad's choices in portraying race are not at the forefront of our discussion. Chisnell has said multiple times in class now that this book is what our AP Lit course is structured around, so I would have a hard time discerning the fact that now, suddenly, every choice that the author has made in writing the book is not intentional after all of the back-and-forth we have had in class about this topic. In short, however, I do believe that an author is always tied back to their work in some way, and don't think that it is feasible within our modern society to believe that an author can be fully detached from the work they produce, whether it is commensurate with the quality of their character or simply what they have witnessed throughout their lives.


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kesar
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February 14, 2020 9:50 am  

I agree with Hannah that just because we encounter a racist character, that does not mean that the author is racist. As Chisnell was saying in class, we need to observe the consequences of the racist actions the character in question undertakes. If the character faces negative consequences or has a change of heart, then we can conclude that the author was making a statement about racism, rather than being a racist writer.


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anjapeters
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February 14, 2020 3:42 pm  

I agree with the statements that just because an author writes about a racist character does not mean that the author themselves are racist. I think secluding that point explicitly when looking at a piece of literature is an ineffective and inaccurate way of looking at an authors relationship to what they write about. Although, like in the novel Invisible Man, once we knew more about Ellison as a person and once reading his book, we could collect that IM was such a moving character and novel because Ellison knew all about the racism against African Americans. I'd personally take this investigation on a case by case basis.


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anjapeters
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February 14, 2020 3:42 pm  

I agree with the statements that just because an author writes about a racist character does not mean that the author themselves are racist. I think secluding that point explicitly when looking at a piece of literature is an ineffective and inaccurate way of looking at an authors relationship to what they write about. Although, like in the novel Invisible Man, once we knew more about Ellison as a person and once reading his book, we could collect that IM was such a moving character and novel because Ellison knew all about the racism against African Americans. I'd personally take this investigation on a case by case basis.


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cosisconfused
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February 14, 2020 11:44 pm  

I believe there is a huge difference between who the author/artist is and what they are creating/what the product is, whether that be a novel, a piece of artwork, or music.Heart of Darkness, much like IM, is novel that expresses racism in some of its more vivid forms. Just because these two novels speak of racism, and have racist quotes or characters, does not mean that the author himself is racist. I think there is a huge separation between what the author might want to write about because of a want to make the population more understanding of real social issues happening. I feel that the easiest way to get people to acknowledge and understand such hard topics to talk about, is to not be friendly about it but rather over expose it. Music, though more difficult to prove than the opinions of an author v. a fiction novel, can be interpreted this same way. Just because a composer writes a song about heartbreak doesn't mean that they are heartbroken. One overly common example of this is Taylor Swift basing multiple albums off of breakups when only a select few of those songs were her real life feelings.


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oliviagclark123
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February 28, 2020 9:39 am  

This is an interesting thing to dissect. Whenever I write something, the story usually has a personal connection to me. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that everything I write is directly connected to me. I could write about a serial killer sociopath who feels nothing for anyone and it could probably turn out alright. Does that make me a serial killing sociopath? No, I would hope not. This whole cancel culture and finding out things about an author I think is irrelevant. Is being racist awful? Of course. But I think that you should be able to write something without getting the author's personal views involved. The author could be completely opposite to what they're writing and maybe that story happens to be an outlet for them to experience something they'd never actually do in real life.


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gwenkocis
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February 28, 2020 5:48 pm  

It seems as though the discussion of whether a racist novel makes the author racist goes back to one of the first ideas we discussed: where does a novel get its meaning from?  If we believe that the author's opinion and vision for the novel determines it, then at some level it seems as though the author was able to have a deep enough concept of racism to portray it accurately.  However, we've seen many portrayals of novels written with racist characters, but by people who have been victims of racism themselves.  Based on this fact alone, it seems that a racist novel doesn't inherently make the author racist.  It is possible for this to occur, but shouldn't be automatically assumed.  The author's intention or background isn't factored in based on literary theories of modernism, but would it have some impact in this argument?  I agree with Anja overall that it is a case by case argument, because it's hard to determine without knowing a specific situation.


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beegs14
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March 10, 2020 4:27 pm  

I agree that just because a novel may be considered racist, it doesn't necessarily mean that author is racists, but he/she could be. Writing a racist novel is different from writing in a racist character. Personally, I find it very hard to dedicate my time and energy into work that I don't agree with. If I don't believe what I'm writing, it wont be convincing OR enjoyable to write, much less read. If someone writes a racist book, and does it well, there's a chance that they hold a slight grudge against some race, even if its deep deep down. But, just writing in a racist character is another story because the overall message the novel expresses could contradict that characters actions. It depends on how the book is writing and in what details but I believe there is a slight reflection of the authors emotions or beliefs in every work.


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cosisconfused
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March 13, 2020 5:52 pm  

I think that there is a distinct difference between an artist and art. Like Chisnell said the other day with our Murakami book, he tends to use the more personal "I" but not all of the experiences in the novel have actually happened to him. The book is still fiction even though it is written super personally. The same concept is applied to any other work of fiction or other works of art where the ideas that are expressed throughout the novel are not the ideas of the author. This, though applied to many author's or artists, is not necessarily true for every artist. Some artists do have a historical background of being racist and that view is portrayed in their writing by events that happen with characters. I feel like there should always be a separation between the views of the artist and what comes across in the art, but this isn't always the case which is what is concerning.


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