A study from the University of Bristol finds mentions of anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise decrease in English books of the 20th century.
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This is an article I'll probably be contemplating for several days. And, I suspect it will join the legion of previously read thought-provoking articles that pop back into my consideration for some time.
I'm not sure if this logic holds since the article references books written over the entire 20th century. But, it did occur to me that at least for the last several years, maybe decades, publishers have used market demand more than literary excellence as a prime short listing technique when deciding what book to invest in publishing.
Yes there have been great works published. And yes, market demand has influenced who or what has been published for centuries. But the recent "advances" in data mining have raised the "Trump Value" of market demand seriously. I suppose this may partially explain the success made recently in alternative publishing possibilities. So many well-written books have been rejected by the traditional publishing houses, yet have found tremendous popularity among readers open to the kinds of writing not so easily identified as "marketable to large enough audiences to justify the cost of publishing."
I really don't normally like to speculate based upon my immediate thoughts until I've really had a chance to reflect on them a bit. So these, "first thoughts" may be entirely off the mark.
However, the first thought that stimulated my decision to scoop and comment on this article had to do with the suggestion that for the last 100 years or so there has apparently been a fairly consistent trend away from stories tending to focus upon anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. If this is because the market for those themes (4 of the 6 being fairly negative) then wouldn't it be interesting to run the same analysis on the most commonly taught books in classrooms?
What if we discovered that 4 out of 6 of the books we teach focus heavily upon negative emotions?
I know, I know. We need to get students to begin to understand and form personal belief systems related to how to deal with the harsh realities of life; to see the Atticus Finches showing us that good people can do good in bad societies; that Huck Finns can come to realize the evil in unexamined status quo social norms and decide to "lilght out for the Territory" because they'd come to understand that they "can't go back" to the not so civilized "sivilized" beliefs of the Aunt Sallys of the world.
Sometimes I wonder if we might balance the "harsh reality" lessons a bit more with some "life inspiring" examples of communities rather than just the individual hero or heroine rising above the forces of evil.
It's early and only a first thought, but what if there is some truth in suggesting that...
If we're not selling what they're buying, then we should not be surprised that they're not buying what we're selling.