January 26, 2010

A low art

Without getting too Marxist about it, you can look at different art forms in terms of whether they originated among the upper or lower classes. In the medieval period, for example, courtly love poetry was upper class art, while ballads that became the basis for later folk music were lower class art forms.

Athenian tragedy in the days of classic Greece was a great example of democratic art. Attending tragic performances was a duty of citizenship, as was voting for the winner among contesting tragic authors.

The English theater is an example of art from below. In the Middle Ages, the Bible was the main source of stories but most people were illiterate. One popular way of bringing such stories to life was through acting them out.

As towns and cities began to grow, so also did guilds and craft associations, which were sort of a combination of business venture and trade union. Various guilds would often sponsor mystery or miracle plays on holy days and festivals. Sometimes, guilds would sponsor plays based on stories related to their trade. For example, carpenter's guilds might portray the crucifixion, which boat builders or bargemen might portray Noah's flood.

As this art form caught on, traveling troupes of players would visit small towns to perform. It's easy to imagine a young Shakespeare being enthralled as a youth, thus making him one of many before and since to be stage struck.

COMING DOWN THE PIKE. The White House unveiled some program proposals aimed at assisting middle class families. The administration will also call for a freeze in spending for some domestic programs.

WHERE'S THE BEEF? Or, in this case, the movement for progressive change?

A SLOW RECOVERY seems to be on the menu.

BOTH SIDES NOW? There's been an interesting development in WV's coalfield controversies as Governor Manchin called for calm and met with mountaintop removal opponents after meeting with industry leaders.


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