“And yet our cultural world is a far cry from Elizabethan England or la cour et la ville in seventeenth-century France. There is a reason for this, so simple and yet so obvious that no one ever mentions it. At the time of Elizabeth and Louis, one percent, perhaps, of the educated people were producers, and ninety-nine percent were consumers. With us, the proportion is curiously reversed. We are supposed to live in a world of consumerism, but in the university there are only producers. We are under a strict obligation to write, and therefore we hardly have the time to read one another’s work. It is very nice, when you give a lecture, to encounter someone who is not publishing, because perhaps that person has not only enough curiosity but enough time to read your books.”
Yes, I think this is right, and perhaps not only in academe. I’ve mentioned before that I get a fair number of students who are interested in writing stories or poems, but don’t have much interest in reading anything. How this comes to pass is beyond me, and it seems vaguely narcissistic. We want desperately to express ourselves–and thus the triumph of blogging–but we have little interest in the expression of others.