Is Wagner’s Nazi stigma fair?

Is Wagner’s Nazi stigma fair?

Before y’all think I’ve gone completely off the rails here, I think this is totally relevant to writing, especially since we know for a fact that things will be read hundreds and even thousands of years after their original printing. There are classes that discuss how Shakespeare’s anti-Semitism comes into play in ‘Othello,’ and of course more recently Orson Scott Card has come under fire for his anti-homosexuality. And I’m sure you can name some author or famous person whose behavior is generally not cool (I have this problem where I like Kanye West’s lyrics a bunch but…ugh. He’s Kanye West.)

So can we appreciate art without having to drag in the author’s personal prejudices when it doesn’t come up?

Despite the plot holes, I liked ‘Ender’s Game’ and ‘Ender’s Shadow’ well enough, and it’s not like Card pulls an Ayn Rand and inserts a fifteen-page speech on how wrong not believing in god or whatever is. If you pull any kind of ideology out of those books at all, it’s probably that kids are ridiculously awesome and prejudice is bad (well, I’m thinking more of the Speaker of the Dead series now).

That said, it’s sometimes possible to read into words and find hidden markers of prejudice (and I have to bring this up because I’m a little oblivious—I managed to miss that Pullman is an atheist through all of His Dark Materials). In ‘Treason by the Book,’ Spence recounts how a professor set some part of a lesson up so the characters represented the emperor’s name…minus the top characters, suggesting a beheading of the emperor. And, while this sounds farfetched, the guy was actually hiding a big pile of revolutionary material.

I think we have the right to critically examine books in a modern context. Shakespeare, who seems to have been moderately educated at best (or maybe he just skipped the geography lessons, I don’t know), was anti-Semitic. Yeah, that was a thing then. Reading his plays and going so far as to enjoy them doesn’t mean you support his stance on Jews, marriage, ruling a country, Brutus, magic, so on and so forth….

It is possible for a person to be abstracted from what they create.

And honestly, I would rather see these works than have them censored because of the creator’s attitude. Because I can’t see the difference between censoring something because of the ideas discussed in it, and the ideas the author held that may or may not have seeped into the text.

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