The Social and Political Novel, and Social Change VII: The Future of Imaginative Literature

Possibly it is taken for granted-true or not, consciously or not-among the powers that rule that fiction is far more powerful than non-fiction, often far more emotionally compelling and therefore far more energizing, and thus far more threatening to illegitimate (however legalized) power. Given this possibility for the power of fiction, Roland Barthes asked what he considered to be

the modern question: why is there not today (or at least so it seems to me), why is there no longer an art of intellectual persuasion, or imagination? Why are we so slow, so indifferent about mobilizing narrative and the image? Can’t we see that it is, after all, works of fiction, no matter how mediocre they may be artistically, that best arouse political passion?

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Great Lit Is Based on Principle: Letter To ULA


Most of the greatest works of literature are based on principle and driven by it, whether the principles are humane/political, scientific/technical, or sacred/idealistic. Closely observed details carefully selected and issues of inspiration and energy, style and structure all come in to play but are based on the driving, purpose-giving principles. For populists, these principles are rooted in the values of the people, values such as freedom, justice, loyalty (or solidarity), equality – in other words some of the key values this country was founded on, and key values of democratic movements and struggles the world over – values and principles that are spelled out in much more detail in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which aims to guarantee what we all want: meaningful employment (and leisure), real education and educational opportunities, guaranteed health care, adequate standard of living, personal safety and security, and so on.

These principles go far beyond those laid out in the ULA manifesto, which in its main focus dissents from the style, manner, and general corruption of the literary establishment but does not express much solidarity with the great historic and current populist movements and ideals of humankind. This is a severe limitation of ULA, it seems to me.

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