Saturday, 16 March 2013

Violence in Literature

Do you often include violent conflict within your art? How does one justify the inclusion of aggression and violence in writing in a world that increasingly recognises the issues perpetuated by and psychological damages caused by culture which supports and fosters such expressions?

How do you approach/broach this subject when questioning whether a certain scene or extended conflict holds up enough to be, and indeed demands to be, part of the artform you work within. How much thought do you put into this or is violence simply a thrilling prerequisite? Do you deeply analyse this process and only include conflict as part of a much broader and overarching message, theme etc. . ?

I am always very interested to hear other writers' takes on what seems to be a staple mode of modern genre fiction.


I mean direct violence specifically as well as "conflict" in its literary sense. Not just the threat of possible violence, but the direct inclusion of violent scenes as a means of expressing art. How deeply do you personally as a writer take the justification? Why be graphic when one can skim over? Do you require a deeper meaning/message to what you are doing to make it seem appropriate? Or has direct violence as you suggest just become, or always has been, essential within art?

I think that an aware writer should justify every sentence almost, and be aware of the symbolism every paragraph feeds into. I personally would say the same about inclusion of violence. Indeed, using violence as a way of highlighting the evil of violence itself would seem justifiable. The whole Tarantino crowd who applaud the violence of his films, and indeed support Tarantino's seeming glorification of violence, may very well be misinterpreting the deeper messages. Now I am not so sure that Tarantino does not employ violence for violence sake, as in he thinks it's cool, but I am certain every movie he makes has deeper symbolic meaning permeating every single scene.

I personally as a writer would like to think I could construct stories that, as one example, only use violence to directly represent violent actions in the real world, and to highlight the depravity of violence, and to never glorify it (or a similarly justified example); but I am working on short stories at the moment and it would seem to be a medium easier to hold all the strings of. When I come back to my novel and try to rejustify what I have already written with previously closed, less knowledgeable eyes, I might find that certain scenes initially included may need to be expunged as they were put there to be cool, and my conscience now demands more of my art (or I might be able to reinterpret my way around them).



I suppose what I am really getting at is the fact most people aren't able to break down violent art to its deeper meanings and may make the mistake of thinking a piece that on the surface seems to glorify violence may very well have a hidden anti-violence message. So the ignorance of the ignorant towards the complexities of art may be causing misinterpretations which then feedback into the violent tendencies of the ignorant. And maybe people who produce the art with the best intentions have some of the blame to shoulder as they are presenting an artform to the masses who aren't able to break it down and understand its nuances, and therefore understand such pieces are far from glorifying violence.

Do we as artists have the responsibility to temper our expression of such material as we are feeding dangerously into popular culture fodder for being dangerously misinterpreted (perpetuating violent tendencies), or is the onus on the everyman to wake up, enlighten himself, and learn/realise how to absorb and decomplexify input in such a way as to not lead society down a false avenue?


I suppose the character-study of despicable individuals is a seat-filler, always. And in a free society which is allowed to explore the most heinous of topics and themes it would be impossible to censor out thoughtful use of violence.

I am very interested in how others weigh up these issues within their own art, so please feel free to comment.

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