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The Relationship of Literature and Society Author(s): Milton C. Albrecht Reviewed work(s): Source: American Journal of Sociology, Vol.

59, No. 5 (Mar., 1954), pp. 425-436 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 16/02/2012 05:03
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In most oftherelationship theories ofliterature and society reflection, influence, and socialcontrol are implied. Literature is interpreted as reflecting norms andvalues, as revealing theethos ofculture, theprocessesofclassstruggle, ofsocial andcertain types "Influence" "facts." is notstrictly thereverse ofreflection, sincesocialstability Socialcontrol, and cultural idealsareinvolved. however, articulates withone closely version ofreflection, extent in complex, though to a limited dynamic societies.

yearsago,' at least as old as Plato's conceptof imitaoutfifteen pointed As Mueller in the UnitedStates have paid tion.4 sociologists Systematic application oftheidea did and art; they, not appear,however, to literature littleattention untilabout a century pri- and a halfago. The "beginning" have focused socialscientists, likeother might be aspectsofsocial said tobe Madamede Stae's De la litte'rature on theinstrumental marily social consideree Perhapsthisis becausepractical life.2 dans ses rapports avecles instituwhat- tionssociales,6 so urgent-but, havegrown problems publishedin 1800,in which a socialand historical in theartshas theauthor someinterest offered everthereason, inyearshas increased, terpretation of the literature and in recent of severalnapersisted and social tions. Her outlook was romantic and idealisOfliterary however sporadically.' investi- tic,expressed in terms as well as of morelimited ofindividual and sohistories an untold num- cialperfectionism. there are,ofcourse, Apparently, thetheory gations of in thispaperis to examine reflection aroseout ofthespirit ofnationalber.Ourpurpose view- ismspreading throughout some of theircharacteristic Europe and from critically assumptions.One the environmentalism of seventeenthand points and theoretical socie- eighteenth-century is thatliterature "reflects" In general, hypothesis thinkers.6 the is thatliterature idea is a manifestation ofa changein man's ty; its supposedconverse hy- perspective, A third or "shapes" society. influences crystallized duringthe nineinphilosophies is thatliterature functions socially teenth century in of history, pothesis and stabilize,if not to justify the formulation of thetheory of evolution, to maintain thesocialorder, which maybe and in the sociological conceptions of soand sanctify, and their cieties character theory. changing calledthe"social-control" through is successive reflects society ages.7 The idea thatliterature The essentialfunction of the reflection I J. H. Mueller,"Is Art the Productof Its Age?" was to "explain" in social and hisSocial Forces, XIII (March, 1935), 367-76; "The theory Folkway of Art," AmericanJournal of Sociology, torical rather than individualterms the XLIV (September,1938), 222-38. of literature, qualityand greatness as well 2 Kingsley Davis, Human Society (New York: as its content, style, and forms. In effect, it Macmillan Co., 1949), p. 392. emphasized socialand cultural determinism
3 Bibliographies may be foundin A. S. Tomars, to the Sociologyof Art (Mexico City, Introduction 1940), pp. 418-21; in H. E. Barnes and H. Becker, Social Theory(New York: AppletonContemporary CenturyCo., 1940), pp. 889-92; in JamesH. BarDivorceNovel,1858nett,Divorceand theAmerican 1937 (Philadelphia, 1939), pp. 146 ff.; in Bernard Public Opinion and Berelsonand MorrisJanowitz, (Glencoe,Ill.: Free Press,1950). For Communication many othersourcessee Hugh D. Duncan, "An Annotated Bibliographyon the Sociology of Literaof Chicago thesis,1947). ture" (University 4 The Republic,in The Worksof Plato, trans. B. Jowett(4 vols. in 1; New York: Dial Press, n.d.), II, 378 ff. 5 2 vols.; Paris, 1800. See also De l'Allemagne (Paris, 1813).

6Max Lerner and Edwin Mims, Jr., "Literature," in Encyclopediaof theSocial Sciences (New York: Macmillan Co., 1933), IX, 538-39.
7 Floyd N. House, The Development of Sociology (New York: McGraw-HillBook Co., 1936).




and sanctions" have usually and it be- "social beliefs insteadof personalinspiration, beliefsand customs,as of innumerable includedreligious came the broad orientation in myths and otherart forms, worksdealing with the arts. To be sure, manifested societiesand of earlier used,suchas "ex- both of primitive other phraseswereoften oflife,"but historicalperiods of civilizations."Boas ofsociety"or "mirror pression thattheconditions for example, oflife identicalwith finds, theirmeaningis practically ofIndiantribes canbe abstractThese phraseswereappliedto ina number "reflection." their traditional tales: "Beliefsand as well ed from socialand cultural everything nearly in lifeand in talesare in fullagreeAt one time customs and geographical. as biological Whetherthis is fullyas true in to ment."'12 has been thought or anotherliterature civilizations suchas ourownseems cli- complex relationships, family economics, reflect whether the mate and landscapes, attitudes,morals, less clear,and it is uncertain usedas vehicles for illustrating or races,social classes,politicalevents,wars, situations moredetailedas- emphasizingimportantsocial values are and manyother religion, in a society thoseactually ortruly occurring and sociallife.8 pectsofenvironment On thesequestions there seemsless from typical. apparently, results, This diversity but theuse ofliterature agreement, embracesa wide general the fact that literature beliefs and values "set- as an indexofsignificant representing matter, ofsubject variety has beenwidespread.'3 and ideasin their in a society behavior patterns, tings," In psychology a recentvariantof this It has led some, interrelationships. complex is that stories, at least as prelike Mueller,to believethat the reflection conception reflect thestress patterns to be useful.9 sentedin movies, is "too all-embracing" theory needs of audiences,arising been ap- and emotional it has traditionally Nevertheless, and sociallife.Wolfsometimes stated out of sharedcultural majorforms, pliedin a few and Leites,for instance, believethat but oftenmerelyimpliedor as- enstein explicitly "the common of a culture day-dreams arein social and as historians sumed-by literary in parttheproducts of its and anthropologists.part thesources, wellas by sociologists stories, plays and films."''4 conceptionhas popularmyths, Probably the commonest theplotsof thedramaof reflects predominantlyAs a consequence, been that literature timeor periodshowa distincofa culture. a particular valuesandnorms thesignificant Otherinvestigators asis a recordof tive configuration. As DeVoto says, "Literature unconscious is of social sumethata kindofcollective an embodiment social experience, and idealsand aims,and an organizamytbs Looks at the Movies," Annals and sanctions."'0 These "An Anthropologist tionofsocialbeliefs
8 Cf.Lernerand Mims,op. cit.,p. 524. Franz Boas [New York: D. C. maintains(GeneralAnthropology Heath & Co., 1938],p. 594) that "the contentsof of the poetryare as varied as the culturalinterests people." Henry Commagerinsists (The American Press, 1950],p. Mind [New Haven: Yale University recould faithfully 56) that imaginativeliterature recordof the contemporary place the documentary scene. 9 "Is ArttheProductofIts Age?" op. cit.,p. 373. 10W. E. Lingelbach(ed.), Approaches toAmerican Social History(New York: Appleton-Century Co., and So1937), p. 54. Cf. David Daiches, Literature ciety (London: VictorGollancz,1938); IrwinEdman, Arts and theMan (New York: New AmericanLibrary,1949), pp. 122-29; Ruth Benedict,Chrysanand theSword (Boston: Houghton Mifflin themum Co., 1946), pp. 100-133; Hortense Powdermaker, of theAmericanAcademy ofPolitical and Social Science,CCLIV (November,1947), 83-84. 11 ConsultE. Grosse,TheBeginnings ofArt(New York: Appleton,1897); Y. Hirn, The OriginsofArt (London, 1900); Jane Harrison, Ancient Art and Ritual (New York: HenryHolt & Co., 1913); Franz Boas, PrimitiveArt (Oslo, 1927); Herbert Read, Artand Society(New York: Macmillan Co., 1937); Susanne K. Langer,Philosophy in a New Key (New York: PenguinBooks, 1948).
12 13

General Anthropology, p. 600.

See also studiesofnationalcharacter, surveyed by Otto Klineberg,TensionsAffecting International Understanding (New York: Social Science Research Council, 1950), pp. 49-58.
14 Martha Wolfenstein and Nathan Leites, Movies: A Psychological Study (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1950), pp. 12-13.





that in "race," he was enoughof a positivist terms, or, in psychoanalytic reflected, to presentsa manifestand latent look forward literature to the quantification of his as in dreams,both derivedfrom formula content, forsuccessful prediction of future in society, and bothgivensymbolic literary stresses trends.'9 as Fearing there states, However, meaning."5 Morerecent ofthistradirepresentatives as to how makersof films tion,whoare concerned is no indication withtheunity and of change of civilizations, unconscious gain access to thecollective include Spengler, forwhomtheyare intended, Toynbee, a population and Sorokin. Of these, is Spengler carry thesymbolic the most closely identified actually or whether films with Hegelian Neverthe- thought, to a mass audience.'6 meanings bothin theprinciples ofspirit and may pre- destiny or motion pictures less,literature and in regarding as proceedhistory as ingthrough framesof reference, sent interpretive phasesofgrowth, maturity, and which and Leites suggest, have decay.20 Wolfenstein Otherdifferences in ideologyand in real-life Al- method attitudes. theircounterpart between these representatives liebeofmovieor literary yondthescopeof thisarticle, therelationship though but there are is complex and certain general agreements. culture to thelarger patterns All of them itis assumed thatthese identify notwellunderstood, two main phases in the history of and character- societies, reflect in significant patterns called''culture" and "civili7ation" and sharedexperi- by Spengler,2" isticways the attitudes "yin" and "yang" by Toynencesin society.'7 bee,22 "ideational"and "sensate"by Soroand kin, althoughthe latteralso distinguishes By studentsof culture,literature of severalmixedforms, otherarts have been used as reflections of whichthe "idealisvari- tic" is a specialtype.23 the fundamental realityof a culture, Each set ofterms re"Weltan- fers mentality," ouslycalled "culture to contrasting types ofsocieties, theone or "soul," stableand slowto change, "spiritual principle," schauung," theother dynamstagesin the develop- ic and rapidin change. and of the different Each society is charare acterizedby a numberof otherqualities, These conceptions mentof a culture.i" Hegel and otherhis- which are reflected derivedlargelyfrom in literature and art. of the earlynineteenth Toynbee torical philosophers finds thatartstyles more accuratecenturyas well as fromthe sociologists, ly establish the timespan of a civilization, at- its growth Taine,forexample, Comteand Spencer. and dissolution, than any other to accountforthe characteristicsmethod tempted ofmeasurement.24 Sorokin, however, and theirhistorical 19 of English literature H. A. Taine, History ofEnglish (New his famous triad:race, York: HenryHolt & Co., 1886), pp.Literature by applying changes 1-21. For comand time.Although regarding ment see Albert Guerard, Literatureand Society environment, as themaster-idea inherent (Boston: Lothrop,Lee & Shepard Co., 1935). ''mindorspirit"
Mayer, Sociologyof the Film (London: Faber & Faber, 1946); SiegfriedKracauer, From Caligari to Hitler (Princeton:PrincetonUniversity Press, 1947); Parker Tyler, Magic and Mythof the Movies (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1947).
16 FranklinFearing,"Influence of the Movies on 15 J. P.
20 Oswald Spengler,The Decline of the West (2 vols.; New York: A. A. Knopf, 1926-28), Vol. I, Introduction.Cf. G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophyof History (New York: Collier& Son, 1900),pp. 61-99, 115-34, 300-302. 21 22

op. cit., I, 31-35.

ArnoldJ. Toynbee, A Studyof History(LonAttitudesand Behavior," Annals of the American don: OxfordUniversity Press, 1934-39), I, 201-4; Academy of Political and Social Science, CCLIV III, 196 ff.,390; IV, 33-34. DismissingSpengler's (November,1947), 76-78. organic concept of cultures,Toynbee accepts the 17 Wolfenstein and Leites, op. cit.,pp. 295, 306-7. idea of dominanttendenciesor bent (III, 382-90). 2a Pitirim A. Sorokin,Social and Cultural Dy18 Cf. Radhakamal Mukerjee,"The Meaningand Evolution of Art in Society,"AmericanSociological namics (4 vols.; New York: AmericanBook Co., X (August,1945), 496: Artreveals"the soul 1937-41), I, 55-102; IV, passim. He surveysvarious Review, of a cultureand social milieuin a more significant "phase" conceptsof culturesin IV, 389 ff. 24 Op. Cit., ITI, 378-79. science,and philosophy." mannerthan religion,



index" ofsocial disorganiably "the mostsignificant zation, but the latest edition of their text fails to literary indexes(Mabel Elliott and Francis mention 26 Op. cit.,pp. 300-306, 392-95. See also Herbert [3d ed.; New York: Merrill,Social Disorganization Sociology a of the Development A. Bloch, "Towards Harper & Bros., 1950],pp. 45-48). of Literaryand Art Forms," AmericanSociological 29 Toynbee,op. cit.,IV, 52. VIII (June,1943), 310-20. Bloch presentsa Review, 30 Karl Marx and Friedrich of literarypatternsor themeswhich classification and Engels,Literature resultwhen artistslack a commonsocial idiom. PublishersCo., 1947), Art(New York: International 27 Ruth Benedict, (New York: p. 1. Cf. Louis Harap, Social RootsoftheArts(New ofCulture Patterns PublishersCo., 1949), p. 16. New AmericanLibrary,1948); Ralph Linton (ed.), York: International The ScienceofMan in theWorldCrisis (New York: 31 Karl Marx and FriedrichEngels, The German Press,1945),pp. 164-68; A. L. ColumbiaUniversity Ideology(New York: InternationalPublishersCo., (Berkeley: 1939), p. 39. Cf. Harap, op. cit.,pp. 3940. Growth ofCulture Kroeber,Configurations Universityof CaliforniaPress, 1944), pp. 820-23, 32 Harap, op. cit.,p. 112; Marx and Engels, Lit826-28. Repudiating the idea of a master-plan, and Art,pp. 25, 45, 52-55, 116. erature culnotable any that Kroeber uses the hypothesis 33Karl Marx and FriedrichEngels, Correspondtural achievementpresupposesadherenceto a cerPublishand whichmay ence,1846-1895 (New York: International whichare limited tainset ofpatterns ers Co., 1936), p. 475. Cf. Harap, op. cit.,pp. 10-11. develop and becomeexhausted.
25 Sorokin, op. cit.,I,

on thesequali- vanceand significance and elaborated varywiththesociety has described and other than or culture.28 Betweenliterature ties probably more systematically to culturalproductstherealso seem to exist eitherSpengleror Toynbee.According any syswithout interrelationships, and art whichreflect specific him,in theliterature per- tematic dealwith thesubjects culture ideational the madeto designate being attempt Conthe principles interaction. governing their significance, ofreligious sonsand events thestyle sequently, otherworldly, literature and otherartsmaybe are ascetic, attitudes and an indexofcultural and conventional, formal, is symbolic, apparbut they change, in "mentalisimple. Sensate ently cannotaccountforshifts thetechniques arerelatively secular, ty."29 hand,selects on theother literature, nota cause. As They are a symptom, topics and events,is sensa- such, they are passive, essentially static commonplace and skepti- agents-a conclusion individualistic that hardlyseemsas tionaland erotic, and natu- inevitable implies. realistic, as thisformulation cal; thestyleis sensual, and are elaborate from and thetechniques ralistic derives version ofreflection Another more sociologi- the dialectical although Tomars, complex.25 ofMarx and his materialism and avoiding followers, inorientation cal thancultural system who selectthe economic the theories of change of the above trio, rather thanethosorsoulas theindependent as variable. Literatureand art, along with comes to almost identicalconclusions by Sorokin.26 by "the theseexpressed are determined other"ideologies," reveals modeofproduction in material and This conceptionthat reflection life,"30 obvi- by theideas oftheruling ofa culture world outlook are in theessential class,which earlier that every ideas.3' But in thediatheidea expressed overlaps epochtheruling ously andvaluesand thestress lectical process, manifested in the class norms itrepresents of ethosemphasizes struggle, of a but reflection the tendencies "art expresses patterns, characterof culturesand rising, class."32 the integrative and therefore revolutionary arounddominant activi- The relationship of economic and theirorganization structure is not causally forms, however, ties or beliefs-the concept of cultural ideological bya number direct and mechanical,as Engels points and developed focus recognized of anthropologists, though without the out.33 is thistrueofartistic greatEspecially relaMarx admitshas no direct philosophicovertonesso conspicuousin ness,which whether It is questionable literaSpengler.27 28 Spenglerregardsthe arts as "primephenometureand the artsare alwaysas reliablein- na," while Sorokinincludes otherculturalaspects, are all of which show essentiallythe same trends.In assumed. they Probably dexesas usually as probonly one index among many,whose rele- 1934 Elliott and Merrillregardedliterature





prothe degreeof social develop- characterand formof theirliterary tionto either ductions. base.34 mentor thetypeof economic One need not, of course, follow the whohave followers thenumerous Among in investigating the influand applied these Marxian system interpreted, elaborated, Tomars, Fox, Calverton, enceof social classeson literature. Caudwell, ideasareVeblen, MacIver'sconcepts of adopting and Hicks. Some are strict forexample, Parrington, and competitive classes,describes Marxists,othersadapt and select Marx's corporate on influence their differential on litera- and illustrates ideas,ofwhichtheclass influence Veblen the subject matterand styleof literature turehas been the mostsuggestive. relaartsand examines interclass of economicmotives, and other shows the intrusion as well.4'More recently Gordon on the tionships and expensiveness waste, conspicuous by the accuracywith Caudwell has been impressed characterof aestheticobjects.35 the culand thenovel, whichnovelistshave represented poetry and Fox, dealingwith severalsocial attemptto relate economic tural traitsthat distinguish respectively,36 ideas to theforms classesin theUnitedStates.42 and bourgeois conditions In general, the Marxianorientation has and preofliterature, as wellas thecontent influential, though subjectto a will arise in a beenwidely greatness sume that artistic Whether,for exa liber- numberof difficulties. classless Parrington, society.37 future literature conactually theeco- ample,"proletarian" describes thana Marxist, al rather to lower-class is questionsolidarity spring there- tributes which from background nomic it fosters the thatdistinguish able,and howin otherrespects gionaland class differences has not been systematically ofAmerican socialand lit- class struggle themainperiods MuchoftheMarxist writing is full and explored. More comprehensive eraryhistory.38 and negative judgments rathor Hicks,40 ofdoctrinaire less doctrinaire thanCalverton39 analysisor objectivetestof er thanthorough position he tracestheclass and economic The conceptof classes and showshow these "determine" ing of hypotheses. writers applicability to American theories and theirreligious seemsof limited theireconomic and thesystem failsto include other as well as the society, and political philosophies typesof groupsfromwhichcertainvaria34Literature and Art,pp. 18-19. tionsofliterary form and expression maybe 35Thorstein Veblen, The Theoryof the Leisure derived ortoconsider theinfluence ondrama, Class (New York: Heubsch, 1924), pp. 126-66. forinstance, of groupswithconflicting or 36Christopher Caudwell, Illusion and Reality divergent interests.43 The problemof how (New York: InternationalPublishers Co., 1947); writers and artists succeedin reRalph Fox, The Novel and thePeople (New York: bourgeois flecting theideasand aimsoftheproletarian PublishersCo., 1945). International obscure. As for thenotion that 37Caudwell,op. cit.,pp. 293-98; Fox, op. cit.,pp. classremains 80, 125-26. Cf. Harap, op. cit., pp. 168-82, and the classlesssocietywill providethe ultiLenin,in Clara Zelkin,Reminiscences ofLenin (New mate basis forthe development of literary York: International PublishersCo., 1934), p. 13. and artistic greatness, there is obviously no 38 Vernon L. Parrington, Main Currents in Amer- basis; it is either wishful thinking orhopeful ican Thought(3 vols. in 1; New York: Harcourt, propaganda-unless, of course, one accepts Brace & Co. 1930). In methodParrington was influthe wholeheartedly Marxian system. Deenced by bothTaine and J. AllenSmith,from whom
he derived the concept of economic determinism (III, vii). 39V. F. Calverton,The NewerSpirit (New York: Boni & Liveright, 1925); The Liberation ofAmerican Literature (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932). 40 Granville Hicks, The Great Tradition (New York: Macmillan Co, 1933); Figures of Transition (New York: Macmillan Co., 1939). 41 op. cit., pp. 141-223.

Sociology, LIII (November, 1947), 210-18. 43LevinL. Schucking pointsout how heterogeneousaudiences influenced Elizabethan drama
(Sociologyof LiteraryTaste [London: Kegan Paul,

cept of Class as Culture," American Journal of

Milton M. Gordon, "Kitty Foyle and theCon-

pp. 11-13). 1944],



thefactre- spreadattitudes limitations, toward marriage, love,and and other spitethese These conclusions are largelyin mains that Marx's conceptsare dynamic divorce."47 thefirst typeofreflection described on social rather linewith attention and have focused aspectsof above, centeringon norms and values, cultural thanon themorestrictly and attireflection. though dominant publicinterests literary yearsseveralsoci- tudes may not be identical with social thelast fifteen Within EdgarDale, for example, analyzing va- norms.48 another orimplied haveexplored ologists of fifteen hundred moviescurhas arisenevident- the content which ofreflection riety and earlythirties, finds data and a rentin thetwenties sociological accumulated ly from in thedirection ofsensational Theirbasic as- thedistortion forsocialproblems. concern mainly crime, sex,and love,rather mainlyfiction subjects, is that literature, sumption social values or even typical reflects thandesirable in "popular"forms, and biography In this case the social "facts": vocational and divorce or "average" situations.49 needsand stresses seems ofemotional and distribu- theory composition trends, population Berelson and Salter, concerned with is perhapsthe most implied. tion. This hypothesis and minority Americans, observe ofall,sinceitpostulates majority version mechanistic to that popularstoriesare biased in favorof correspond data somehow that literary powerful-a data; thathero- the eliteand the economically typesof statistical certain arepor- bias whichtheybelieveto be characteristic forexample, inesinpopularfiction, history.50 In effect, therefore, they pro- inliterary thesameoccupations, as having trayed at agreewithMarx thattheideas oftheruling as actuallyexistin society portionately, epochtheruling ideas,althehypothesis class are in every Although time.44 a particular ideas less thancerthe resultshave thoughtheyemphasize seems hardlypromising, indicate tain traitsof hero and heroine.Statistical forthey profitable, been somewhat in fiction. of statistical facts,then,are not reproduced of the distortion the direction thesestudies, eventhough indeed,seems to be On thecontrary, facts.45 Storycontent, supportthe argument forother inter- indirectly, ofwidespread slantedin thedirection described earlier. discovers typesofreflection, for instance, estsand ideals.Inglis, In viewoftheseseveral versions ofreflecnot actual jobs mirrors thatpopularfiction but rather circumstances or their of women 47JamesH. Barnettand Rhoda Gruen,"Recent "certain typical Americanattitudesand Divorce Novels, 1938-1945: A Study in ideals."46Barnett and Gruen show that American the Sociology of Literature,"Social Forces,XXVI "divorce" novels are sensitiveto "wide- (March, 1948), 332-37. Barnett's earlier survey
shows more extensiveuse of divorce statisticsand legislationand less awareness of "distortions,"exRelationshipbetweenFiction and Society," Ameri- cept a historical lag between"public attitudes" and III (August,1938), 526-31. theirrepresentation can SociologicalReview, in fiction. Cf. Leo Lowenthal,"Biographiesin Popular Maga48 K. is an L. Hsu believesthatliterature Francis LazarsPaul eds. 1942-43, zines," in Radio Research, in Westernculturesas compared feldand FrankStanton (New York: Duell, Sloan, & index to repression in Eastern cultures("Suppression lead- with suppression Pearce, 1944),pp. 507-48. Lowenthalexamines XII [August,1949], in relationto a versusRepression,"Psychiatry, in popular biography ing characters 224-27). occupations." ''cross sectionof sociallyimportant 49 The Content of Motion Pictures (New York: 41 Guerard,like many literary critics,recognizes fictiondistorting Macmillan Co., 1933). Like Inglis,Dale finds is "a dangerously literature that artistic favoring unmarried, youthful in thedirec- al representations patterns buthe failsto perceive mirror," people and wealthyratherthan poor. Barnett and (op. cit.,p. 20). tion of distortion Gruen (op. cit.) discovera bias towardprofessional 46Op. cit.,pp. 530-31.Cf.Richard and Beatrice people in urban settings. Hofstadter,who show that Churchill'snovels re50BernardBerelesonand Patricia Salter,"Majorflectedhumanisticvalues in revoltagainst acquisiAmericans:An Analysisof Magative and business goals ("Winston Churchill: A ity and Minority X (summer Fiction,"Public OpinionQuarterly, Study of the Popular Novel," AmericanQuarterly, zine, 1946), 188. 1950],12-28). II [spring,
44Ruth Inglis, "An Objective Approach to the





and aesis not tives to exclusively biographical tion,it wouldseem that the theory in- theticapproachesand offered conceptsof entirely uselessbut thatmoreextensive of lit- culturalrelativism vestigation is needed.The reliability in place of absolutist and social determinism principles erature and art as indexesof the state of aesthetic against in place ofartistic individualism. might be checked society and culture has on reflection is avoided emphasis other indexes, so thatthedanger The historical from attention its naturally tendedto distract of deducing the "spiritoftheage" from itin itsart5" the thequestion artand then on oftheinfluence ofliterature rediscovering havefrequentbutthetwoconcepts danger which DeVoto calls "the literary society, or influential as mutually fallacy."52 It seems evident,also, that to ly been regarded Mukerof socie- as opposite sidesofthesamecoin.54 someextent thephrase"reflection sincemuch ofwhatlitera- jee holdsthat"artis at oncea socialproduct ty"is a misnomer, cul- and an establishedmeans of social conreflects is specifically turepresumably rather explicitly trol."55 no evidence thatpoptural thansocial,as Sorokin Inglis,finding states.53 Marx and others have calledatten- ular literature "'shapes" society,believes of social classes,but thatit results in a measure ofsocialcontrol tion to the influence other socialaspectsmight be explored. by supporting many the statusquo of American In brief, It is not clearlyunderstood, forexample, attitudes and ideals.56 one can forrewhat social processesdevelop and sustain mulatetheproposition that,ifliterature differences in aesthetictaste or determine flects, and strengthens thenit also confirmns At present cultural and beliefs. whatis calledartistic attitudes, greatness. norms, seems to accountfor of literathe reflection theory This "social control"function and certainbroad as- tureis suggested some of the content in the articleby Berelson and artistic styles, without and Salter,57 pectsofliterary and BettyWang finds that it of what applies to the folksongsof China.58 More comingto gripswiththe problem social conditionsare responsible for the systematically it is however, and directly, ofspecific literary supported existence and popularity and Henry'sinvestiby Warner Andinevitably it stresses gationof Big Sister, a radioserialdrama.59 and artistic forms. as an artifact, so that Theyconclude the external product thatthisdramais essentially minimizeor deny the a minor some investigators play adaptedto a secular morality possible roleoftheartsin socialchange. it does not just society.Psychologically, these "entertain" Despite gaps and uncertainties, their itslisteners, butit releases showsomepossibilities antisocialimpulses, general orientations and frustraanxieties, ofultimate It shouldbe keptin agreement. 54See Barnett, op. cit., p. 11; Paul Meadows, the reflection "Social Determination mind,also, that historically of Art,"Sociology and Social has done valuable servicein chal- Research, theory XXVI (March-April,1942), 310-13. tradi"I Op. cit.,p. 496. olderinsights and established lenging tions.It has directed attention to thesocial 56Inglis' use of "social control"as a form of "inin fluence"seems to lead to some confusion. of literature and cultural characteristics It seems additionto its more narrowly formalas- preferable to restrict the termto itsmorelimited and of precisecontext. the conception pects.It has emphasized 57Op. Cit., p. 188. as agentsofsocialforces than artists rather as individual or greatmenwithingeniuses 58 "Folk Songs as a Means of Social Control," social Sociologyand Social Research, ventive It has provided imaginations. XIX (September-Ocmodesof analysisas alterna- tober, 1934), 64-69; "Folk Songs as Regulatorsof and historical
51SchUcking, op. cit.,pp. 4-5. Politics," ibid., XX (November-December,1935), 161-66.
69 W. Lloyd Warner and WilliamE. Henry,"The 52 Bernard DeVoto, The LiteraryFallacy (BosRadio Daytime Serial: A Symbolic Analysis," ton:Little, Brown & Co., 1944).

53Op. cit., IV, 124-28.

Genetic Psychological Monographs, XXXVII (February, 1948), 3-73.



seems demonstrated in L. K. Knight's Drama and Societyin the Age of Jonson (London: Chatto & 61 Bronislaw Malinowski, "Myth in Primitive Windus,1937) and in WalterTaylor's The Economic of North Psychology," in Magic, Science and Religion and Novelin America(Chapel Hill: University aspects ofradio OtherEssays (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1948), pp. Carolina Press, 1942). Conservative programs are pointed out by Paul Lazarsfeld in 84-85. Print,Radio, and Film in a Democracy, ed. Douglas 62Ibid.,p. 113. Waples (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 63 Ibid., p. 93; cf. pp. 85-89, 109. 1942), pp. 66-78. 60Ibid.,p. 64.

tionsand provides themwithbotha feeling these women would preferprogramsexof beinginstructed and a senseof security pressing values,as mayothersubdifferent and importance. Sociallytheprogram pro- groups, such as members of the upperand motes understanding of the ideals and lower classes. In short, different social valuesoffamily life, and it strengthens and classesor groupsin our societymay select stabilizesthebasic social institution of our and emphasize distinct social and aesthetic society, thefamily.60 values,ranging from comicbooksto stories Although no mention is made of Mali- intheNew Yorker, fiction to orfrom popular nowski inthisstudy, these conclusions recall classicalart. his statements on the roleof mythamong as contrastIn ourcomplex society, then, the Trobriand Islanders.Myth comesinto ed with Trobriandsociety,social control play, he says, "whenrite,ceremony, or a through to be limited literature may either social or moralrule demandsjustification, those norms and values commonto all warrant ofantiquity, and sanctity."6' groups reality, or appliedto class or groupcontrol, Psychologically, myths help to stilldoubts eachclassorgroup to theartand responding andcalmfears. Myths ofdeath, for example, literaturethat confirms its own set of bring down"a vaguebutgreat apprehension values, customs, In the latter and beliefs. to the compassof a trivial, domestic reali- case,ifthesesetsare to someextent in conty."62Myths of originare not "explana- flict, in one may logically expectliterature tions," as some anthropologists have somedegree and to further their antagonism but waysofinstruction thought, in and jus- thuscontribute but not to social solidarity tification of thesocialsystem. Such a myth to intergroup conflict and to socialdisunity. "conveys,expresses, and strengthens the Groupdifferences, forexample, may be exfundamental fact of the local unityof the posed and attacked.Writers satirizebusigroupofpeopledescendent from a common nessmen and businessethics, ceropposing ancestress."63 It thus contributes to social tainwidespread socialbeliefs and practices. solidarity and supports the existing social Or, as Marxiantheory literature indicates, order. maytendtoperpetuate thestatusquo ofthe Malinowski's and thoseof War- "common man," yet operate simultafindings ner and Henry are apparently consistent neously, to though perhaps unintentionally, and essentially the same, both in psycho- confirm ecoand strengthen an intrenched logical and in social functions of certain nomicpowerelite. Maintaining the status typesof literature. Both investigations up- quo in thefamily instiand in other system holdthetheory ofsocialcontrol. It should be tutionsat various social class levels may recognized, however, thatBig Sisterapplies also helpto impede orreducesocialchanges to onlya single socialinstitution, thefamily, thatare adaptiveto newconditions, so that whereasTrobriand the total theliterature mythsaffect theolder, trawhichsupports society. theradiolisteners Moreover, to Big ditionalsocial forms may serve as a conSisterare confined to the"common man" of servative force.64 rather thanas a dynamic modern American society;theydo not inSome literature, however, may minimize clude careerwomen the uppermiddle from 64 This conservative effect of literaturemay be class (thecontrol for group), whom theprogram has littleor no appeal. Presumably conspicuousin periods of rapid social change, as





or reconcile intergroup conflict, but they like humor judgmentsratherthan theories, fordifferent racial groups,65 held. The theory, forinand somemay have been widely contribute to socialmobility, ifnotall, tends which is an im- stance,thatsomeliterature, portant or to corrupt cultural valuein oursociety. society has been a Litera- to disrupt ture and art,as Fearing in the history of Western states, mayrevealto hardyperennial an individual a wide variety Its traditional form was set by of patterns of civilization. behavior where he feared that which he mayacceptorreject.66 In Plato in TheRepublic, eithercase, his awarenessof the rangeof thefundamental laws of thestatewouldbe in modesof"music."68 by shifts This the degreeof freedom forac- altered possibilities, was lateradoptedby the Christian tion, wouldbe increased, theareasofsignifi- concept cantmeanings throughout the enlarged, and hishorizon ex- church,remainedcurrent and found itsstrongest panded.It seemspossiblethat,ifaccepted, MiddleAges, expresand someofthenewvalueswouldpromote Catholicism social sion in sixteenth-century Today, in similarfashion, mobility rather thanreconciling one to his in Puritanism.69 controls the charthe SovietUnionstrictly "place."67 In theseand probably output, whilein theUnitother waystheso- acterofaesthetic is morelimited.70 All cial control seemsinadequate forex- ed States censorship theory have beendirect to attempts plaininga number of directand "hidden" suchmeasures artistic or prevent socialeffects its ofliterature in a complex production soci- prescribe on the assumption that some ety-effects thatawaitfurther testing. Nev- circulation, ertheless, recognition and supportof this works extend and perpetuatevalues anto an emerging socialorder, as in theory, and the tithetical particularly by Malinowski and display valuesdisWarner-Henry study,indicatesits impor- Russia,or introduce ofan existing socialorder, as in the tanceto students of thegeneral problem of ruptive thefunction ofliterature and artin society. UnitedStates. of the seriesof This was the orientation Its significance is increased by thefactthat on moviessponsored in the it articulates so closelywithwhatis proba- investigations bly the commonest version of reflection, so 1930'sby thePayne Fund and ofa number studies.Since thateachtendsto reinforce theother and to of more recentindependent we shallconupholdinparttheproposition statedearlier. manyoftheseare wellknown, to a fewaspects.In genThe conceptof socialcontrol, then, may fineourdiscussion as separateand distinct eral,it was assumedthatpeople,especially wellbe considered are moreor less passive and can from theinfluence theory which emphasizes children, literature as "shaping" society.Actually, easily be swayed by the stimuliof the artistic fornsto act in given theidea ofliterature as shaping or molding moviesorother usuallytoward immoral orcrimisociety seems to have taken two broad directions, on whether forms, the influence nal behavior.A popularaccount pictured depending as "moldedby movies," as "movieas beneficial has beenregarded or detrimen- children tal to society.Both are obviouslyvalue made criminals," thougha fewwereinflu65 Milton Barron,"A ContentAnalysisof Inter68 Op. Cit., pp. 140, 186-87. group Humor," AmericanSociologicalReview,XV 69 Lernerand Mims, op. cit.,pp. 537-38. (February,1950),88-95; RichardStephenson, "Conflictand Control Functions of Humor," American 70 For Soviet controlof the arts see Tomars, op. JournalofSociology, LVI (May, 1951), 569-75. cit.,pp. 299-301, 370-71; Max Eastman, Artists in 66Op. cit., p. 74. Uniform (New York: A. A. Knopf,1934),pp. 33-38; 67 Cf. Richard Wright, Black Boy (10th ed.; New JuriJelagin,Taming of theArts (New York: E. P. York: WorldPublishing Co., 1945),pp. 217-22,226- Dutton & Co., 1951), p. 76. For Americancensor28: "I hungered forbooks,new ways of lookingand ship see Ruth A. Inglis, Freedom of the Movies seeing.... It had been my accidental reading of (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947); and literary fiction that had evoked in me Charles A. Siepmann,Radio, Television criticism and Society vague glimpsesof life'spossibilities." (New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1950).



enced to adopt more ideal attitudesand tion of the negative impact of filmson or culture is stillunanswered, society to say The bulkoftheevidence from thePayne nothing of theinfluence ofliterature or art. studies,however, is to the contrary. That The complexity oftheproblem as yetdefies moviesdo have measurable effects on atti- adequate testing,although certainlythe tudes of children Thurstone and Peterson naive assumption of a one-directional type clearly demonstrate,72 and that conduct of influence is thoroughly discredited, at mayalso be affected is evident from several leastamong socialscientists. Among laymen of the investigations.73 is andsome"experts" But the influence theideapersists and has not a simplecause-effect as again foundexpression relationship, recently concerning commonly assumed; it is selective, beingde- television. termined primarily by an individual's backThe very persistence of the idea that ground and needs.74 A person mayfocuson moviesor otherforms of literature and art particular items suchas hairor dressstyles, are sociallydisruptive indicates apparently manners, methods or robbery, for thepower or courtship an enormous respect ofartistic techniques, but opposing forces in tramayalso be media-a respect deeplyintrenched presentto cancel or modify of dition.The conception also seemsto manithe effect fears theseinfluences. The consensus of all these fest which arise andbecome widespread studies seemsto be thatmovieshave differ- during periodsof rapid social and cultural is moreorless disorentialeffects depending on moviecontent, change, whena society on an individual's causesof change needs,and on his social ganized.Whenunderlying and cultural background.75 WhenHulettat- are obscured or unrecognized, pervasive seemto find one outletby attackto discover ofa com- anxieties theneteffect tempted mercial or by motion picture, SisterKenny, upon ing movies or otherartisticforms, in a wholecommunity publicopinion rather curbing their publishersand producers. if not a than on specificindividuals, he obtained That this processis a channeling displacement ofanxiety seemspossible, results.76 negative but theproblem It mustbe admitted of the exthatthelarger ques- it leaves unresolved tentto which artistic products maynotonly 71 OurMovieMade Children reflect HenryJ. Forman, social change but also contribute (New York: Macmillan Co., 1935), passim. to it. 72 Ruth C. Peterson and L. L. Thurstone, Motion If the detrimental effects of moviesor Pictures and theSocial Attitudes of Children(New literature on society are stillundetermined, York: Macmillan Co., 1933). are evenlessso, though thebeneficial effects 73Herbert Blumer, Movies and Conduct (New the traditional claimshave been manyand York: Macmillan Co., 1933); HerbertBlumer and exceedingly great. Historically, one such Philip M. Hauser, Movies,Delinquency, and Crime claim refers to the "moral" value of litera(New York: Macmillan Co., 1933); Paul G. Cressey with and FrederickM. Thrasher,Boys, M4lovies, and City ture,alreadydealt within connection Streets (New York: Macmillan Co., 1933). the social control of but the effects theory, their socialcontrol function 74Mildred J. Weise and Steward G. Cole, "A theartsbeyond Study of Children's Attitudes of a may moreappropriately and the influence be classified as inCommercial MotionPicture,"JournalofPsychology, fluence in "shaping"society, a powerwhich XXI (1946), 151-71. have deniedto thearts. Toynbeeand others 75Paul G. Cressey,"The Motion PictureExperiWhenone examines variousclaims,they ence as Modified by Social Backgroundand Per- prove to be a curious mixture.Albert sonality, "American Sociological Review, III (August, Guerard,forexample,states that literary 1938), 516-25. works have set fashions, such as a "fatal 76J. E. Hulett,Jr.,"EstimatingtheNet Effort of pallor,"and thatGoethe's was "reWerther a CommercialMotion Picture upon the Trend of for" a sponsible wave of suicides.77 He beLocal Public Opinion," AmericanSociological Review, XIV (April,1949), 263-75.

Op. cit., p.






lievesthatliterature in socialchange. has produced thecon- then, be involved However, ceptions of nationaltypesand thatliterary whether or any other literature kindof art ideaspreceded first in timeor moresuccessand "guided"political move- "penetrates" cultural mentsand reforms.78 objectsor ideas is Similarclaims have fullythanother been made about particular as doubtful; even if true,it is clearly workssuc-h not the merely of the workof art itself.83 UncleTom'sCabinand TheJungle, by Up- function Much the same difficulty is encounton Sinclair,which is supposed to have of thepacking teredin othertraditional assertions about "brought about" the reform of art, especially houses in 1906. In fact, however,these the "shaping" influence claims havenotbeensubstantiated.79 Essen- thosepertaining and to personalcharacter JohnDewey,for tially, theyreston thesamekindofsimpli- to ideal humanexistence. fied notionof causation as those for the example, insists that, when we enter intothe spirit of Negroor Polynesian art, "barriers ofthemovies. "bad" influence in- are dissolved, limiting prejudices melt Some of theseso-called"influences," deed,are mainly problems ofcultural diffu- away."84 Developing thisthought, Gotshalk sionas related thatthefine which have declares artsare "an indispento socialchange, beendealtwith of congruity Tomars and Sorokin, sable foundation of feeling or by both betweenindividualsand amongothers. Tomarshas concentrated on social solidarity interclass currents and fashions of art in a peoples."85 Consistent withthese judgments oftheartsas thecrowning as contrasted competitive society to a cor- is theevaluation ofcivilization, poratesociety.80 Sorokin has morecompre- achievement means thechief hensively statedsomeapproximate thestature ofa society, a symuniform- ofmeasuring ities of spatial displacement, powerand worth.88 mobility, bol of its internal These statements and diffusion of culturalpherefer to the "highest" circulation, nomena, including literatureand art." culturalideals forindividuals and forhuAgain,both emphasizethe complexity of manity, the religious essentially conception such processes. As Sorokin points out, ofbrotherhood. Obviously theyare notforwhether or art forms"penetrate" mulated in ways that would lend themliterary socialclass or a different another culture in- selvesto scientific test.Perhaps theartshelp volves a numberof conditions, whichin- to perpetuate such ideals or contribute to cludeat leastthedegree of"refinement" and theiracceptanceby othercultures. To the complexity ofa work, thenatureofthecul- extentthat theyreinforce thesevalues in ture or subculture being "influenced," the our culture,they would presumably pertypeof communication system beingused, formthe social controlfunction, though and sometimes forcertain theamount and character elitegroups of probably morethan coercion orforce thatis applied.82 As Eastmanpointsout,thepresThe diffu- forothers. sionofcertain at maintaining typesofliterature orartmay, ent attempts this supreme evaluation oftheartsareprimarily directed
78Ibid.,pp. 338-40. 84Artas Experience(New York: Minton,Balch Rinehart, 1932) Sinclair acknowledgesthat he is supposed to have helped clean up the stockyards & Co., 1934), p. 334 ff. Cf. Albert R. Chandler, but insists"this is mostlydelusion." Donald Grant Beauty and Human Nature (New York: Appletoncame to similarconclusions in "The Jungle:A Study CenturyCo., 1934), pp. 294-95; Daiches, op. cit., of LiteraryInfluence"(unpublishedpaper, Univer- p. 10. sityofBuffalo).Materialson Uncle Tom's Cabin are 86D. W. Gotshalk, Art and the Social Order well known. (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press, 1947), pp. 80 Op. cit.,pp. 141-23. 210, 212-13.

791 In American Outpost (New York: Farrar &


Ibid., pp. 268-79, 282-88.

Op. cit., IV, 197-289.

82 Ibid., pp.

202 ff.

86Dewey, op. cit., p. 345; Gotshalk,op. cit., p. 203; Edman, op. cit., p. 51; Auguste Rodin, Art (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1928), pp. 7-9.



at preserving the highstatusof embattled men-of-letters, who seek to recapturethe position they enjoyed inthepast,when their association with religionand "superior" knowledge gaveto theartssingular prestige. Today their position is beingundermined by the encroachments of experimental science, once rated low in the social scale as "the ofuseful vulgar pursuit knowledge."87 To define theproblem in thisway would be to investigate the historical and origins thesocialstructures thatsupport and maintain the highcultural value placed on the arts-the finearts especially, but popular arts as well-and to assess theireffects on socialbehavior in manygroups, in comparison to other kinds ofcultural interest. Lundare today bergthinks that "social relations managedon the basis ofwhat poets,playEastman, The Literary Mind (New York: CharlesScribner's Sons, 1932), pp. 36-53.
87 Max

preachersand radio wrights, journalists, assume,on thebasis off4kcommentators limited personal and highly lore,literature, ofhuman nature to be principles experience, research will Future and human relations."88 of thisstatethe truth no doubtdetermine and eventually we mayalso be able to ment, tracemoreclearlythe extentto whichart a cosmos as Max Weberstates, has become, arein dynamic values,which ofindependent and whichtake over tensionwithreligion salvation," "the function of a this-worldly of pressures especially fromthe increasing rationalism.89 theoretical and practical

88 George A. Lundberg, Can Science Save Us? (New York: Longmans,Green& Co., 1947), p. 63. 89 H. H. Gerthand C. Wright Mills (eds.), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology(New York: Oxford Press, 1946), p. 342. University