Sure it's subject to value judgment. To make it less ambiguous, say there is a debate within the field of quantum mechanics about how to interpret certain evidence and I self-righteously insert myself into it (or any other science or any other discipline about which I know very little). I say, "Side A is completely untenable. Side B is obviously right." That's a value judgment. Hell, let's say that I say that phenomena postulated by quantum mechanics (I hope you can tell how little I know about this
) must not exist because I can't see them and they're not mentioned in the Bible (yes, this is a caricature, but I'm trying to get you to see my point). I have effectively assigned the field of quantum mechanics a low scientific value. But my opinion doesn't matter because I don't really know anything about quantum mechanics.
I'm not even convinced that it must be subject to value judgment if the analogy is to hold. I'm saying that if you don't think I can understand complex science such as quantum mechanics without extensive study, you shouldn't think that you can understand complex literature such as 'classics' without extensive study.
Deal? Can we do away with this example now, because I think that I have sufficiently proven the bolded. In fact, the bolded never needed proving--the analogy was supposed to help illustrate the point. People go to school for eight years or more in order to understand literature. Without that experience, you can't expect to.
To restate my first point: Without extensive study, no one can expect to understand 'classics.'
Okay, so people buy 'classics.' That doesn't mean that all normal people will be able to understand them. Suppose that millions of lay-people suddenly went out and bought science textbooks. Would they all suddenly understand them? No. Therefore, the audience of a work does not affect whether or not members of that audience can understand it
"But," you say, " 'classics' do
reach a large audience [(they don't--go ahead and perform my experiment if you want to find out how small the audience actually is)], but advanced science textbooks do not. They must understand something about the works otherwise they wouldn't be buying them." Whether or not you actually feel inclined to make that objection, it's false by your own pronouncement. You've come up with a very simple explanation for why lay-people by 'classics,' which, if you don't mind, I'll subscribe to in this thread.
But again, audience, intended or otherwise, doesn't really matter. The talk of audience came about when you said that literature, including classics, is supposed to have a broad appeal. It actually isn't--the 'Transformers' 's of literature are (Harry Potter, etc.), but 'classics' are often aimed at an intellectual elite. I feel as if I've done a good job of establishing this in this thread, and since it has little to do with the actual argument I'm making, I'll leave it here. I have nothing more to say on the matter.
The rest of my argument follows for what I hope is the last time. If you disagree with a premise or inference, let me know; but since we've been talking in circles for the past few days I have no desire to continue.
Who rated the classics: experts (by the process of canon formation which I've detailed above).
How can something be overrated:
1) Criteria for judgment are misapplied ("whereas most reviewers found this book action-packed, I found it rather slow")
2) Criteria for judgment are wrong ("complex unfolding structures and blissful kaleidoscopic style? fuck that, where are the explosions?")
In order to accuse the rater (in this case, expert on literature) of misapplied or incorrect criteria, one must understand said criteria.
As proven at the beginning of this post, one cannot understand said criteria without extensive study.
Scientists in general have not undergone such extensive study.Therefore, the statement 'classics are overrated' coming from a scientist is absurd
Angua's objection was to my first premise. He or she thought that classics were rated by more than just experts (something that you seem to agree with). I answer that objection by citing my proposed experiment and your proposed osmosis theory. Moreover, what the poster would have had to have meant when he or she said, "Classics are overrated," is, "Classics are rated too highly by the general public [who never understood why they were good in the first place, and should really only appeal to experts]," which is not, I think, what he or she did
mean. It's such a minor example though that I think it could be safely left aside.
That is as clear as I can make it. The lesson: have humility when approaching another discipline.
For gmalivuk: For your first objection, see above. For your second objection, I took chemistry in high school. Are you going to try to tell me that I really know anything
of significance about chemistry? Anything that would make my opinion on some chemistry problem at all relevant? No, so please don't act as if taking AP English in high school makes you an expert on literature. Oh, and criticism isn't always about finding "deep meanings" (in fact, in the wake of certain popular theories criticism is more often than not not
about finding deep meanings)--your lack of knowledge about the field is apparent.