It’s a certainty that writing changes with the years. Have you ever wondered how much readers’ perceptions of the written word differs with the passing of time? When read in a different time, even a decade or two, the changes within society during that period dictate how we receive that piece of writing. What we write today may be seen as silly or unlikely or even blasphemous in the future.
Alternatively, when reading something written fifty, a hundred, two hundred years ago, it’s easy to pick up the differing social conditions that existed then, but no longer apply today. Even if this is not described in any detail, it remains to be absorbed by the reader. I’m not suggesting the writing is less impacting, just that we read it with different mind sets. It doesn’t take too much thought to come up with a piece of writing that was scoffed at when first presented but is later heralded as brilliant. The original Harry Potter story must fit this criteria.
Another interesting example of these changing attitudes was featured in a local newspaper here in New Zealand this week. One hundred and fifty years ago the Harrisburg Patriot & Union newspaper in Pennsylvania reported on a speech given some 40 odd miles away. It’s editorial suggested the speech amounted to ‘silly remarks’ that deserved a ‘veil of oblivion’ as coming from ‘the influence of partisanship or of strong drink’ – the speech in question was President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, surely now touted as one of the greatest speeches of all time. The Patriot-News of Harrisburg has recently retracted this critical editorial.
The way we approach writing changes as society changes. How we look at ourselves, our back yards, our country, our world. All this changes as time slips by. Do you ever wonder what someone will glean from your written word (be it fiction/non fiction, letters, diaries, even odd scribblings) in years to come? Will they be thrown aside as irrelevant or treasured as words from a bygone era? Only time will give this an answer.