Is Literature Degenerating?

Edna O’Brien details the merits of literature to come to the question of whether or not literature is currently dying out. While I do not think literature will ever be dead (the only exception I see being in an apocalypse where there are no longer beings that can create or read literature), I think it is evolving.

O’Brien asks, “Will it [literature] seep into the fabric of social and political thought, will it have its faithful zealots, or will there be a falling away”. With this question, I think we have to ask, does society create literature or does literature influence society? I do not think the answer has to be only one, but that society and literature both influence each other. The way O’Brien has phrased the question, it seems like it is only literature that can influence society. Instead of seeing literature as dying because it is not changing society, we can see it as literature changing and reflecting a society that is changing.

But if Steiner is seeing society as one “in search of easier, bolder distractions and of pleasures less perplexing to the brain,” then it is not so much whether or not literature exists as to the quality of literature. In our fast paced world, with reality TV shows and latest news of celebrities, it seems the hard questions of literature are not being asked. Then is literature degenerating?