Philippine Literature in the Age of Tokhang or the Function of Writing in Trying Times

Manila Bulletin, April 15, 2018 | Go to article overview

Philippine Literature in the Age of Tokhang or the Function of Writing in Trying Times


By Karlo V. Guerrero

I remember my classmates and I as we sat in an airconditioned room: all 40 of us were intent on listening to our teacher who was a published writer and a full professor of literature in one of the country's top universities, so to speak--that is--if one believes in such rankings.

We were in our second year in college, and the class and discussion was all about fiction. And after having just finished recounting a story written by a foreign writer concerning a necklace, the professor then went on to lecturing on the concept of "defamiliarization."

To defamiliarize in creative writing means to twist the everyday perception regarding an object, so as to make it novel, intriguing, and/or even shocking. Our professor then continued to concretize his point by illustrating a possible (if not already happening) scenario.

Consider, for instance, two entries of poetry submitted in a highly-competitive and "prestigious" writing contest. The first one, a poetry collection that tackles the age-old theme of love--instead of using cliched imageries on romance such as "a red, red rose" and/or even the "moon"--uses fingernails as an alternative to profess the point. Dirty, uncut fingernails, with grit collecting under, becoming black. Should the poet be successful in writing the collection with finesse in form, observation of standards, while ultimately and at the same time transforming the aforesaid mundane object into a "defamiliarized" object of love, then the poetry collection and poet would win. This is in sharp contrast, however, to another example of writing, where even if the topic and theme are noble such as revolutions, justice, and/or long-lasting peace, if not written with an observed acceptable form fitting to the standards of the literary establishments, then the said collection would fall short compared to the former. In other words, form reigns mightier than content.

This was then according to my professor, which in retrospect now is a symptom of a long-existing tugging contradiction between two tendencies in the production and consumption of Philippine literature, which is rooted ultimately in our national history. And these two tendencies, as they are largely apparent in our literature, are that of the American-sponsored New Criticism--to which defamiliarization as a technique could fall under--and that of Socially-Committed literature standing opposed to it.

On the State of Philippine Literature

That Philippine literature is in a state of crisis when it comes to the problem of low readership, and problem of costly market-driven publication is a different topic altogether. Here, the state referred to is that of the country's body of literature having mainly two historical even philosophical orientations. The first of which are those forms of literature, whether short stories, poetry, essays, theater plays, or screenplays that are written with a New Critical thrust.

New Criticism, or formalism, in this regard, is a school of writing or reading literature that focuses merely on the aesthetics or beauty of the crafted text, and which excludes as non-important the societal contexts outside the page. Several writers and critics--such as National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, Epifanio San Juan, and Conchitina Cruz just to name a few--have already written about the thrust and impact of New Criticism to the development of Philippine literature, and society at large, as it has been taught to us by American masters coinciding the era of American imperialism, and is still being dominantly taught in creative writing workshops across the country. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Philippine Literature in the Age of Tokhang or the Function of Writing in Trying Times
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.