Editorial: ‘On Relatability’

Editorial: On Relatability

Here at Chimes, we spend significant amounts of time thinking about stories you, as readers, will find valuable. We carefully deliberate over which stories are the most important, interesting and relevant to our audience. In short, we try to bring you the stories you want to read.

In one of my English classes this week, we talked about ‘relatability’ as a criterion in judging a piece of literary work. My fellow English majors found the prospect of critiquing literature on this basis appalling. If the last century has made any sort of claim about the validity of experience, it has been one towards the value of personal experience and focus. My classmates argued that literature needs to remain separate from this fallible method of critique.

“Relatable” works are clearly becoming more and more popular. It seems to me that this furthers the dichotomy between what we consider to be academic literature and what we consider to be popular literature. It is hard to imagine college classes analyzing Twilight with the same attention as they would Shakespeare. On the other hand, I rarely see young adults picking up Chaucer to read in their spare time.

This week I interviewed six people for our feature about Calvin alumni with works in ArtPrize. I found it interesting that there seems to be a almost identical division in the world of art, and especially in an art competition such as ArtPrize. Some of the people I interviewed studied art for years and could tell you all the brush strokes, styles and schools of artistic thought that you could ever want to know. Others created their works simply based on an intuitive aesthetic sense. The reactions to the works highlighted a similar dichotomy. Some wanted to qualify whether or not a work was “good.” Most of the time, “good” meant that they could relate to whatever it was they believed the art conveyed.

I do not know which way is correct. But, to those of you who want to judge literature, or art, or even a newspaper, based on whether or not you can relate to it, I would encourage a dive past relatability. To those of you who only analyze high-brow works, I would encourage you to consider the value in a work that resonates with everyone. Relatability may not be the worst enemy of creative work.