Professor Emeritus Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Director of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies, recently delivered the St. Antoninus of Florence Lecture for Academic Year 2022-2023. The lecture was held as part of the annual activity of the UST Graduate School in honor of its patron saint, St. Antoninus of Florence (1389-1459).
Hidalgo’s lecture titled “Will there be a Space for Literature Studies in the Near Future?” tackles the state of literary production in the Philippines, the reading preferences of Filipinos across generations, and the percentage of consumption of literary titles in relation to the rest of the output of the country’s fledgling publication industry. She also notes the changes in the reading habits of the Millennials and Generation Z in the light of new media platforms such as mobile phones and iPads that have become more prevalent than the traditional print-based publications.
Hidalgo began her lecture on the premise that the humanities in general and literature in particular have had very minimal support from educational institutions for decades and the neglect has been exacerbated by the innovations of the Fifth Industrial Revolution, which have begun to replace traditional book learning with new literacies that are technology-based. She noted that the traditional canon and contemporary literary titles have enjoyed less patrons over the decades and have been overtaken by popular works such as romances and graphic novels. She attributed this scenario not only to the changing tastes of the young generation, but also to the shift in the platforms and genres that have come along with the birth of digital communication and the rise of social media beginning the 2000s.
People do still read, Hidalgo claimed, but they prefer to read via their computers, cellphones, and other gadgets. With the shift in the mode of delivery of knowledge systems, there has also been the shift in the media of literature. While this might be interpreted as the passing of traditional notion of literary consumption, the current interest in translating works into other media has also contributed to the survival of literature (albeit in another form) in the consciousness of the current generation.
Hidalgo concludes the lecture by hazarding to intuit answers to the question she raised in the lecture’s title. She presented an optimistic assessment of the future of literature in the midst of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence programs like chatGPT, robotics, and the Internet of Things. She remained positive that literature will reappear in newer forms via adaptation or transmediation. However, Hidalgo offered advice to her fellow contemporary writers on the need to address the issues confronting the young generation in a world attended by changing mediascapes. This will ensure that Literature Studies will continue to be a major cultural influence in a world given to the virtual and the artificial.
The lecture was held on April 29, 2023 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex before graduate students of Literature, Creative Writing, Communication, Development Studies, History and Education. The lecture was also streamed live through Facebook.